Meet Breanna Moore, the young African American woman whose trip to Ghana changed her perception about fashion and gave her a new vision to see African inspired designs recognized globally. She talks about her passion for driving change through fashion and the role of her business in the global Fashion Revolution.
What is your background and why did you decide to start Labré?
My name is Breanna Moore and I am a 2015 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with International Relations and African Studies majors. As an undergraduate, I studied abroad for one month at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and had the opportunity to teach Math to elementary and middle school students in Kumasi, Ghana in 2013. I also studied abroad at the University of Ghana in 2014. My stay in Ghana exposed me to the vibrant Batik and Ankara fabrics, and Kente Cloth. I thought “wow this should be everywhere!” I also thought it would be a great opportunity to provide jobs for artisans in Ghana and contribute to the economic growth there. So, ever since then I had the idea to start my fashion line, LaBré. I raised over $10,000 in seed capital with the mission to increase economic growth in Ghana through job creation, provide Ghanaian artisans and their products with access and exposure to the international market, and primarily, employ women.
What do you love about what you do?
I love that I’m able to work with amazing designers and artisans across the diaspora, strive to create economic opportunities for talented African and diaspora designers, and provide a platform that gives designers increased access and exposure to the international market. I also love that I’m able to explore innovative ways to use fashion and technology to combat health related issues such as malaria and contribute to the economic development on the continent.
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For a few years now, there has been talk of a fashion revolution. A shift to a more ethical way of fashion production where the workers are recognized and given a sustainable standard of living. How has this influenced Labré?
LaBré was created with this intent in mind to ethically produce fashion and recognize and sustain workers. Recently, I’ve been influenced by the KISUA model which offers established and emerging African designers the opportunity to collaborate with the brand on ready-to-wear capsule collections. KISUA funds and produces all collections so there is no financial burden placed on the designer and the KISUA Designer Fund gives a portion of every sale to the designer.
You are running a global business that sells in the United States, sources from various parts of Africa and collaborates with other fashion brands. What are the challenges?
Definitely technology and electricity cuts during the spring and summer. If the electricity got cut off and the seamstresses/tailors had no generator or money to fuel the generator the work day was cut in half. This made production time two times longer than what it normally is if electricity was on throughout the whole work day. Other challenges include language barriers, different systems of size and measurement, and a lack of efficient telecommunication. For example, if the electricity is down and the team doesn’t have their phone charged I can’t communicate with them via WhatsApp or Facebook. The biggest challenge is not being able to physically be on the ground.
What advice would you give fashion brands that want to grow and expand either in their countries or globally?
I would say definitely do your research before you branch out. Go to the country and make the personal connections and build relationships. Get all the advice, help, and resources you can before jumping into it. Also, know your market and the challenges that come with it.
It has got to be stressful in your line of business. How do you keep a positive mindset?
Patience and knowing that if others can do it and be successful at it so can I. And most importantly knowing that if it is God’s will, it will be done.
What has been the best lesson you’ve learned in this business?
To fully be the boss of my work and not let other people make decisions for me.
What is the future for Labré? What impact do you want it to have on the creatives in Africa?
Through The Fashion Made in Africa initiative, LaBré is launching LaBré Agency which will achieve the stocking of made in Africa apparel and accessories in U.S. fashion companies, department stores, and boutiques. We will provide U.S. fashion companies, department stores, and boutiques clients with the apparel and accessories of LaBré’s network of African fashion designers. The global fashion industry is $1.3 trillion with sub-Saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market valued at $31 billion. In Africa, the entire textile/clothing market accounts for the second largest number of jobs in developing countries after agriculture. In the next five years, the industry could generate $15.5 billion in revenue. We desire to have “Fashion Made in Africa” become a global norm and harness the global fashion industry to create economic opportunities for talented African designers and generate global visibility of African inspired fashion designers. Historically, Africa has been known for it’s natural resources of gold, oil, and cocoa. Fashion is also a natural resource of the continent, a material wealth that has the potential to contribute exponentially to the economy through the cotton, textile, and garment industry and employ millions of people predominantly women and youth.
All images courtesy of Labré