Fashion items are among the most — if not the most — sought after on many e-commerce platforms. In Africa, for instance, fashion has held the top spot in Jumia for the largest category of items sold over the years. This means there’s no shortage of demand for fashion items across the continent, and the supply is picking up steam even in the high-end categories.
The luxury goods market in Africa and the Middle East was worth over $35 billion in 2019, with designer apparel and footwear generating more than $7 billion in retail alone. Behind such transactions is cross-border commerce, where African brands, via personal shoppers, export their items to a global audience. The more prominent scenario, however, is the opposite: In this case, African consumers get help from family and friends in the U.S. and U.K. to shop for and ship luxury items to them.
While general e-commerce activities between African shoppers and global brands have occurred informally via long-held relationships, several platforms have used tech to centralize these processes across various shopping brackets. Jendaya, a one-year-old startup that acts 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 coming out stealth, having raised £1 million (~$1.2 million) in pre-seed funding.
The London-based but Africa-focused platform was founded by CEO Ayotunde Rufai, who had the idea to start Jendaya after repeatedly acting as a personal shopper for luxury items in the U.K. for relatives back in Nigeria. Other co-founders include COO Kemi Adetu, CCO Teni Sagoe, and CSO David Elikwu; split across London, New York and Lagos, they launched Jendaya in December 2021.
“We wanted to make a platform where Africans on the continent should 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 some days or a week, so that’s why we started Jendaya,” said Rufai on a call with TechCrunch.
From apparel to beauty and home decor to accessories, the e-commerce platform is connecting African and African diaspora luxury brands with high-end consumers worldwide and African shoppers to global brands. According to the statement shared by the company, it wants to shine a light on the abundance of talent and storytelling emanating from the region 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 included being the most important part because the African citizen is also very global, they’re very metropolitan, well traveled and exposed, they’re tastemakers,” said Rufai of the regular Jendaya shopper. “So these customers don’t just want Orange Culture, they want to mix the Orange Culture with Versace. They want to mix a Bottega with Valero and Casablancas and other new brands coming out worldwide. These consumers dictate our brand offerings in that sense.”
With an ethos that supports slow fashion, artisan craft, made-to-order luxury goods and emerging talent, Jendaya hosts a roster of brands that includes Brooklyn-based minimalist accessories brand Marty Moto and others that incorporate heritage into a modern context, like Kenyan brand Adele Dejak. Other stand-out brands include Beninese-French silk shirt label Alledjo and burgeoning names such as Casablanca, founded by Morrocan designer Charaf Tajer, finalist of the 2020 LVMH Prize.
Partnering with DHL and riding on the logistics giant’s brand and extensive network, Jendaya also ships these designer offerings from Africa, Asia, the U.K., the U.S. and Europe to customers globally. So far, Jendaya has seen the most traction from the U.K., Nigeria, Ghana, and the U.S., markets representing the most affluent black and diasporan neighborhoods.
The year-old e-commerce startup has processed about 300 orders since its launch 13 months ago. Meanwhile, the average order value per shopping cart is $350, less than a third of the benchmark — typically $750 to $1,500 — recorded by widely used luxury e-commerce stores, according to Rufai. “Customers are warming up to our platform, and selling luxury online is a different ball game. You need to build credibility, you need to build trust, and consumers need to consistently be aware of the platform and the brands we have,” remarked the chief executive addressing Jendaya’s order value in comparison to offline stores.
He adds that while the London-based luxury e-commerce platform has onboarded up to 70 brands via an invite-only pilot and direct relationships with multi-brand boutique partners, it plans to double that this year. By doing so, Jendaya hopes it’ll promote more African luxury designers globally and bolster luxury e-commerce on the continent.
Alongside the e-commerce product are the platform’s B2B offerings, which according to Rufai, have seen it rake in about $100,000 in revenue up to this point. There’s Jendaya Editorial, showcasing not only the brands stocked through the platform but also key historical and seasonal news aiming to inspire an international audience. And Jendaya Labs, the startup’s creative agency that counts the likes of Casablanca, Ozwald Boateng, Paul Smith and Burberry, to name a few, as clients. Rufai says Jendaya differs from other bigger Afrocentric fashion e-commerce platforms such as ANKA in this regard, alongside an exclusive focus on luxury items: “The idea is not just African brands to the world, which is one element of what we do, but it’s also global brands to Africa,” 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.