LONDON — Selfridges is thrumming with new projects, and among them is a partnership with Untapped Creatives, a new platform for British, Black-owned fashion, beauty and homeware businesses, with products arriving in-store and online on Wednesday.
Untapped Creatives was founded last year by the international finance lawyer Funmi Scott and offers a collection of around 20 luxury, sustainable brands that highlight the work of African and British artisans.
The products are often made to order, or done in small runs, and employ artisans in the countries from which the crafts or materials originate. Proceeds from some of the sales go to African charities.
Over the past year, Scott said her goal has been to raise the profile of Black brands selling products including men’s, women’s and children’s wear, beauty, eyewear, watches and jewelry, accessories, home fragrances, toys and greeting cards by connecting them with premium retailers and sales platforms.
Untapped Creatives also represents and negotiates on the designers’ and brands’ behalf; looks to foster relationships with Black brand owners and to secure long-term deals with premium retailers and corporations through its “Afro-Luxe” concept stores.
Among them is men’s wear by designer Olubiyi Thomas, a graduate of Central Saint Martins who is of Scottish and Nigerian heritage.
The designer, who is making his retail debut at Selfridges, looks to fuse British men’s tailoring and African cultural history. He works with sustainable materials such as fabric offcuts, which are then hand-woven to form new textiles, which Thomas calls “ReWeave” fabrics.
There will also be products from House of RG, a luxury ready-to-wear and custom women’s wear label by Nigerian designer Dorothy Ogwuru. The clothing is handcrafted by a small team of skilled artisans. The Ume V-neck embellished mini carries a price tag of 1,850 pounds.
Accessories brands include Moyo by BiBi and Lolly & Kiks.
Moyo by BiBi’s founder Bibi Ahmed creates accessories using traditional African beading methods. The pieces are made in the U.K. and Kenya, with each one meant to tell a different story through detail, color and shape.
The pieces are made by women and mothers in a Kenyan village. The designer’s bead-embellished wool and glass crown costs 410 pounds.
Lolly & Kiks founder Xandra Kike-Spence was born in Nigeria and raised in London. She works with U.K.-based artisans on her limited-edition bags using vibrant African Ankara wax print fabrics.
As part of the partnership, Selfridges will also be stocking the jewelry brands Rokus and Chalk Jewellery.
Marie-Paule Tano is the designer behind Rokus’ jewelry, which is handmade in Côte d’Ivoire and the U.K. Beyoncé wore several Rokus jewels in her 2020 film “Black Is King.”
The London-based design studio Chalk Jewellery is run by Malaika Carr, who is also a practicing architect. She works with sustainable wood and recycled acrylics. Her Thandi graphic print walnut earrings are priced at 60 pounds.
“Our aim is to be a single uniting voice for Black creative businesses,” said Scott, who was born in Edinburgh to Nigerian parents, and whose husband is Irish.
“With my professional background and as creative entrepreneurs ourselves, we know that Black-owned businesses have difficulties in accessing premium retailers, and premium retailers have difficulty accessing them. We realized that in being a conduit we could hopefully solve pain points for Black independent designers, among which are concerns about access, financing and long-term growth, as well as streamline the process for buying teams to discover new and dynamic brands”.
She said her aim with Untapped Creatives is to highlight “the abundance of creativity within the Black community and find a viable and long-lasting economic solution to help Black businesses reach that next level.”