Fashion items are among the most popular, if not the most popular, on many e-commerce platforms.
In Africa, for example, fashion has consistently been the most popular category of items sold on Jumia. This means that there is no shortage of demand for fashion items across the continent, and supply is increasing even in higher-end categories.
In 2019, the African and Middle Eastern luxury goods market was worth more than $35 billion, with designer apparel and footwear alone generating more than $7 billion in retail sales. Behind such transactions is cross-border commerce, in which African brands export their products to a global audience via personal shoppers.
The more common scenario, however, is the opposite: in this case, African consumers enlist the assistance of family and friends in the United States and United Kingdom to shop for and ship luxury items to them.
While general e-commerce between African shoppers and global brands has occurred informally through long-standing relationships, several platforms have used technology to centralize these processes across various shopping brackets. Jendaya, a one-year-old startup that serves as a gateway for global luxury brands to the African continent and for consumers in the rest of the world to discover African brands, is launching under the radar after raising £1 million ($1.2 million) in pre-seed funding.
CEO Ayotunde Rufai founded the London-based but Africa-focused platform Jendaya after repeatedly acting as a personal shopper for luxury items in the United Kingdom for relatives back in Nigeria. COO Kemi Adetu, CCO Teni Sagoe, and CSO David Elikwu are also co-founders; Jendaya will be launched in December 2021, with offices in London, New York, and Lagos.
“We wanted to create a platform where Africans on the continent, if they want Gucci loafers or Bottega bags, they don’t have to jump through hoops or have a month or few weeks’ delay because they can have that in their hands in a few days or a week,” Rufai explained on a call with TechCrunch.
The e-commerce platform connects African and African diaspora luxury brands with high-end consumers worldwide, as well as African shoppers to global brands, in categories ranging from apparel to beauty and home decor to accessories. According to the company’s statement, it wants to highlight the region’s abundance of talent and storytelling by “positioning African names seamlessly in the same league as seasoned western labels such as Issey Miyake, Lanvin, and Givenchy.”
“Jendaya is a luxury e-commerce platform for the Global Citizen — Africa being the most important part because the African citizen is also very global, they’re very metropolitan, well traveled and exposed, they’re tastemakers,” Rufai said of regular Jendaya customers. “So these customers don’t just want Orange Culture; they want Orange Culture mixed with Versace. They want to combine Bottega with Valero, Casablancas, and other new global brands. In that sense, our brand offerings are dictated by our customers.”
Jendaya hosts a roster of brands that includes Brooklyn-based minimalist accessories brand Marty Moto and others that incorporate heritage into a modern context, such as Kenyan brand Adele Dejak, with an ethos that supports slow fashion, artisan craft, made-to-order luxury goods, and emerging talent. Other notable labels include Alledjo, a Beninese-French silk shirt label, and Casablanca, founded by Moroccan designer Charaf Tajer, a finalist for the 2020 LVMH Prize.
Jendaya, in collaboration with DHL, ships these designer offerings from Africa, Asia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Europe to customers all over the world. Jendaya has received the most traction thus far from the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Ghana, and the United States, markets representing the most affluent black and diasporan neighborhoods.
Since its inception 13 months ago, the year-old e-commerce startup has processed approximately 300 orders. Meanwhile, according to Rufai, the average order value per shopping cart is $350, which is less than one-third of the benchmark — typically $750 to $1,500 — recorded by widely used luxury e-commerce stores. “Customers are warming up to our platform, and selling luxury online is a different ball game. “You need to build credibility, trust, and consumers must be consistently aware of the platform and the brands we have,” said the CEO, referring to Jendaya’s order value in comparison to offline stores.
He goes on to say that while the London-based luxury e-commerce platform has onboarded up to 70 brands through an invite-only pilot and direct relationships with multi-brand boutique partners, it intends to double that number this year. Jendaya hopes that by doing so, she will be able to promote more African luxury designers globally and boost luxury e-commerce on the African continent.
Along with the e-commerce product, the platform’s B2B offerings have generated approximately $100,000 in revenue to date. There’s Jendaya Editorial, which showcases not only the brands available on the platform, but also key historical and seasonal news with the goal of inspiring an international audience. And Jendaya Labs, the startup’s creative agency, which has clients such as Casablanca, Ozwald Boateng, Paul Smith, and Burberry, to name a few. According to Rufai, Jendaya differs from other larger Afrocentric fashion e-commerce platforms such as ANKA in this regard, in addition to an exclusive focus on luxury items: “The idea is not just African brands to the world, which is one element of what we do,” the CEO added.
Investors in Jendaya’s pre-seed round include Sabi CEO Anu Adedoyin Adasolum and several angel investors. The startup has also received financing from Ada VC, Culture Capital, actress Maisie Williams and music celebrities Bizzle Osikoya and Asa Asika.