Who Are Africa’s Top Fashion Influencers?

Who Are Africa’s Top Fashion Influencers?

PARIS — With a steadily expanding middle class, Africa holds plenty of untapped potential for luxury brands. But who are the influencers who are moving the needle on the continent and beyond?
These days, global brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Hermès are competing with a growing number of homegrown labels, as designers like Rich Mnisi, Kenneth Ize, Hanifa and Thebe Magugu tap into rising demand for African-made fashion.
In order to succeed, Western brands must harness the power of local influencers, ranging from stars of Nigerian cinema, dubbed Nollywood, to television presenters, singers and influencers, technology company Heuritech said in a webinar titled “Discover the African Fashion Scene.”

“The narration of African fashion cannot be done without African creatives,” said Amélie Rotsen, fashion analyst at Heuritech, which offers brands fashion trend forecasting using artificial intelligence to translate pictures shared on social media into market insights. 
“People are now really quick to call out a brand for cultural appropriation, so stop any narrative based on Western imagery, and try to really call those creatives to create stories that will highlight their culture, the way they know how,” she added. 
Total private wealth held in Africa is expected to rise by 30 percent over the next 10 years, reaching $2.6 trillion by 2030, according to the “Africa Wealth Report 2021” published by AfrAsia Bank. South Africa is home to the largest luxury market in Africa by revenue, followed by Kenya and Morocco, it said.

The bank expects Ethiopia, Mauritius, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda to be the strongest-performing wealth markets in Africa over the next decade, with growth rates exceeding 60 percent. Solid growth is also forecast in Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia. 
“To enter the African market, it is very important for international brands to really understand the specificity of the markets and have teams directly in the field. This is especially true for influencer communication,” said Jenna McFeely, fashion curator and trend analyst at Heuritech. 
“Picking the right brand ambassador requires foreign brands to do exhaustive research on the market, along with the influential figures of a particular country or field. And lastly, it’s important to consider the weight of the diaspora,” she added. 
“As a result of colonization, people of African descent are present throughout the world with their heart and their wallet lying between the Western world and their roots, and this will to consume Black[-owned brands] has been reinforced,” she said, noting the power of U.S. beauty influencers like Jackie Aina and Nyma Tang.
Among the top African influencers she listed were Nigerian actresses Adesua Etomi and Genevieve Nnaji, who have 4.3 million and 8.2 million followers on Instagram, respectively.

Burna Boy 
Michael Buckner/WWD

Nigeria has also produced major music stars such as Burna Boy and Wizkid, who posted a message on Instagram last week saying his concert at the O2 Arena in London, scheduled for Nov. 28, sold out in 12 minutes. 
“While the link between film, music and fashion does not need to be proven anymore, these artists’ global audience and edgy style make them ideal representatives for African and international designers who are hoping to attract aspirational or entry-level consumers,” McFeely said. 

Popular TV personalities include Bonang Matheba, known for her catchphrase “Champagne, darling!”, who has launched a number of fashion lines and her own sparkling wine brand, House of BNG, in addition to starring in the reality TV show “Being Bonang.”
Citing Nigerian public relations firm Redrick, McFeely recommended that brands targeting luxury consumers rely on high-net-worth individuals like the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who inspired Maria Grazia Chiuri’s first collection for Dior with her essay “We Should All Be Feminists.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Maria Grazia Chiuri 
A•tor Rosas Su–e/WWD

