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Why Senegal Is on Global Fashion’s Radar

In News

When manufacturers draft their enlargement plans for West Africa, market measurement isn’t the one issue to contemplate earlier than mapping out a retail footprint. Although it’s usually overshadowed by regional heavyweights Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal has been quietly attracting world manufacturers for over a decade thanks partially to its vibrant vogue tradition.


Earlier this yr, Tommy Hilfiger opened a store within the Senegalese capital Dakar on the metropolis’s Sahm shopping center, which underwent a serious enlargement earlier than the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The American model’s native accomplice is Mercure Worldwide, a pan-African firm with deep roots in Senegal working shops for different worldwide manufacturers such because the Levi’s outlet it opened in Dakar’s upmarket Sea Plaza mall just a few years earlier.

“Senegal isn’t the most important financial system within the area, however its relative peaceable setting, beneficial legal guidelines and dynamic vogue business are a number of the causes for Sea Plaza’s beginning right here,” says Hamidou Badji, director of the shopping center and head of technique and enterprise growth at mum or dad firm Teyliom Group, a pan-African conglomerate based in 2001 by Senegalese enterprise mogul Yerim Sow.

Positioned on the Corniche, alongside the highway linking the worldwide airport to town centre, Sea Plaza overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, permitting sufficient influx of pure mild to assist spotlight the marble flooring that ushers guests to the 84 boutiques unfold over two ranges.

When the mall opened 12 years in the past, greater than 60 p.c of its vogue shops have been occupied by overseas manufacturers. At this time the proportion hasn’t modified a lot, with Adidas, Aldo, Benetton, Boss by Hugo Boss and Mango rubbing shoulders with homegrown names and multi-brand retailers corresponding to Awa Diongue’s Nitya by Boursine.

The truth that the Teyliom Group operates in additional than 12 principally francophone international locations throughout Africa in sectors as various as property, telecommunications, business, finance, aviation and vitality however has solely launched one retail complicated — Senegal’s Sea Plaza — means that the comparatively small nation of 17 million folks has one thing particular to supply world manufacturers.

“Senegal isn’t the most important financial system within the area, however its relative peaceable setting, beneficial legal guidelines and dynamic vogue business are a number of the causes for Sea Plaza’s beginning right here.”

Senegal’s wealthy native vogue scene has not solely helped form generations of refined, fashion-conscious customers for overseas manufacturers to court docket, it has additionally created a halo impact for them to delight in.

“[Senegalese fashion designers] have been ambassadors of our excellence [across the wider West and Central African regions] and due to this fact [international] traders are tempted to set off from right here — the foundation,” says Badji.

A couture capital with avenue model cred

In West Africa, Senegal is taken into account a capital of couture craftsmanship and Dakar is its centre of eye-catching avenue model. The nation is residence to many gifted designers, a few of whom have emigrated to work elsewhere within the area or created platforms with both continental or world attain.

Take Adama Ndiaye, a family identify within the native vogue business together with her personal label Adama Paris. Ndiaye is the founding father of each the long-running Dakar Style Week and the printed media Style Africa Channel. Her merchandise, a few of that are manufactured in Morocco, can be found domestically and at choose retailers in Europe, the US and Asia.

Even in the course of the top of pandemic restrictions, Ndiaye discovered a solution to organise vogue week. Held outdoor in a discipline of baobab timber, the 2020 version featured themes of sustainability and gradual vogue. All year long, different occasions are held by native entrepreneurs in Dakar.

One is Collé Sow Ardo, a specialist of ready-to-wear designed from woven loincloth who holds a pan-African vogue occasion often called Sira Imaginative and prescient. Like lots of her contemporaries, she has a neighborhood boutique of her personal and wholesale channels in different French-speaking African markets — on this case, in Brazzaville, Congo and Libreville, Gabon.

One other bigwig in Senegal’s attire enterprise is Oumou Sy. Typically dubbed the queen of Senegalese couture, she has bought conventional apparel and jewelry for many years. Having opened a neighborhood modelling and vogue academy, she now counts superstar shoppers corresponding to Grammy award-winning Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. Different designer names to know embrace Shalimar Couture by Diouma Dieng Diakhaté and newcomer Diarra Bousso.

The broader inventive industries in Dakar are additionally flourishing with the launch of a number of artwork festivals which regularly characteristic style-conscious photographers like Omar Victor Diop who assist to place the nation on the worldwide vogue radar.

A mixture of conventional and western apparel

Model consciousness of worldwide luxurious and designer labels is comparatively excessive in Dakar, a cosmopolitan metropolis with French colonial period influences boasting 3.9 million folks within the wider metropolitan space.

