Mr Price x Anisa Mpugwe: Is this a blueprint for successful brand scaling?

For nearly three months now, Mr. Price, a South African high street clothing brand has teased relentlessly across social media platforms and on all the big blogs that it was sitting on a surprise. Like many fashion followers, I watched with bated breath and a little bit of skepticism. Mr. Price is popular for its amazing prices but infamous for it’s lack of quality control. Mr. Price had done enough business to know it was time to grow up and rebrand.

Last week, the secret was finally revealed. Mr. Price had decided to take the leap from stocking other brands to creating its own line. This Mr. Price found Tanzanian designer Anisa Mpugwe,  The winner of the first Elle South Africa New Talent competition (the first of her collaborations with Mr. Price) and the brain power behind the South African High street brand, Loincloth and Ashes to serve as guest creative director for its new female only (for now) designer line. Ms. Mpugwe, already a brand name in Pretoria with her own flagship store in the Maboteng district, brings her unique brand of shift dresses and unique quirk of plays on mixed fabric to the Mr. Price family.

There are many things great about this collaboration.

– The clothes are beautiful. Like really beautiful. Anisa Mpugwe outdid herself.

– Mr. Price has a presence in at least six countries across across Africa, so Anisa is being introduced simultaneously to new markets. Anything that improves the marketability of indigenous designers across Africa is welcome by me.

– From what I’ve seen, neither Mr. Price or Anisa crimp on quality. The collection uses durable fabric and Anisa doesn’t patronize the final consumer by not pushing the boundaries.

– Four and most importantly, the clothes are decently priced.

Sometime in June this year, Lisa Folawiyo (whom I love) created a diffusion line called J.Label in collaboration with Nigerian online fashion portal Fashpa.com. I liked the clothes and thought they were urban enough for young people to want to gather up their coins and save up for a J.Label blouse or skirt. That was until I started to hear from my friends about pricing horror stories; for example shorts that cost upwards of N20,000 (minimum wage is about 18,000). I have no idea why the items were so expensive, especially when they were high street. I don’t doubt that the clothes were of great quality but in a country with an economy like ours, I didn’t see that as very fiscally responsible or expressing a proper understanding of your high street market. I didn’t want to quote prices based on hearsay, so at the time of writing this article I scoured the Fashpa online website for a definitive price list since the collaboration was their premier collaboration with a Nigerian luxury brand. Apart from a link to the collaboration’s look book which turned out to be a dud link, there is literally no evidence to show such a collaboration ever existed. That as well I cannot claim to understand so I will leave it.

The whole point of this article is this; Nigeria is a country with 160 million people, half of whom are under 25 and cannot afford to spend over five thousand on a single item of clothing but still want something that is instantly recognizable as name brand quality. Mr. Price seems to have put that in context when they created this collaborative collection with Anisa Mpugwe of Loincloths and Ashes, and found a way to marry price and quality. If our Nigerian brands who are no doubt doing very well selling to limited clientele want to truly break into the market and move from being appreciated from afar, they must find partners who understand the precarious business of selling high street fashion and partner with them. The target demographic is too big to be ignored and it is literally starving to be catered to.

I didn’t want this article to stand only on high-faluting rhetoric, so I did some math. If the publicity campaign Mr. Price has undertaken using social media is successful and Mr. Price manages to move 10,000 units each of the cheapest units in the collection, a blouse with bow detailing and a printed tee both worth N1,900, that would total to 28 million Naira. Let’s say our collaborating designer gets 20% of whatever is made at the end of the fiscal year, they make a cool 5.6 million Naira. 10,000 is less than 1% of the total population of Nigerians under 25. This shows just how much money our Nigerian designers could make from these kinds of collaborations. With adequate endorsement and support from the collaborating designer and publicity across platforms added to affordable but moderate quality clothes (I wont even ask for high quality, all we need is to wear it until the next collaborative collection is announced, so six months max), pushing 10,000 units of each piece of a six piece collection should be a breeze. After all, illegally branded Wizkid and Davido branded t-shirts already move units in those numbers. If we used this current Mr. Price collection as a benchmark, 10,000 units of each piece in the collection sold would come to a cumulative total of 186 million Naira in six months, 20% of which is 37.2 million Naira going directly to the designer.

I wouldn’t profess to know the intricacies of collaborations like these, but I do know that it has taken a Tanzanian designer and a South African retailer to prove that it is possible to find a balance between access and profitability. I really hope that the next collaboration Mr. Price does is with a Nigerian designer. I think it’s time young Nigerians with a limited budget get a taste of this fabulous fashion we only get to appreciate from afar.

I want the Anisa Mpugwe collection to do well financially in Nigeria. If it does well, the odds of Mr. Price collaborating with a Nigerian designer to whom loyalty among Nigerian youth is higher becomes less of a pipe dream and more of an eventuality. If they do well here, more brands will try to break the Nigerian market using the designer/retailer collaboration format. Our designers make bank and we get affordable, well tailored clothing. A win for Anisa is a win for all of us.

To shop the Mr Price x Anisa Mpugwe collection, go here.

Support African Fashion.

– Ed.

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