“There’s also the influencer market with entrepreneur women and travel enthusiasts like Boity Thulo, who showcases the lavish side of Africa, which is aspirational to say the least,” McFeely added. 
“And finally, there’s the promise of Afro cyber influencers who might be a new fun outlet, given the success encountered by Lil Miquela, who is another virtual influencer,” she said, citing the example of digital model Ivaany. 
In parallel, WWD asked data research and insights company Launchmetrics to compile data on the top five African influencers ranked by media impact value, or MIV. The measure, based on a proprietary algorithm, estimates the value of coverage across social networks and in the media.
1. Mihlali Ndamase (@mihlalii_n): 1.4 million followers on Instagram, 59 percent of engaged audience from South Africa
The makeup artist and content creator, also known as Mihlali N, bills herself as the biggest beauty YouTuber in South Africa with 345,000 subscribers. 
She recently generated $143,000 in MIV for a post with Fashion Nova, $112,000 for a post with Revlon and $80,000 for a post with Dior makeup. 
Featured on Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30” list this year, Ndamase has expanded into luxury and lifestyle content, via paid partnerships with the likes of Radisson Hotels and Protea Hotels by Marriott.
2. Temiloluwa Otedola (@temiotedola): 1.2 million followers on Instagram, 54 percent of engaged audience from Nigeria
The daughter of Femi Otedola, a Nigerian billionaire active in sectors including energy, and younger sister of music star DJ Cuppy, Temi Otedola established her presence with the launch in 2014 of a blog covering areas spanning fashion, travel and a book club. 

Her Instagram post about Etro’s Forte dei Marmi pop-up in June generated $113,000 in MIV, while a post with Farfetch in 2020 was worth $68,000, reflecting the progression in her follower count.
Otedola made her acting debut last year as the female lead in Nigerian director Kunle Afolayan’s film “Citation,” the story of a university student who accuses a professor of sexual harassment, which is available to stream on Netflix. 
3. Kefilwe Mabote (@kefilwe_mabote): 1.2 million followers on Instagram, 56 percent of engaged audience from South Africa
Born in the township of Soweto in Johannesburg, Mabote last year published her autobiography “Kefilwe Mabote: Influencer De Luxe – From Soweto to Milan,” which doubles as a guide to becoming an influencer. 
Known for her glamorous style, she generated $49,000 in MIV for a post with Ugg in May, but can generally be seen in high-end designer clothing by the likes of Burberry, Tom Ford and Versace. She even has a dedicated web site,, to sell her castoffs. 
Mabote’s personal life made headlines last year when her then-boyfriend, businessman Edwin Sodi, was caught up in a corruption scandal. She subsequently lost a defamation lawsuit against the weekly tabloid Sunday World.

A post on Lesego “Thickleeyonce” Legobane’s Instagram account. 
Lesego Legobane/Instagram

4. Lesego Legobane (@thickleeyonce): 765,000 followers on Instagram, 66 percent of engaged audience from South Africa
Photographer, plus-size model and body positivity activist Legobane — known professionally as Thickleeyonce — also has her own online clothing store, Leebex. 
A recent post with Fashion Nova Curve generated $39,000 in MIV; another with Bombay Sapphire was worth $63,000, and a third for Beyoncé’s Ivy Park collection with Adidas generated $50,000. 
Legobane revealed last year that she had been selected as an influencer for Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty lingerie line, but last week called out the brand on Twitter for not offering any pay. The tweet was subsequently taken down, but she posted a separate message that read: “PAY INFLUENCERS. CREATING CONTENT IS WORK.”
5. Sarah Langa (@sarahlanga), 579,000 followers on Instagram, 61 percent of engaged audience from South Africa

A close friend of fellow influencer Kefilwe Mabote’s, Langa landed her first paid gig with South African department store chain Woolworths in 2015. She has frequently countered criticism from haters by highlighting her academic achievements, which she lists on her Instagram biography.
Langa works with a variety of brands including hairstyling appliances company GHD and mobile phone maker Samsung. She generated $31,000 in MIV for a recent post with fast-fashion e-tailer PrettyLittleThing; $26,000 with Nespresso, and $16,000 with Patrón Tequila.
One of her most recent Instagram posts shows her unboxing an Hermès Birkin handbag in a promotion for luxury goods sourcing service Aquarius Luxury Concierge. 

Sarah Langa 
Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

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TikTok Users Crave Entertainment, Unboxing Videos and Luxury Experiences

TikTok Users Crave Entertainment, Unboxing Videos and Luxury Experiences

TikTok users are 92 percent more likely to buy Louis Vuitton products, and 81 percent more likely to buy Versace, than the average internet user.
But to fully capitalize on the short-form video app, fashion brands had better be prepared to entertain people, to participate in trends, and to engage the right content creators who can connect with millions of followers in a way that no brand can.
Those are among the findings of a new report unveiled Tuesday and prepared jointly by TikTok and data research and insights company Launchmetrics. Titled “TikTok’s Takeover: The Power of Creators & Content in 2021,” it notes that 68 percent of users on the platform have been inspired to find out more about a brand or product.