Nonetheless, a desire for native vogue is obvious amongst sure urbanites and customers past the capital, due to the nation’s distinctive mixture of life-style, local weather, customs and faith. And since Muslims make up 94 p.c of the nation, modesty stays an vital issue for a lot of. Some 8 out of 10 Senegalese put on conventional apparel a minimum of in the future of the week, in keeping with a survey by a neighborhood newspaper.

“You can’t put on denims or a go well with to a conventional marriage… You must gown correctly in keeping with custom and home traits, like [wearing] the very fashionable Senegalese boubou. Friday is for jummah (Muslim Friday noon prayer), which calls for respectable outfits as nicely,” says Dakar-based mannequin, Mareme N’diaye.

The boubou, which can also be common in different West African international locations, is a lightweight and flowing garment, produced from wax prints or bazin materials for women and men.

“I actually don’t see the explanations behind [certain customer] complaints that high-street and mid-market [foreign] manufacturers accessible on the malls are too costly. Some boubous value extra,” says Assane Mbaye, tradition journalist at native newspaper Sud Quotidien.

In the end, nonetheless, many Senegalese, “should go to work and wish to decorate in company garments and… folks go to sport arenas, eating places, parks and seashores in the course of the weekend [so] those that can afford [new light prêt-a-porter clothes] go to malls and boutiques to get them,” N’diaye provides. “Most of which aren’t made right here.”

Rue Jules Ferry and different streets within the Dakar-Plateau space of town are residence to a cluster of small upmarket multi-brand boutiques promoting each native and worldwide manufacturers which serve higher middle-class residents. However the actual powerhouse retailer in Senegal is a person who has constructed an empire round an import enterprise underpinned by franchise agreements with worldwide vogue and sportswear manufacturers.

The sportswear connection

Adnan Houdrouge is the founding father of Mercure Worldwide, a bunch which operates in 12 principally francophone African international locations however is headquartered off-shore in Monaco. Born in Dakar, he’s a member of Senegal’s sizeable Lebanese neighborhood which has been a conduit for worldwide commerce within the nation for over a century.

Manufacturers like these in Mercure’s portfolio goal not solely center and upper-middle class Senegalese and Senegalese-Lebanese, but additionally the various French nationals and different expats primarily based within the nation.

Although Mercure was fashioned within the Nineteen Eighties, its secure of worldwide manufacturers expanded considerably within the 2000s. Alongside its Metropolis Sport multi-brand retailers and On line casino hypermarkets, the group has signed distribution or franchise offers with manufacturers together with Nike, Adidas, Diesel, Boss by Hugo Boss, Guess, Aldo, Courir, Go Sport and Levi’s for a lot of the francophone Africa area.

Mercure can also be stated to have monetary pursuits in a number of the Senegalese buying centres the place it operates shops for its accomplice manufacturers corresponding to Dakar Metropolis and Sahm.


Johanna Houdrouge, daughter of the corporate’s founder, is especially lively within the native arm of the enterprise as she was additionally born in Senegal.

It’s no coincidence that the sportswear class is an enormous earner in Senegal for the Houdrouge household. In keeping with former wrestling coach Cisse Abdul, large overseas athletic manufacturers are in demand as a result of many locals are health lovers thanks partially to the legacy of world-famous Senegalese footballers and sportsmen.

“There are gyms at each avenue nook,” he says. “Though, there are cheaper used sports activities garments flooding the market, plenty of folks nonetheless go for new [products from top brands] for his or her sturdiness,” Abdul says.

“Don’t overlook the affect of the rap and hip hop tradition now we have right here on our gown codes. Beside the very fashionable Senegalese music — the mbalax — of us, principally the youthful technology, additionally hearken to overseas music particularly American rap tunes, which some native artists additionally adapt of their recordings [so] it’s not unusual to identify younger males on the road carrying unfastened match sweatshirts and hoodies, branded baseball caps, basketball jerseys over denims trousers with Timberland boots to match,” Abdul provides.

On the Sea Plaza shopping center, the place the Houdrouge household operates sportswear and vogue shops, Teyliom’s Badji says that day by day customer numbers have grown to nearly 6000, prompting curiosity from extra manufacturers — each overseas and native — to lease area there.

Although there could also be future alternatives for worldwide vogue gamers in different cities corresponding to Saint Louis, most worldwide vogue retail stays concentrated in Dakar.

