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Thursday 29th of September 2022

Nairobi, Kenya

Nisha Kanabar, A Tanzanian Storyteller Entrepreneur, And A Fashion Designer.

Posted On : March 20, 2022

Oscar Alochi

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Contrary to popular belief, African fashion is more than just patterns and traditional garb, it is modern and evolving. This is how Nisha Kanabar, a fashion entrepreneur, describes herself.

A fourth-generation Tanzanian and graduate of New York’s Parsons School of Design sees it and is determined to change the dominant narrative from her base in Dar es Salaam.

When she began her career, this view of African fashion, if it existed at all, was either non-existent or painted with broad brushstrokes. It was almost as if there was a need to deconstruct Eurocentric standards, engage with cultures outside of homogeneous cliches, and curate for specific locations and audiences.

She noticed how storytelling could connect audiences to creatives while working in the fashion industry abroad, including for reputable fashion magazines in the United States, India, and the Middle East.

This was the inspiration for Industrie Africa, her global retail destination for contemporary and luxury African fashion founded in 2018, which drew on her Tanzanian upbringing and her views on diversity, identity, and culture, all of which she considers inherently pluralistic.

“What hopping around different markets taught me was the power of the media to change perceptions,” says Kanabar, who has worked in both fashion editorial and commercial fashion.

Her first experience in an emerging market, while working at Vogue India, taught her the importance of context and detail as a powerful voice of creatives and designers.

According to her, Industrie Africa showcases luxury pan-African brands through the principles of storytelling, thought, leadership, and education, collaborating with its designer community to deliver directly from their studios to anywhere in the world.

“When I returned to Tanzania in 2016, I became aware of the gaps in the fashion industry.” “There was a lack of accuracy and a regional disconnect in how it was portrayed globally,” she emphasizes.

“There is a general lack of diversity on a global scale.” So, in order to truly offer something to this fractured, underrepresented fashion industry, this was created.

The media and fashion stakeholders will have clear, cohesive access to the market in ways they have never had before.”

Starting Industrie Africa also entailed determining who the audience for luxury pan-African fashion was and what they desired in terms of sectorial knowledge.

Kanabar also mentioned a lack of access and infrastructure. How could she build a retail platform without even the fundamentals in place?

“From the beginning, we began to cultivate this really engaged community and then just started digging deeper and realized that there was an overwhelming demand for consumer products when it came to Africa, and African luxury in particular, as well as African-led content.”

This resulted in the launch of Industrie Africa’s e-commerce platform in 2020, challenging people’s perceptions of stereotypical African fashion and highlighting pan-African voices through an intuitive global editorial framework and lens.

“It’s kind of to raise the bar in storytelling when it comes to our continent because I don’t feel like we have the right voices from within to gather, supercharge, and create content in an elevated way, so that was kind of part of the mission,” she says.

“The way we work with our designers is that we curate in a way that elevates them, elevates our product narrative, and elevates everything to an international standard.”

There’s also a focus on long-term viability.
There are few content platforms and knowledge-sharing opportunities in Africa’s high-end fashion industry.
Kanabar believes that you can’t push retail without telling a story, and you can’t cultivate engagement without it.

” Industrie Africa is uniquely tailored to the ecosystem to which we belong, so it’s not a copy-paste model by any means, it’s very much integrated like a puzzle piece within our environment…

what we do is contextualize the African fashion experience in a very authentic way that hasn’t been seen before.” This immersive experience allows you to engage with the industry on your own terms, whatever that may be.”

Content courtesy of Industrie Africa & NFH

Oscar Alochi

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