In late February, U.S. based retailer Anthropologie launched the “Legend and Song Collection” to celebrate the craft and artisans of East Africa. This new collection offers traditional African textiles and beading combined with the unmistakable Anthropologie style. Bright colors and intricate patterns adorn dresses, skirts, jewelry, and accessories for this limited time collection.
While sold only in U.S. Anthropologie stores for the time being, the full collection was manufactured entirely in East Africa. With the help of our East Africa Trade Hub, the “legends and song” of Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda have made their way onto the shelves of Anthropologie.
Here at USAID, we work to boost trade with and within Africa, particularly in the East African region. Through President Obama’s Trade Africa initiative and our East Africa Trade hub, we work with public and private sector partners to implement information and communication technology solutions, trade facilitation tools, and devise regional strategies to improve the transparency and accessibility of markets.
In early 2013, we met with key decision makers at Anthropologie about sourcing options in East Africa and invited their teams to visit us here in Kenya. They had never explored the region for their stores, so we knew we had to find the right conditions in order for this idea to come to fruition. We set up customized exploratory visits to match Anthropologie’s design specifications and the styles and capacity of local East African companies. Our colleagues introduced the Anthropologie team to several designers, before they decided on six African companies: Sammy Handmade of Ethiopia; Mille Collines, Gahaya Links and Indego Africa of Rwanda; and Doreen Mashika and URU Diamonds of Tanzania.
“With the Trade Hub’s guidance we were able to seamlessly access the market in this region. It is exciting for us as a company and we look forward to the future possibilities,” said Karen Wilkins, Director of Technical Design for Anthropologie/Urban Inc. Karen and her team of technical design specialists worked closely with the designers to make sure the specifications and designs were technically accurate.
Over the past four years through our Origin Africa campaign, the East Africa Trade Hub has provided technical support and guidance to the many small designers and manufacturers in the region. The campaign helps change perceptions about Africa by allowing international buyers to see just how integral design and creativity are to Africa’s future. Through the work of producers, designers, small businesses, exporters, buyers and retailers, Origin Africa supports African trade in textiles/apparel, cut flowers, footwear, specialty foods, home decor, and fashion accessories. Since 2009, the East Africa Trade Hub has directly facilitated over $160 million in exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
“Many of the companies in the Anthropologie collection have been beneficiaries of Trade Hub support for several years,” says Finn Holm-Olsen, AGOA Trade Advisor for USAID’s East Africa Trade Hub. “On a broader scale, our Origin Africa initiative has been at the forefront of changing perceptions about Africa. So it is exciting to see, through this special collection, such a wide range of uniquely African products on offer to U.S. consumers.”
Anthropologie’s trust in and promotion of local African companies is a testament to the rising prominence of designers and manufacturers in East Africa. These designers now have the capacity and tools necessary to find success in the US market.
Visit the collection online. Products will be featured in select Anthropologie locations this spring.