Challenges offset by vital alternatives

Like in lots of rising markets world wide, there are a number of boundaries to entry and appreciable challenges for overseas firms as soon as they begin working in Senegal.

This explains why many manufacturers really feel they should navigate the market with the assistance of a neighborhood franchise or joint-venture accomplice. In keeping with the US Worldwide Commerce Administration, corruption and gradual forms are elements that maintain the nation rating low when it comes to ease of doing enterprise, regardless that enhancements have been made lately.

For vogue gamers, counterfeiters and gray market merchants are a major drawback. Customers who store outdoors the massive malls usually fall sufferer to fakes at native markets.

“Generally you may’t inform them aside — the unique from the faux. They appear genuine however the one distinction is worth. They promote cheaper however are quickly uncovered to put on and tear,” says Issoufou Soumaré, researcher in economics and administration at Cheikh-Anta-Diop College in Dakar.

“Secondly, we don’t know who’s authorised to wholesale or retail worldwide manufacturers there. On the malls we all know they most definitely have a licence however what about these promoting at open markets?”

Razack Badji is a businessman on the large Kermel Market located within the coronary heart of Dakar. He runs a vogue store and will get deliveries each two weeks however says he doesn’t know whether or not his items come from genuine producers.

“We’re equipped a lot of the high European clothes manufacturers. Our suppliers convey items from Lebanon, China, Turkey and Morocco with stickers on the garments. They’re cheaper than these bought within the malls however we don’t know if they’re from the true designers. Generally we’re harassed by the police or municipal officers to indicate our licence. We negotiate and settle with money and that’s it,” he says.

For native Senegalese designers, the scourge isn’t counterfeits however feugue-diaye, which implies second-hand clothes within the native Wolof language. In keeping with UN Comtrade, the commerce in Senegal is estimated to quantity to 18,500 tonnes of used clothes imports every year. Many imagine that such low cost used overseas model clothes undermines demand for domestically made new garments.

Put up-pandemic funding prospects

The truth that Senegal has outsized regional financial and political affect helps make it a extra enticing market than international locations with related populations. One cause for that is that Dakar is residence to the headquarters of the Central Financial institution of West African States (BCEAO) which serves international locations sharing the CFA franc as foreign money: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

“Senegal is the focus in the case of enterprise and finance within the West African Financial and Financial Union (UEMOA) which is the equal of the [former] EEC (European Financial Neighborhood). Each large enterprise has a presence right here. Buyers are craving to return right here,” says Soumaré.

Within the years main as much as the pandemic, Senegal was one of many fastest-growing economies on the African continent and, although Covid-19 hit the nation onerous, it’s now rebounding thanks partially to funding from the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF).

“Senegal is the focus in the case of enterprise and finance within the West African Financial and Financial Union… Each large enterprise has a presence right here. Buyers are craving to return right here.”

In keeping with a press release made in March by Edward Gemayel, an advisor within the African Division on the IMF, “the Senegalese financial system regained its pre-pandemic pattern path in 2021, led by sturdy industrial manufacturing and the companies sector. Actual GDP development is estimated at 6.1 p.c, about one proportion level increased than beforehand anticipated.”

“The battle in Ukraine is, nonetheless, casting a shadow on the macroeconomic outlook [in Senegal]. Rising world meals and vitality costs have added to present coverage challenges, together with the lingering results of the pandemic, regional insecurity, and rising social calls for within the run as much as the July parliamentary elections.”

Whereas some native analysts have criticised Senegal’s authorities for its “sluggishness” in tackling youth unemployment, others imagine the nation is not off course, due to quite a few financial growth tasks which have been accomplished or underway.

There may be the brand new worldwide airport, a brand new college, a brand new 50,000-seat stadium and the just lately inaugurated $1.3 billion commuter railway that can join Diamniadio, a satellite tv for pc metropolis at present being constructed about 40km from Dakar. Apparently, a number of permits have been issued for the constructing of state-of-the-art malls within the new metropolis.

In keeping with Vincent Martin, director of tax M&A at Deloitte’s Luxembourg workplace, who just lately penned a white paper describing Senegal as “ripe” for overseas funding within the post-pandemic period, “Senegal is and may stay a sexy jurisdiction… regardless of the present well being and financial disaster.”

Although Senegal won’t ever compete with the giants of the African continent corresponding to Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco, it does present vogue companies with a promising rising market to contemplate as they appear past the area’s high client economies.

Or as Martin places it, “of all French-speaking African international locations, [Senegal] undoubtedly affords a really welcoming setting for overseas traders due to the quite a few benefits it offers.”

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