Anna Touré proves to the world that fashion can be an essential industry in Africa, and she does it well. Her work enhances the visibility of African fashion on the global stage. Through her PR agency, Touré supports numerous designers in their communication strategies predominantly from Francophone Africa. Touré’s clients can be seen adorned on celebrities from Cardi B to Burna Boy. Beyoncé, a regular customer, showcased her ode to Africa entitled Black is King during Summer 2020. Through her stylist Zerina Akers’ expertise, she uses her image for the greater good, supports African designers publicly, and gives them a mainstream platform. This generation of uninhibited designers, proud of their diverse ethnic heritage, no longer hesitate to highlight local fabrics and craftsmanship while projecting contemporary views.
Introducing Anna Touré
Image Courtesy of Anna Touré
Born in Vichy, France, to a Senegalese father and Ivorian mother, Anna grew up between France, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast. She traveled to and eventually settled in New York in 2008, which has been her international base ever since. Anna launched ANNA TOURE | PR in 2012, specializing in public relations, strategic communication, web marketing, branding, and event planning. Based in Dakar, Senegal, the agency propels a new generation of African designers into international media. For a long time, reduced to the wax print, (a Javanese technique commercialized by Vlisco on the continent) African fashion comes out of anonymity and offers new perspectives.
At All the Pretty Birds, we discussed with Anna Touré the challenges that African brands face daily, emphasized the importance of social media in promotion, and unpacked her introduction to this niche sector. Touré shared the joy of seeing her brands thrive and the growth of interest from celebrities who joined her in celebration of African fashion brands.
A Discussion on the Future of African Brand Representation in Fashion
Amanda Winnie Kabuiku: All things African appear to be on-trend. African fashion is everywhere on social media. What are the difficulties in promoting African brands outside of this Instagram frenzy? What are the remarks, the stereotypes attached to it?
Anna Touré: Surprisingly, this has never really been a hurdle for me; it did not stop me from doing my best to reach my goals. However, I can not deny that I realized that people tend to have a particular African fashion image. First of all, they do not necessarily distinguish that Africa is a continent and not a country. Even in discussions about creativity, so you will be surprised by that logic. Still, many people think that the whole continent has the same trend, which is not valid.
Besides this aspect, I believe it has been a habit to place African fashion in a specific type of folklore, offering clothes that you can only wear for cultural occasions or certain traditional functions. So the difficulties were to get rid of these stereotypes by showcasing the best way possible our client’s designs in all their diversities to editors, stylists, and buyers, by showing how brands from different countries in Africa are as global as any other brands in the world. Whether we are talking about everyday fashion or pieces worn for special occasions, they can be worn by anyone.
Bobo by SAG, Image Courtesy of Anna Touré PR
AWK: What are some challenges you faced when you began your PR agency?
AT: There are regular challenges to opening a new business. You have to convince your clientele. You have to convince the partners you collaborated with, that your content and clientele are beneficial for them. So, as a young professional focusing on the African market in 2021, even though it has already started gaining interest internationally, I still have to prove that it is a sustainable market. It is a global market that can be appreciated beyond the continent, and worth reaching other parts of the world. The challenges there, are not as different as the challenges of any other professional who opens a business.
[The best practice is to] gain trust. Make sure that we always select the best of the best clients and designers who have something new to offer. Being professional, organized, and having a good strategy are the keys to success. It’s mostly a lot of work to prove that what we decide to create is sustainable. As any PR agency, we target, for our clients, the market of preferences and bring them opportunities. Our main challenge is to make our clients understand that the results will not always be seen right away, but a couple of months or years later. Of course, we need to have results for our work, but it’s mostly not an overnight success. The main part comes gradually.
AWK: How do you believe cross-cultural narratives contribute to an improved global vision of Africa? Why is it so important to dust off the stereotypes of African design and showcase nontraditional luxury brands?
