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First investment company dedicated to African luxury brands launches

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

Apr 26, 2021

Business

courtesy of Birimian; Laureen Kouassi-Olsson

Birimian, the first operational investment firm dedicated to connecting African luxury and heritage fashion brands with international investors, has launched to accelerate the international emergence of African creators and designers brands.

The aim of Birimian is to support African designers and help them facilitate and accelerate the growth of their businesses regionally and internationally, acting as a bridge between the continent’s entrepreneurs and creative talent, and strategic stakeholders in the international fashion and luxury industries.

Founded with an all-female executive team, Birimian is led by founder Laureen Kouassi-Olsson, a seasoned executive in the African financial services and private equity industries, alongside Michelle Kathryn Essomé, the former chief executive officer of the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, who will be the chief financial officer and head of investor relations.

In addition, Céline Gainsburg-Rey, who specialises in supporting luxury brands, has been named head of strategy and marketing, while Olufunke Faweya, who has dedicated her career to operations management and international brand expansion, joins as head of brand operations.

Birimian will address the challenges associated with capital, production and international distribution faced by African designers, explained the investment firm in a statement, while establishing an “ecosystem of experts and professionals who specialise in value creation for independent labels and international brands”.

The investment firm will work with brands across the fashion, accessories, beauty and cosmetics, and gourmet sectors and is launches with four brands that it provided support through a combination of financing and bespoke growth strategy.

The first brands to join its portfolio are women’s apparel and accessories brand Christie Brown from Ghana, which has been worn by Beyonce and Alicia Keys, Loza Maléombho from the Ivory Coast that bridges traditional African aesthetics and contemporary fashion, womenswear brand Simone et Élise also from the Ivory Coast, and Belgium-based bag brand, Yeba.

New investment firm Birimian places spotlight on African luxury fashion

Birimian said that it will focus on providing long-term financing of brands in the company’s portfolio, investing between 30,000 and 3 million US dollars in brands and creative enterprises at incubation, acceleration and growth levels.

Alongside financing, brand consultation and coaching will be offered to ensure business processes and brand identity are in line with each designer’s goals, as well as strengthening of internal control and financial planning processes, and production and distribution capacity through strategic partnerships.

Birimian will implement expansion plans ensuring sustainable growth, both regionally and internationally, with investors tied in for a minimum of five years to ensure long-term support for partner brands, as well as international exposure for creative companies by optimising the use of digital channels.

Africa’s textile and clothing market is a growth market, with the industry estimated to be worth more than 31 billion US dollars. The continent also accounts for the second-largest number of jobs in developing countries after agriculture.

Commenting on the launch, founder Laureen Kouassi-Olsson said in a statement: “Birimian has been created to champion the exceptional talent and creativity emanating from the continent in order to help it reach the audience it deserves. Our mission is to use a combination of finance, mentoring and operational support to help our brands gain international exposure, achieve their true potential, placing hence the continent’s cultural heritage on the world stage.

Birimian is a call to action to contribute to the emergence of African heritage brands. Our unique value proposition relies on the extended ecosystem of experts and key stakeholders from the international fashion and creative scene we will build to support the sustainable growth of our brands and in turn connecting investors and industry enthusiasts with the continent’s finest designer brands and creative entrepreneurs.”