March 27, 2015
Canadian department store chain Holt Renfrew is celebrating African culture and artisans by featuring the continent at its annual H Project in-store shop.
The H Project allows Holt Renfrew to work with nonprofit organizations and support socially and environmentally responsible fashion. This year the boutique will be called “Uncrate Africa,” and it will focus on brands that work with African artisans or donate proceeds to African charities, emphasizing Holt Renfrew’s commitment to charity on a global scale.
"At its core, H Project reinforces Holt Renfrew’s brand position as curator of beautiful things from across the globe," said David Doze, president/CEO of Pilot PMR, Toronto. It lifts them off the retail floor to the elevated ground of craft and caring."
Mr. Doze is not affiliated with Holt Renfrew, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.
Hold Renfrew was unable to connect directly.
Out of Africa
Uncrate Africa will feature products from a number of different brands that work with African artisans to bring their work to western countries. Many traditional African crafts are trendy, and Holt Renfrew’s consumers will likely be excited to have access to these authentic products.
Intricate jewelry made by African craftsman will be for sale
Some brands feature the work of African craftsmen, such as Me To We, a Kenyan fashion house that employs more than 1,000 Maasai women, providing them with sustainable and rewarding employment as they work towards financial independence. The Base Project employs Namibian families to create beautiful bracelets from discarded plastic pipes.
The Base Project's bracelets made by Namibian families
Other brands sell products that are made in the West but donate their proceeds to charities that benefit Africa. Feed, which was founded by Lauren Bush Lauren in 2007, provides food to children around the world with the proceeds from its products, such as the Feed 2 bag that provides two children in Kenya meals for one year.
Most of the luxury brands sold at Holt Renfrew are made in Western countries such as France or Italy, where certain crafts have flourished for hundreds of years. Artisans in Africa work on a smaller scale, and their products would never be available to Western consumers without initiatives like the H Project.
African products are often unavailable in Western countries
The Uncraft Africa collection is carefully curated to provide only the most beautiful and fashionable products that Holt Renfrew’s consumers would be interested in. The products available range from apparel and accessories to jewelry to home furnishings and décor.
Many of these companies provide employment to craftsman
African charities have long been a popular cause for fashion brands around the world. For example, Condé Nast recently joined the fight against mother-to-child HIV transmission through a partnership with charity Born Free Africa.
May 2014 issues of Condé Nast-owned publications, such as Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair, included Born Free Africa advertisements to spread awareness about the multi-faceted campaign. Condé Nast’s involvement with Born Free Africa included sponsored events, subscription-based donations and provided exposure for the exclusive capsule collection available at online retailer Shopbop (see story).
In addition to its support of global artisans, Holt Renfrew is dedicated to promoting the arts. The department store chain recently presented a unique cultural interaction at its men’s store in Toronto with an interactive art display.
Canadian contemporary artist Douglas Coupland had his “GUMHEAD” in the store and encouraged guests to stick their own chewed gum on the statue. The statue highlighted Mr. Coupland’s upcoming exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum and likely drew traffic from intrigued residents and visitors of Toronto (see story).
Holt Renfrew’s Uncraft Africa boutique will likely be a success because it combines elements of artistry and social responsibility. The H Project has the dual ability to satisfy and appeal to consumers.
"In a retail world everything is available all of the time,"Mr. Doze said. "It is important for a premium brand like Holt Renfrew to communicate originality and a one-of-a-kind experience.
"It is also essential to go beyond product to purpose. This is where the best brands are headed today, making consumer connections through shared values."
Kay Sorin, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York