Top Fashion Influencers: South African personalities such as Mihlali Ndamase and Kefilwe Mabote dominate Launchmetrics’ rankings for WWD.
PARIS – With a steadily growing middle class, Africa has a lot of untapped potential for luxury brands. But who are the influencers 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 domestic brands as designers like Rich Mnisi, Kenneth Eze, Hanifa and Tebe Magugu capitalize on the growing demand for African fashion.
To succeed, Western brands must harness the power of local influencers, from Nigerian movie stars, called Nollywood, to TV hosts, singers and influencers, said technology company Heuritech in a webinar titled “Discover Africa’s Fashion Scene.”
“The narrative of African fashion is impossible without African creative personalities,” said Amelie Rothsen, a fashion analyst at Heuritech, which offers brands predictions of fashion trends using artificial intelligence to translate photos shared on social media into market data.
“People can very quickly accuse a brand of cultural appropriation now, so stop any narrative based on Western imagery and try to really encourage creative people to create stories that highlight their culture the way they know how,” she added.
According to the Africa Wealth Report 2021, published by AfrAsia Bank, total private wealth in Africa is expected to grow by 30 percent over the next 10 years and reach $2.6 trillion by 2030. In terms of income, South Africa is the largest luxury market in Africa, followed by Kenya and Morocco, the report said.
The bank expects Ethiopia, Mauritius, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda to become Africa’s fastest-growing wealth markets over the next decade, with growth rates exceeding 60 percent. Strong growth is also projected in Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.
“To enter the African market, it’s very important that international brands really understand the specifics of the markets and have teams directly on the ground. This is especially true when communicating with ambassadors,” says Jenna McFeely, fashion curator and trend analyst at Heuritech.
“Choosing the right brand ambassador requires foreign brands to conduct exhaustive market research as well as influencers of a particular country or area. Finally, it’s important to consider the weight of the diaspora,” she added.
“As a result of colonization, people of African descent are present all over the world, their heart and wallet are between the Western world and their roots, and this reinforces the desire to consume black brands,” she said, noting the power of American beauty influencers such as Jackie Aina and Nima Tang.
Among African influencers, she named Nigerian actresses Adesua Etomi and Genevieve Nnaji, who have 4.3 million and 8.2 million followers on Instagram, respectively.
Nigeria also produces major music stars like Burna Boy and Wizkid, who posted on Instagram last week that his concert at London’s O2 Arena, scheduled for Nov. 28, sold out in 12 minutes.
“While the connection between film, music and fashion no longer needs proof, the global audience and contemporary style of these artists make them ideal representatives for African and international designers hoping to appeal to aspiration-oriented or entry-level consumers,” McFeely said.
Popular television personalities include Bonang Mateba, known for her catchphrase “Champagne, honey!” who has launched several clothing lines and her own brand of sparkling wine, House of BNG, as well as starring in the reality show “Being Bonang.”
Referring to Nigerian public relations firm Redrick, McFeely recommended that brands targeting luxury consumers lean on wealthy individuals like Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who inspired Maria Grazia Chiuri to create her first collection for Dior with her essay “We Should All Be Feminists.”
“There’s also a market of influence with women entrepreneurs and travel enthusiasts like Boiti Tulo, who showcases the luxury side of Africa, which is an aspiration, to say the least,” McFeely added.
“And finally, there’s the prospect of Afro-Kyber Influencers, which could be the new entertainment, given the success of Lil Miquela, which is another virtual Influencer,” she said, citing the example of the Ivaany digital model.
In parallel, WWD asked Launchmetrics, a research and data analytics company, to collect data on the top five African influencers ranked by media influence index, or MIV. This metric, based on a proprietary algorithm, assesses the value of social media and media coverage.
- 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, describes herself as the biggest beauty youtuber in South Africa with 345,000 followers.
She recently earned $143,000 at MIV for a post with Fashion Nova, $112,000 for a post with Revlon and $80,000 for a post with Dior cosmetics.
This year, Ndamase made Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30” list and took up luxury and lifestyle content with paid partnerships with the likes of Radisson Hotels and Protea Hotels by Marriott.
- temiloluwa Otedola (@temiotedola): 1.2 million followers on Instagram, 54 percent of the engaged audience is from Nigeria.
The daughter of Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola, who works in industries such as energy and is the younger sister of music star DJ Cuppy, Temi Otedola made a name for herself by launching a blog in 2014 covering such areas as fashion, travel and book club.
Her Instagram post about the Etro pop-up in Forte dei Marmi in June brought in $113,000 in MIV, and her post from Farfetch in 2020 was worth $68,000, reflecting her growing subscriber base.
Last year, Otedola debuted as the female lead in Nigerian filmmaker Kunle Afolayan’s “Citation,” the story of a university student who accuses a professor of sexual harassment, which is available to watch on Netflix.
- Kefilwe Mabote (@kefilwe_mabote): 1.2 million followers on Instagram, 56 percent of engaged audience from South Africa.
Born in the town of Soweto in Johannesburg, Mabote last year published an autobiography, “Kefilwe Mabote: Influencer De Luxe – From Soweto to Milan,” which is also a guide to becoming an influencer.
Known for her glamorous style, she earned $49,000 in MIV for a post with Ugg this past May, but she can usually be seen wearing high-end clothing from designers like Burberry, Tom Ford and Versace. She even has a special website, kefiscloset.com, to sell her stuff.
Mabote’s personal life made headlines last year when her then-boyfriend, businessman Edwin Sodi, was involved in a corruption scandal. She subsequently lost a libel suit against the weekly tabloid Sunday World.
- Lezego Legobane (@thickleeyonce): 765,000 followers on Instagram, 66 percent of engaged audience from South Africa.
Photographer, plus-size model and body-positive activist Legobane, known as Thickleeyonce, also has her own online clothing store, Leebex.
A recent post with Fashion Nova Curve brought MIV $39,000; another post with Bombay Sapphire was worth $63,000, and a third post for Beyonce’s Ivy Park collection with Adidas brought in $50,000.
Last year, Legobane said she was selected as an agent of influence for Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty lingerie line, but last week on Twitter she accused the brand of not offering any payment. The tweet was subsequently deleted, but she posted a separate message that read: “PAY INFLUENCERS. CONTENT CREATION IS WORK.”
- Sarah Langa (@sarahlanga), 579,000 followers on Instagram, 61 percent of the audience involved is from South Africa.
A close friend of fellow influencer Kefilwe Mabote, Langa landed her first paying job at South African department store chain Woolworths in 2015. She often parries criticism from haters by highlighting her academic achievements, which she lists in her bio on Instagram.
Langa has worked with a variety of brands, including GHD, which makes hair styling devices, and cell phone maker Samsung. She received $31,000 in MIV for a recent post with online fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing, $26,000 with Nespresso and $16,000 with Patrón Tequila.
One of her recent Instagram posts shows her unpacking a Hermès Birkin handbag as part of an advertising campaign for luxury sourcing service Aquarius Luxury Concierge.