The Folklore Connect, the first business-to-business wholesale e-commerce platform for diverse and sustainable luxury and emerging designers, will launch a fall 2023 digital market week trade show Feb. 1 to 3. In addition, The Folklore Connect will partner with RAISEfashion, the nonprofit advisory network which advances equity of brands owned by people of color, for an in-person showcase Feb. 9 to 12, during New York Fashion Week.
More than 20 brands on Folklore Connect will be participating in the fall market week. The focus is primarily apparel and accessories, and many of the brands are sustainable. Some 70 percent are women’s brands, and 30 percent are men’s brands.
The Folklore, spearheaded by Amira Rasool, founder and chief executive officer, launched in 2018 as an e-commerce site featuring luxury and emerging designers from Africa and the diaspora and has since expanded into a conglomerate called The Folklore Group. To date, the company has raised close to $3 million in funding. The Folklore Connect, an online wholesale platform that launched last September, features 82 brands, and has 50 brands in the pipeline for onboarding. The site adds 10 to 20 new brands each week. The Folklore Connect is membership-based, so retailers apply to participate. Once accepted, there’s no cost to use the platform.
This is the second digital trade show that The Folklore Connect has done. Its first was in collaboration with Lagos Fashion Week, but this is the first time they’re doing it on their own.
“It was all brands who were showing at Lagos Fashion Week. It was a great way for us to drive engagement between brands and retailers and get some orders for some of our brands. We thought it would be great to open it up beyond Lagos Fashion Week and do it again with a larger set of brands,” said Rasool.
At the digital trade show, retailers can engage directly with designers, who talk about their collections. Some brands even hire models so retailers could see the product on.
“It’s more interactive, we’re trying to find a way to make the digital wholesale buying experience as close to the real life, in-person experience as possible,” Rasool said.
Among the 20 brands participating are Kente Gentlemen, Onalaja, Kìléntár, April & Alex, Kadiju, Orire, and Tejahn Burnett.
The participating brands hail from such places as Nigeria, Lagos and Ghana. Styles feature bold statement pieces, voluminous ruffles and embellishments, and hand-beaded sequins. “We do have a great amount of occasion wear that we see at cocktail events,” Rasool said.
Retailers can book appointments through The Folklore Connect platform, where meetings are held.
“We’re hoping to get people to learn more about the people behind the brands, which makes our platform very special and how they’re producing the products. The whole purpose of Folklore Connect is to unlock opportunities to engage with the brands in areas that many people aren’t traveling to for market,” Rasool said, ticking off South Africa, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.
“We want to be able to help you find them and connect with them in a way that you can learn about hand-weaving, or they’re doing a specific technique that’s been passed down for generations, or using a fabric indigenous to them,” said Rasool.
Once buyers understand a brand’s story and why it’s special, they can justify price points and share information with their sales team, she noted.
The Folklore Connect is planning to do the apparel and accessories digital market week twice a year. They’re also planning to do a beauty and home digital market event in the spring.
As it continues to work to support Black-owned brands, The Folklore Connect will welcome 17 brands from the RAISEfashion network onto its platform for a six-month free membership and continue to onboard a new cohort of brands on a rolling basis every six months. In turn, RAISEfashion will offer mentorship opportunities for 10 brands from The Folklore Connect and will ultimately select two for a RAISEfashion fellowship, which includes ongoing mentorship, as well as financial grants. The Folklore brands will have access to a global network of advisors spanning North America, Africa, United Kingdom, Europe and Oceania. There is a wide range of expertise within the network, including e-commerce, finance, merchandising, operations and logistics, production, sales, business development, branding, marketing, public relations, influencer outreach, and creative content strategies.
To kick off the partnership, The Folklore Connect and RAISEfashion will host “The Folklore Connect x RAISEfashion NYFW Showroom” powered by Shopify from Feb. 9 to 12 at 131 Greene Street, the Shopify New York space in SoHo. They will showcase the collections of 15 Black-owned apparel and accessories brands originating from New York, London, Nigeria and Ghana. Retailers will have the opportunity to book private appointments to meet with brands Feb. 9 and 10, or register for walk-in showings Feb. 11 and 12. Registration is required for attendance for retailers, as well as select stylists, editors and media appointments through thefolklore.com.
The official showroom will kick off with a private cocktail party the evening of Feb. 9 featuring a live DJ, music, food and drinks.
“With this new partnership, RAISEfashion is expanding its global efforts to support and mentor brands in emerging markets from Africa, South America, Caribbean and BIPOC communities worldwide. Folklore has created a wholesale platform that strengthens the brand experience with retailers while also dismantling the barrier BIPOC designers face in scaling a business,” said Felita Harris, founding member and executive director of RAISEfashion. “The partnership with The Folklore Connect demonstrates our ongoing commitment to providing resources that specifically support the operational ecosystems of BIPOC brands.”
Brands featured at The Folklore Connect x RAISEfashion NYFW showroom are: April & Alex, Ashya, Bloke, Bohten, Christie Brown, Dur Doux, Onalaja, Orire, Shekudo, Third Crown, TJWHO, V.Bellan and Vavvoune.
The RAISEFashion brands joining The Folklore Connect are: Alosh London, Avid Swim, Black Paper Streetwear, BruceGlen, Coradorables LLC, DazelnBlue, Dur Doux, Elexiay, Evelyn Elizabeth, Florian London, House of Nkoli, I S Cal Apparel LLC, Kahindo, Keäma, Keeyahri, LarAllen, M. Code Luxury LLC, Menzie by Design, Michael Wright Collection, Michel Men, Mimine AG, Monzlapur, Nalebe, Nomads Swimwear, òL/Outside Lines, Rags Official, Simone The Label, Tiannia Barnes, Tracy Nicole, UglyDuklyn, U Slept On Me/USOM and Wholly Gloss.
The Folklore Connect brands joining RAISEfashion are: Shekudo, Bloke, The Underargument, Abiola Olusola, Onalaja, Kadiju, Orire, Duaba Serwa, V.Bellan, and Pamoja.