Charles Oronsaye started out with a career in law and music before the fashion business, and is now painstakingly growing his brand to craft couture for all Africans.
Charles Oronsaye chose fashion as a career not because he was passionate about it, but simply because he didn’t want to become a lawyer. A rebel since his early years, he tried his hand at various professions, including music.
“I wanted to prove to my parents that I was not a good for nothing,” says Oronsaye.
And that is exactly what he did. His original dream was to study in Malaysia but due to his parents’ break-up, an outcome of financial misfortune, Oronsaye had to find other ways to make ends meet.
“My dad wanted me to go into the sciences but I never liked it because I was more interested in the arts. My dad said if I was going to the arts, I should go to the apex, which is why I studied law at the University of Benin. I wanted to explore three things: music, law and computer science.”
“I saved a little and with my uncle’s money, I decided I was going to start a fashion business, but I didn’t know how.
Music turned out to be his first love. Oronsaye created his alter ego, Tony Cream, and began taking part in music competitions and even got shortlisted as a finalist to be an MTV video jockey. The popularity he gained from his creative endeavors landed him a gig on the local radio station where he began to leverage his position as an intern to make ends meet while still pursuing a law degree at university.
“I got exploited on the radio. I was not getting paid because there was a culture that you don’t get paid as an intern and I worked there for two years without being paid,” says Oronsaye.
But what he lost in earnings, he gained in a strong fan following. With an audience of about 5,000 followers on Blackberry Messenger at the time, Oronsaye decided to monetize his platform. His opportunity came when his uncle gave him N100,000 ($276) to complete his final year at university.
READ MORE | Owning The African Narrative
“Growing up, I still had a sense of fashion. I could tweak everything I saw to my style and people would love it. I understood early that almost all ideas are not original. I saved a little and with my uncle’s money, I decided I was going to start a fashion business, but I didn’t know how.”
The plan was simple. Oronsaye noticed there was a need for personalization in the fashion industry. He knew that fueled by social media and the Generation Z effect, luxury was rapidly becoming not about what you have, but who you are, and all that helps you project that image.
Buyers in 2010 no longer wanted monogrammed collections of expensive things, but instead, unique pieces that offered them exclusivity. Thus, Tony Cream Fashion was born. Oronsaye’s idea was thus: “So, I will go to the market and ask ‘who is the best person here’, and I say ‘this is my idea, can you do this for me’ and they say ‘ok’. I would ask ‘how much will they charge and I will double the price on the one condition, that ‘you will train me also’.”
With over 5,000 contacts, Oronsaye had no need for a physical store. He would simply take the photos of his new creations and post them online, and the orders would come thick and fast.
“I started making money and kept developing from the online base to real-time base. People began to know me but people needed to have a brick-and-mortar place where they could find me. I couldn’t do it in Benin so I needed to go to a place where I could flourish, so I moved to Lagos,” says Oronsaye.
Lagos is currently one of the most exciting fashion destinations in Africa, with the likes of Michelle Obama, Solange, Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong’o all supporting Nigerian designers.
To thrive in this competitive environment, Oronsaye had to create a bigger vision. And Africana Couture was born.
“So, I took my iPad and my [photo] collection that I shot myself, and I would go to luxury hotels like Sheraton and Oriental, and I would approach everybody I met that I felt was my ideal client. When I approached them, I would say ‘hey, this is what I make’. Of every ten people, five would give me their cards and three would order and maybe two or one out of empathy, would make an advance payment to just support me.”
His formula worked and soon, people began to talk about Oronsaye’s products. The business, which began on Blackberry Messenger, is today on course to become an established Nigerian fashion brand with the opening of its flagship retail store in Abuja.
“We are launching our Africana X which will be the Africana experience store. Because couture is quite expensive, I built a brand of kaftan that’s more affordable but without the same level of detailing… The goal is to build stores across Africa and change the narrative, which is clothes for Africans by Africans,” says Oronsaye.
Pieces are from $400 for a bespoke kaftan and Oronsaye has added new creations including an innerwear line as well as his own fabrics. But the journey has not been easy.
Like many industries in Nigeria, Oronsaye is plagued by the power crisis as well as a lack of technical knowhow in the sector and negative consumer behavior.
“The average African will give value to Gucci and Zara because they come from overseas but then when it comes to you, because they can see your label, they begin to devalue you.”
In spite of all these challenges, Oronsaye is more determined to provide quality products with a global vision.
“Africana means Africa is beyond the jungle of lions and mountains. “Africa is a spirit. I chose Africana because I have a vision to clothe Africa in the long run.”
From The Arab World To Africa
In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.
Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.
She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.
In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.
As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.
The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.
In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.
She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.
In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes.
Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty
In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.
The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.
Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing.
“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”
The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”
Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.
Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.
“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”
Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.
Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.
The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.
President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.
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