Aprelle Duany describes herself as a nerd who adores fashion. Previously, an IT Auditor for one of the Big Four accounting firms in New York, she has degrees in Information Technology, media, as well as fashion. She pulls from her technical experience and approaches design and development from a problem-solving perspective.
My business, founded in late 2014, is about celebrating, encouraging and empowering women for a confident journey through everyday, functional luxuries. Initially, we have focused on leather handbags as an entry point with plans to develop into a lifestyle brand. In later stages, we will introduce luggage, eyewear, fragrance, as well as footwear and men’s accessories. The idea and concept came to mind after frustration with the current luxury offering. I personally found it to be cold, lacking diversity, lacking innovation, and lacking new perspectives that cater to a global consumer. I wanted luxury to be more than the product itself, but extend through the experience, basically adding some soul to the luxury industry.
Funding the business
Much of the initial funding came from my own personal savings as well as support from friends and family. I have found the voice and soul of the brand in a low-pressure environment. Throughout capital-raising activities, it has been these early lessons that have been monumental in developing a lean and profitable business model. Last year, I was awarded funding through the HEVA fund, which is the only investment organisation that is specific to the creative industry.
Local or international brand?
With the advancements of technology, distribution, and social media, it is crucial for any brand or business to be locally relevant for the international market. I draw from my experience throughout Africa to raise awareness and shift perceptions of the true experience of Africa, which is typically untold. Currently, we are exploring various options for production with the hope and desire to eventually source and manufacture in East Africa. With the right investments of capital, resources, and training, East Africa, especially Kenya can compete with the “Made in China” and “Made in Italy” powerhouses, but it will take time.
Customers and customer base
My customer is a globetrotting trailblazer who expects value for her purchases. She is a conscious consumer who wants her DNA to be reflected in the brands she chooses to support. Many of our consumers have found us through Instagram as well as through word of mouth channels.
Luxury goods and the African market…
The “African” market is multi-faceted and multi-layered. To identify it as one market does not paint a clear picture of the dynamics or the demographics of its potential. It ranges from extremely wealthy consumers who have had experience with Western luxury brands all the way to the aspirational millennial who is becoming more aware of the value of luxury products. Our customers are ready for an “at home” luxury experience which is actually an extension of her and what she has been able to accomplish.
Creative Industry in Africa
I think for any Creative operating in the fashion industry, it is an extremely difficult environment to thrive in. It is exceptionally competitive and you have to be focused on the bottom line. Anywhere in the world, you find designers and artisans who struggle in this fast-paced environment, but I think there is added pressure from an African context where the Creative and Art industry is just now becoming more widely accepted as a viable career option.
Challenges and sacrifices
One of the biggest challenges in business is just getting started. For me, as a perfectionist, which is not a good trait, I spent too much time analyzing and not enough time “doing” in the very early stages. There will always be sacrifices to be made; it is just apart of the entrepreneurship journey. Ultimately, when you are able to wake up everyday and do what you love, you start to see those sacrifices more like investments in your dream rather than something that you have had to
Reported by: Isabella Muthoni