Africa is having a moment and Bloomingdale’s is jumping on the trend by devoting the latest iteration of its Carousel shop to African-themed product.
To drive the point home, the retailer has teamed with Disney to open a “Lion King”-themed shop tied into the motion picture, which will be released on July 18.
This is the store’s latest iteration of its rotating pop-up concept and is being called The Carousel@Bloomingdale’s: Style Kingdom. The shop opened Thursday at the 59th Street flagship along with the company’s stores in SoHo, Century City and San Francisco, Calif., and online, and will remain through Sept. 2.
Florence Kasumba, the German-Ugandan actress who plays the role of Shenzi the hyena in the film, served as guest curator. She worked with the Bloomingdale’s team to select an assortment of little-known, artisan brands for men and women for the shop.
Kasumba used her knowledge of the film and her love of African fashion to select items that capture the spirit of the continent. Many of the brands were produced in Africa, while others feature characters and themes of the film. This marks the first time Carousel has been centered around a major motion picture.
“Being the guest curator for the Style Kingdom in The Carousel at Bloomingdale’s is an absolute thrill because I’ve been able to combine my love of fashion and film while connecting back to my African heritage,” said Kasumba. “I love how ‘The Lion King’ can be interpreted through this new lens and connect with audiences in a unique and fresh way. I felt such a personal connection to the pieces I curated and I can’t wait for people to see the collections, and the movie.”
Kevin Harter, vice president of integrated marketing for Bloomingdale’s, said: “Disney came to us around 1 1/2 years ago when we were first putting the Carousel concept together. And we thought it was a great time to collaborate with the movie coming out.”
Harter said Style Kingdom offers a lot of brands that are new to Bloomingdale’s and that empower African artists.
These include South Africa’s Maxhosa, a knitwear brand that uses Xhosa beadwork and South African mohair and wool; AAKS, which offers bags woven by the women of Ghana; Studio One Eighty Nine and Lemlem that work with African artisans to produce products using traditional craftsmanship techniques, and Post-Imperial, a Nigerian men’s wear brand that uses a rare hand-dyeing process called Adire.
The shop also features a number of pieces that were directly inspired by the film including a Danielle Nicole handbag featuring Simba as a lion cub, a Pride Rock T-shirt by Kid Dangerous and a S’well water bottle featuring the phrase “The Circle of Life.”
Harter said he personally visited Kenya last fall with To The Market, a company that sources ethically made products and provides economic opportunities to vulnerable populations around the world, and selected baskets and beaded merchandise to be sold in the shop.
Style Kingdom is also being featured in the Bloomingdale’s store windows, which feature signature moments in the film. The original movie was released 25 years ago.
Kasumba is also featured in a video on the Bloomingdale’s web site discussing her guest curation role.
Frank Berman, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said that “embracing pop culture moments has long been part of Bloomingdale’s DNA and Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ is the biggest pop culture moment of the summer. One of our goals in collaborating with Disney to create Style Kingdom is to enable shoppers to experience the excitement and nostalgia of ‘The Lion King’ in new ways. Florence’s curation allows us to celebrate the film and African artistry while bringing inspiration and a sense of discovery to our customers through a unique product mix, in-store events and visual moments.”