AT: We can say an improved African vision, but there’s nothing wrong with traditional designs. Some African designers from different African countries focus their craft on traditional fabrics, designs, and techniques. Some brands are mingling these elements. It’s important to readjust the vision people have in general and focus on reality. Curiosity and research reveal that there are a ton of designers who can be from Nigeria or Angola, or Mali or Côte d’Ivoire who are not concentrated solely on traditional attires. With digital, nowadays, if you want to find contemporary brands from Africa, you can. I wouldn’t say give an improved global vision of Africa. Perhaps, to provide “a more varied image” of the African fashion scene because it’s very diverse; it’s just not one—the cross-cultures dialogue helps showcase the African variety.
AWK: We saw the enthusiasm of Beyoncé in Black is King for African brands. Which of your clients’ brands have been selected? What kind of impact has this visibility had on the performance of these brands?
AT: Black is King was an amazing project. We were so excited about it. Our brand, which was selected, was Karidja and Khadija, a jewelry brand from Côte d’Ivoire. Of course, It’s a huge push for a brand to be worn by such an icon. Recognition, sales growth, and it’s also a feeling of pride for the designers who have worked so much on their designs and to see an icon with your designs, an icon that you admired and loved her work, it’s very humbling for them. They are pleased about it, not only because it’s a push for their business and sales on a human level, see someone you admire, someone who is wearing your designs in such an international project, it’s just massive.
Image via Karidja and Khadija
AWK: When did you understand that it was more a question of accessibility than of visibility?
AT: Well, it depends. Some designers need to work on their accessibility, make sure that their work can be easily accessible to the world, and can be easily purchased online, internationally. Nowadays, with digital growth, designers have so many platforms to sell globally, via market places such as Afrikrea.com, for instance. Accessibility for sure can not be neglected; but at the same time, being visible is the key, through interviews in the press, a lookbook shared in social media, or celebrities wearing these designers pieces… it all goes hand in hand. One cannot be replaced for another.
AWK: There is a desire to showcase African Designers, beyond common traditional work in mediums such as wax fabrics. What are your thoughts on this? What do you look for in pursuit of diversifying the representation?
AT: First of all, I have nothing against Ankara, and it is part of the African heritage, believe it or not. However, it is essential to know that many other textiles are used in Africa and that Ankara is not the only African fashion representative. Our work by representing African designers gives more visibility to their designs, and our clients do not only use Ankara; some do not even use Ankara at all. Those who think that African fashion is resumed by only using Ankara, excuse me, but these are people who are not very curious to know more or dig.
To me, it is like thinking that when you walk around in Paris, you will only see French women wearing a red beret and a bottle of wine under the arm, which is not what you instinctively see in Paris streets, so why thinking that Ankara is the only type of fabric used to create fashion pieces? When we talk about American fashion, we are not only thinking about denim, correct? The designers we represent are various in their genre; the most important for my agency when signing with a designer is the story-telling of the brand, its singularity, and the fact they have something unique to showcase.
AMFA Beauty, Image Courtesy of Anna Touré PR
AWK: Some African-American and Nigerian celebrities more easily endorse African brands, such as Burna Boy, Beyoncé even Cardi B. How have your relationships with stylists evolved over time to help them embrace African brands?
AT: I am not implementing anything in their mind; I am lucky enough to work with people who understand that fashion is international, whether it comes from Africa, Asia, or Europe. If a piece is amazing, it does not matter where it comes from, does it? As long as we know how to pitch our clients to the right person, the more chances we have to gain visibility.
AWK: We always have one or two brands that speak powerfully to our hearts. I don’t want to make any of your clients jealous, but what are some of your favorites represented in your portfolio?
AT: Ah ah ah, all of them!
Leading Image Simone & Elise, Courtesy of Anna Touré PR
Brands Represented by Anna Touré PR include Afrikanista, Peulh Vagabond, Simone&Elise, Selly Raby Kane, and Gueras Fatim.