Online African fashion platform Kisua has opened its first brick-and-mortar pop-up in Johannesburg.
The by-invitation-only event promised access to a “gifting suite,” where all guests chose and subsequently changed into an item from a special Kisua selection. So everyone — including South African celebrities like Shashi Naidoo, Lalla Hirayama and society hairdresser David Gillson — wore Kisua.
The Kisua Dressing Room is the first physical concept store for the label, which was launched online in 2013 in the U.S. and the U.K., with Ozwald Boateng heading its global advisory board. The South African launch took place quietly last year, and as a new online fashion brand in South Africa, explained chief executive officer Samuel Mensah, “we believe it is necessary to create opportunities for our potential customers to be introduced to Kisua products in the offline environment where they can touch, feel and try on the garments.”
The Kisua Dressing Room pop-up at Melrose Arch, he added, “is part of this South African market entry strategy for Kisua.com, and it will run until the end of May.”
While nearby, more established malls such as Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square may attract more foot traffic, Melrose Arch, with its more open street-style shopping approach, offers shoppers a more relaxed experience and is gradually emerging as a retail destination for leading South African fashion designers. Suzaan Heyns opened a store there in 2013, while national department store chain Edgars chose to debut its showcase of South African Fashion Week designers in its Melrose Arch store in 2011. The concept has since expanded to several key Edgars branches. Melrose Arch, with its expansive piazza, also has been the venue for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg, organized by African Fashion International, for the last several seasons.
Kisua, which means “well-dressed person” in Swahili, remains headquartered in Johannesburg. Conceived as a global platform for African fashion, the online merchandise on Kisua.com comprises contemporary designs from a hybrid of established and emerging designers from Nigeria (Beatrice Black Atari, Chechi Arinze, Lola Buttons, Kiki Kamanu, Tobi Martins and Tae Afrika); Kenya (Jamil Walji and Kanga Kulture); Ghana (Poqua Poqu), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Tina Lobondi). There are also seasonal capsule collections conceived in collaboration with emerging African designers, such as the latest “Hariri” collection. Prices begin at $150 for dresses, $125 for skirts and $100 for tops.
According to Mensah, Kisua funds and produces all the collaborations so that the designers themselves take no financial risks.
Recently, the brand revealed the creation of The Kisua Designer Fund, set up to further support the designers with whom Kisua collaborates, and through the fund, a portion of every sale is paid to the relevant designer. Kisua’s core mission is to promote the growth and sustainability of the African clothing industry.