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New concept store gives Pan African designers a lifeline during pandemic

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published Apr 11, 2021

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Luxurious living and local fashion meet at the highest point in South Africa as Johannesburg’s Leonardo Hotel houses a new concept store.

House of Nala was officially launched last week and features the designs of some of the most renowned Pan African designers including Gavin Rajah, Eric Raisina, Bongiwe Walaza, Adele Dejak, Scalo, and KLûK CGDT.

The newly established retail outlet which prides itself on its carefully curated and unique selection of garments and accessories is the partnership between the Legacy Hotels & Resorts group and African Fashion International (AFI).

While both the tourism and creative industries are still bearing the brunt of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, AFI founder and chairperson Dr Precious Moloi Motsepe believes this boutique will be a lifeline to both hard-hit sectors.

“We believe that the House of Nala concept store is an important extension to our eCommerce store and being located at The Leonardo combines just the right balance.

“AFI believes that the House of Nala concept store will enable the company to grow sales for local designers who wish to continue to build their brands and to contribute to their business sustainability,” Motsepe explained.

“We are also committed to supporting and nurturing a circular economy in the business of fashion and we believe that by supporting local designers and providing them with a bespoke space to showcase their talent, the company can further its goals in this regard.”

These sentiments were shared by designer Bongiwe Walaza who said that having her designs featured at the boutique will give her more exposure.

“Having Bongiwe Walaza Designs featured at the House of Nala will help broaden our reach as a brand and we will be able to reach new clients across the board that we haven’t been able to reach through our own marketing endeavours.”

The opening of House of Nala also comes during some of the toughest times fashion designers around the world have ever faced as unprecedented measures, implemented to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, has seen huge declines in retail sales and cancellations of fashion weeks around the globe.

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Designers have consequently been forced to think outside the box, with many debuting their latest collections online and having to provide a digital outlet, and in some cases delivery, for the sales of their items.

This is evident in the huge increase in online shopping trends which have been observed in South Africa and across the world.

While Motsepe is aware of this virtual movement, she believes that there is still value in brick and mortar stores as well as the physical shopping experience at large.

“AFI’s decision to open a physical store came out of research, extensive canvassing of designers and listening to their needs. We observed changing local and global trends, and considered retail spaces on offer and also took into account that customers still value the touch-and-feel experience of a physical store.”

The AFI founder and chairperson added that The House of Nala is part of AFI’s omni-channel approach to retailing (where all sales and interaction channels are considered to be part of a single structure.

“The new concept store will connect as an extension of eCommerce offering a convenient click and collect service to customers.”

Apart from giving designers a platform to showcase their designs during the global health crisis, Motsepe also believes that it has much to offer fashion enthusiasts who were also restricted during the pandemic.

“House of Nala promises a convenient, personalised and bustle-free shopping experience. We seek to ensure our customers get the best service in a luxurious setting by offering styling guidance, and the touch and feel experience.”

The Saturday Star

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