“By leveraging popular trends on TikTok, brands can boost engagement, expand reach and showcase some creativity and personality,” according to the report.
Launchmetrics gathered data on TikTok between Jan. 1 and May 31 and found that creators like Dixie D’Amelio, Noah Beck, Xenia Adonts and Nava Rose are driving 72 percent of the app’s share of voice, far outpacing the share of voice of brands, celebrities, partners and media.
Tapping into trends is key, as 61 percent of TikTok users say they like brands better when they create or participate in a trend. Three out of four users say entertainment is the main reason for using the app.

While hardly a new idea, unboxing ranks as a key trend as these videos have generated some 12.6 billion views. Similarly, “showcasing” either luxurious products or homes is a popular video subject, with videos carrying the #designer hashtag generating 2.8 billion video views and 67 percent of TikTok users saying they have found ideas about new products or brands after seeing them on the platform.
To wit: #tiktokmademebuyit is one of the top-performing hashtags on the platform, Kristina Karassoulis, head of luxury partnerships at TikTok, noted during a press conference held over Zoom.
Luxury experience videos — often about vacations or other “first-class” experiences — are extremely popular, while product tips and tricks have generated 10.6 billion video views with the hashtag #hacks. The top post in the latter vein, on Fashion Nova’s page, depicts nine ways to wear a string bikini top.
But the real “golden ticket” for fashion and luxury brands is to hook up with a top creator, whose challenges, trends, skits or memes tickle TikTok’s Gen Z user base.
“Creators are your new supermodels, but they’re relatable,” Karassoulis said. “I learned more about the Chanel Boy bag on TikTok than from Chanel.”
The study includes snapshots of 10 creators, including D’Amelio, whose affiliation with Valentino has won the Roman fashion house plenty of attention. According to Launchmetrics’ tallies, the Media Impact Value of her posts came to an average of $626,700 over the five-month period.
Beck, who initially rose to fame as D’Amelio’s boyfriend, boasts 29.2 million followers and boasted an average MIV per post of $208,100. One for Ralph Lauren depicted him spritzing on a fragrance after showering and then becoming magically dressed in the all-American brand.
“By collaborating with a young and fun creator such as Noah Beck, brands have the opportunity to leverage his impressive following as well as associate with his fun and positive attitude and authentic voice,” the report contends.

Wisdom Kaye made his mark this year with the #FrontRowChallenge trend, in which he showed off what he would wear at top designer fashion shows. He received 1.5 million likes and $355,000 in MIV with his video plugging brands including Prada, Gucci, Rick Owens and Saint Laurent.
As part of the study, Launchmetrics quizzed about 100 people working in fashion and beauty p.r., marketing and communications and found that 68.8 percent of them invest in TikTok to engage with consumer groups, while 25 percent said the main driver was to be on trend.
There were detractors: 22.2 percent said budget constraints prevented them from engaging creators on the platform, while one third did not due to a lack of proper tools to identify and manage creator relationships.
Among challenges, 6.2 percent of professionals said they had difficulty demonstrating the value of creator campaigns to C-level executives within their company, and 25 percent cited difficulty creating and tracking the right KPIs to assess the performance of creators.
Some 69 percent of fashion professionals said they prefer to work with so-called “micro creators,” with followings of between 10,000 and 100,000, while half of them select creators based on content quality.
Most brands measure the effectiveness of such campaigns by the impact on sales and web traffic.
TikTok boasts about 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. and another 100 million in Europe, according to Launchmetrics.
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Gigi, Bella and Korean Celebrities Helped Power Digital Fashion Weeks

