Abidjan- In 2017, the Ipsos Social Research Institute carried out a study entitled “the women of Africa: a central motor driving the African economy". It found that fashion and beauty occupy the second and third spot in the list of what the women of the Ivory Coast spend their disposable income on, accounting for 14 and 13 percent of their budget respectively. With this in mind, the Lifestyle and Beauty Festival (LSBF) came to life.
“The sectors of fashion, cosmetics and lifestyle are quite important in the country, but still need to be organised. We realised there was a need to create a framework to promote the development of these sectors that also takes into account the entire production chain”, explains Agara Konan Yao, the exhibition curator, to FashionUnited. He also notes that this initiative is unprecedented in the country: “traditionally, we see more fashion and cosmetic shows, but there has never been a show that brings together fashion, cosmetics and well-being under one roof. Bringing all these stakeholders together in a single space is a considerable challenge”.
The LSBF took on this challenge on 21, 22 and 23 May 2021 at the Sofitel Hôtel Ivoire, one of the country's most prestigious venues. In an area spanning more than 8,000 square metres where 3800 square metres of expedition space are spread across three specific zones, there are more than 45 brands and companies which convene to meet both the public and professionals in connection with workshops, round tables, stands and fashion shows.
One festival, two target groups: consumers and professionals
“For this festival, we wanted to attract professionals from the worlds of fashion, beauty and lifestyle. With their skills and expertise, it is important for them to get to know one another, interact and perhaps even develop new markets”, explains the commissioner. “At the same time, we also wanted to attract consumers. First of all, because in this way, they can go meet professionals and get the best tips and advice. They can also make attractive business deals, buy quality products and respond to their needs and all this in the same space”.
In order to allow as many people as possible to benefit from these brands and professionals, the festival’s organisers focused on making it accessible with an admission ticket price of 2000 FCFA (the local currency) equivalent to 3.05 Euro for adults and 500 FCFA equivalent to 0.75 Euro for children aged 7 to 12. “By offering this price, we can be certain that the people who come to the LSBF can shop on location and take advantage of the articles offered at the stands and in the surrounding area since the show takes place in the most prestigious venue on the square. Profits came from sponsoring and rental of the stand for the brands, but one should also keep in mind that the revenue from admissions was also considerable”. This was a choice that very much paid off considering the huge response on the part of visitors.A
total of 15,530 participants were registered during the three-day event : On the opening day, Friday 21 May, the LSBF welcomed 4,605 visitors. Saturday attracted the most people with a total of 6,220 visitors. On Sunday, the final day, a total of 4 705 persons attended the event.
Attract as many people as possible thanks to… reality TV!
The Voodoo communication group and the Life TV channel were behind the lifestyle and beauty festival. In order to attract as many people as possible to the festival, the two organisations ingeniously decided to launch a reality TV program. The idea? To bring together four influencers from French-speaking Africa: Emma Lohoues with 2.7 millions followers on Instagram, Coco Emilia with 2.2 million followers, Nathalie Koah who accounts for 1.8 million and finally, Suy Fatem, former Miss Ivory Coast in 2018, with 350 thousand followers. Apart from being influencers, these women are known for their undertakings in the fashion and beauty sectors in the Ivory Coast for Emma Lohoues and Suy Fatem, and in Cameroon on the part of Coco Emilia and Nathalie Koah. In connection with this program that blends business, entrepreneurship and clashes (like all good reality TV), the production team also managed to showcase the festival and the idea behind it to a large audience. Through each of their vast social network communities, it was possible to reach a considerable number of viewers who then became participants.
LSBF, what’s in it for professionals?
Numerous big names from Africa's and particularly the Ivory Coast’s fashion scene responded when the event was announced. This was the case for the high fashion brand Wafa Couture, which always strives to be closer to its clientele: “The brand has existed for 16 years, even though we are known in the country, we still have a need for visibility. It is important to remind our customers that we are there and that we exist. When a brand “makes noise”, it stays in the customer’s mind. If we don't do that, even if we do good work, there is a risk that our customers will forget us. Communicating and staying in contact with our clientele is essential, particularly in the wake of this health crisis", explains Wafa Sarkis, creator of the brand.
Although many small and medium enterprises responded to the call, the organisers were also confronted with reluctant professionals: “From the first press conference on, big names from the fashion world joined the initiative, but it is also true that things didn’t come quite as easy when it came to the professionals themselves. They are sales-oriented whereas shows are traditionally places where products are put on display. The professionals have a clear goal: immediate profitability. We had to track them down and convince them that plenty of people with considerable purchasing power will be in attendance. I must say that this was one of our biggest challenges. Some opted to watch this first instalment from the sidelines and told themselves that they'd take part in the second one", notes Agara Konan Yao.
Has a date been set for 2022?
Following the success of this first instalment, the commissioner is already announcing plans for the next instalment: “We are envisioning a larger second instalment with even more representation from the entire value creation chain. We want to have more stands, more participants and more institutional involvement, particularly on the part of ministers. This year, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce opened the show, but next year, we hope to be accompanied by other ministers”, he concludes.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English.