Gigi, Bella and Korean Celebrities Helped Power Digital Fashion Weeks

Don’t underestimate the Bella and Gigi effect: The modeling Hadid sisters accounted for 45 percent of the Media Impact Value that Versace earned for its fall 2021 fashion show, while only 2 percent came from less famous runway regulars Mica Argañaraz and Rianne Van Rompaey.
“You need to think about who are those talents who connect with your consumers,” Alison Bringé, chief marketing officer of the data research and insights company Launchmetrics, said at a press conference Tuesday on Zoom to disclose key findings from the most recent round of fashion weeks.
Bringé also noted that newsworthy names can greatly amplify the impact of social media posts. For example, Launchmetrics calculated that three posts by Gigi Hadid about the Versace show generated MIV of $3.3 million, but were amplified by others to reach MIV of $7.1 million. “She’s become a standout face and name within our industry,” Bringé stressed.

In effect, she characterized the digital runway as the new front row and stressed that “influencers and celebrities are not going away.”
The impact of influencer voices grew 13 percent and celebrities 394 percent during Milan Fashion Week, Launchmetrics data show.
Savvy brands have created “mini at-home experiences” instead of just sending paper or digital invitations, Bringé noted, flashing a slide showing an Instagram post from French influencer Léna Mahfouf displaying the pastel-colored macaroons and funky Fornasetti goodies that Louis Vuitton dispatched ahead of its fall digital reveal.

The recent round of shows also highlighted the rising importance of Asian influencers and celebrities, who generated 29 percent of total MIV at Milan Fashion Week. This compares to 20 percent generated by traditional media. At Prada, 70 percent of MIV earned by celebrities came from Asian voices.

A look from Prada’s fall 2021 digital show. 
Courtesy of Prada

Overall, 41 percent of celebrity and influencer MIV during Milan Fashion Week came from South Korean voices, Launchmetrics said, singling out a post by actress Song Hye-Kyo, a Fendi ambassador, that earned $477,900 in MIV, eclipsing the value of a post by Chiara Ferragni, who previously held a record.
Indeed, “all-star” influencers — those with followings greater than 2 million — came roaring back during the recent fashion month, with the MIV of their content growing by 65 percent versus 30 percent for lower tiers of influencers.
Many brands simply had influencers create posts about “waiting for the show to start.” Model and Parisian style icon Caroline de Maigret, who did so for Chanel, was among the friends of the house that accounted for 30 percent of its “owned media” placements and 28 percent of their value.
Bringé called brands’ “owned media” — their Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts — “the voice to watch” in future fashion weeks. The MIV generated by these channels grew 23 percent during Milan Fashion Week, for example.
Prada was singled out for doing a bang-up job leaning into this strategy with its fall 2021 show, up to and including dedicated content for Spotify, which yielded a 25 percent increase in MIV for its owned media.
Dior also got a shoutout for creating unique content for region-specific channels, allowing it to connect with audiences in a more personalized way. One example is a vlog posted by Chinese actress Liu Yuxin on the French brand’s Weibo account.

By contrast, traditional media saw the share of value of its voice during fashion weeks drop by 22 percent, with Launchmetrics blaming “media fatigue” and a dearth of original content. On the plus side, photo galleries, which Bringé characterized as “small and digestible pieces of content,” increased 238 percent for couture, 62 percent for Milan Fashion Week and 30 percent for London Fashion Week.
The most recent digital fashion weeks were more fractured than ever, with a few New York early birds and many stragglers, with Celine, Balenciaga, Gucci, Saint Laurent and Michael Kors among big names that have yet to unveil fall 2021 collections.
Asked about the breakaway effect on audience size, Bringé said “in general, most brands do better when they show on schedule,” allowing that marquee names can do well whenever they show.
She acknowledged the “long tail” of digital media, noting that MIV for videos starts to grow in earnest about 30 days after the livestream.
“There’s a lot of ways to create echo around videos post-fashion week,” Bringé said. “Content is king no matter if it’s a physical or a digital event.”
See also:
Digital Fashion Weeks Grapple With Stragglers

Launchmetrics CEO on Amplifying Digital Fashion Weeks

Blackpink’s Rosé Incites Stampede to Saint Laurent Broadcast

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