Name: Stephanie McLean
Name Of Company: Trendy Treat
Fashionista, law graduate and lifelong lover of travel; launching Trendy Treats which is a lifestyle portal is perhaps an unexpected path for someone who holds a law degree and a Masters in Real Estate Development from Columbia University.
A lifelong Jetsetter, whose adventures have taken her to more than 18 countries spanning 5 continents, Stephanie is a passionate collector of unique global pieces. Her personal collections began to spark interest from her friends and connections; this led to the idea of being able to bring a curated global shopping experience to all women.
Ethical fashion is also something that Stephanie is incredibly passionate about. Creating a platform that supported designers who were committed to sustainable fashion was important. The in house line Mogul In The Making epitomises socially conscious glamour. All pieces are ethically manufactured and have a positive socio-economic impact on the regions they are produced.
During this exclusive interview we discuss all things African fashion designers, women’s fashion and ecommerce.
The Rise of African Fashion Designers
Joseph: Can you describe Trendy Treat, and the idea and concept as if I knew nothing about it or the market it is in?
STEPHANIE: Trendy Treat is a socially conscious lifestyle brand for globally glamorous women. Trendy Treat affords socially aware women the opportunity to experience the world through globally curated ethical fashion edits and influencer driven travel experiences.
It’s a first class shopping trip around the world without the jetlag, a few clicks of your mouse and you can have a bag from Ethiopia, a made to measure dress from Jamaica and stunning gems from The Dominican Republic.
For women wanting to experience the real thing, Trendy Treat is working on a new product line, Signature Itineraries, offering niche travel experiences for the inimitable modern women. Jamaica will be the first Signature Itinerary, with the luxurious Trident and Gee Jam Hotels already onboard.
Joseph: What were you doing before Trendy Treat, and what motivated you to start the business?
STEPHANIE: Prior to launching Trendy Treat, I was in Law School, then Graduate School at Columbia University. I was committed to an entrepreneurial path and took a few bites at the apple before finding the winning idea.
Trendy Treat emerged from my passion for design and travel. I’ve always been a lover of great style and enjoyed playing dress up. Like a lot of women, I’ve had issues fitting clothes off the rack, I wanted to create a clothing line that was made to measure and affordable, so women could get the perfect fit at the perfect price, that’s how the Mogul In The Making piece came into being.
I love to travel; having visited five continents, shopping for unique pieces has always been a highlight of the travel experience. When I’d return, people also asked where they could purchase the items. So developing a global shopping village seemed like a viable solution.
I combined travel and fashion, and Trendy Treat was the outcome.
Joseph: What are your thoughts on fashion in Africa?
STEPHANIE: African fashion Business is NOW! Lagos Fashion Week is the new London Fashion Week; Mercedes Benz Fashion Week In South Africa, which I attended, is setting the fashion scene on fire. African designers are really making waves.
Personally, the vivacity of the prints is what I’m most captivated by. The patterns seem to all tell an exciting story; they are like stand alone works of art. I use Ankara and tribal prints a lot in my Mogul In The Making collections. The first collection I ever did was called Serengeti and centred on African influences. (M.I.M Miss Abuja Dress)
Joseph: How are African fashion designers influencing fashion in the western world?
STEPHANIE: Nigeria is full of style and its influence is filtering through the rest of the world. Nigerians love to profile and pop style. How they present themselves to the world is very important to them. They are the second largest consumers of champagne in the world and love a little luxury. As the region’s economic prowess expands, so is the fashion influence. The Naija confidence and African prints are appearing more often on runways and in editorial campaigns.
Trendy Treat carries two incredibly promising Nigerian Designers, O ’Eclat and Mak Nisy. They both offer very unique handbags that have global appeal. The pieces really stand out and the beautiful thing is that they are affordable. O’Eclat has been recognized in Vogue and in In Style Magazine. I’m confident that as more talented Nigerian designers emerge, so will the countries influence in the global fashion Landscape.
Joseph: What can the African fashion industry learn from the western world?
STEPHANIE: To recognize that fashion is a serious and lucrative business with huge revenue potential. The Western World has recognized how lucrative fashion is, with many billion-dollar players like Forever 21 and designers like Tom Ford and Armani creating empires with massive cross over appeal. Armani and Versace are now major players in the Hotel Space. Ralph Lauren has created a lifestyle brand. I think Africa needs to start look at and treating fashion like it treats oil and gold. Africa needs to recognize that the fashion industry is a serious sector that has significant revenue generating potential.
Joseph: Over the last few years have you noticed any significant changes with the African fashion trends?
STEPHANIE: There has been an increase in the Western Influence on the regions fashion in recent years. Perhaps it’s a symbiotic relationship because Africa is definitely making its mark globally. The Western style and fashion has influenced the region significantly, the silhouettes are more westernized now. The direction of the styles, even though the garments may be traditional African prints, a lot of the styles and cuts are Western, even with accessories, the influence of Chanel and other Western Designers is evident with Mak Nisy bags.
That’s actually a great thing because I believe that fashion is an exciting global melting pot and when there is a global influence infused into the designs, the result is a better product.
Joseph: When dealing with Africa is it important for the fashion world to be ethical and socially responsible, and put in place strong corporate social responsibility governance?
STEPHANIE: Absolutely, I believe that should be the case everywhere, not just in Africa. I consider myself to be an ethical fashion advocate. I think it will be the industry standard in the future. My clothing line, Mogul In The Making, is ethically manufactured and our onsite designers are also committed to ethical fashion.
For Africa to grow the fashion industry sensibly, placing strong corporate social responsibility governance is crucial. As more global players become interested in the region, I think that Africa should hold them to the same standards and ethos that they are held in America and Europe.
Joseph: What does ecommerce mean to you and your business?
STEPHANIE: E-commerce is my business. Trendy Treat doesn’t have a physical location, Mogul In The Making, is in retail brick and mortar locations, however, the backbone of the business is e-commerce.
Think shopping online is an amazing concept; the ability to receive items globally has made the world more accessible. Excited to see what the future holds for the sector.
Joseph: Do you think ecommerce is important for African fashion designers that are trying to get recognized and reach a global market?
STEPHANIE: E- commerce is integral to the success of African designers interested in participating in the global marketplace. Trendy Treat carries African designers and has provided a portal for them to gain exposure and a presence in other regions of the world. A Trendy Treat customer in Singapore or Amsterdam can discover a Nigerian designer like O’Eclat or Mak Nisy and purchase their product; e-commerce is vital to their growth globally.
Joseph: How does your strategy change when running an online store to an offline store?
STEPHANIE: Customer acquisition & fulfillment. I’ve never run and offline store, however, I’d imagine that these two areas would be vastly different strategically. For brick and mortar stores, fulfillment is usually done on the spot, you pick what you want, pay for it and then leave. Ordering online, fulfillment is a significant piece of the business model and efficiency in this area is key to customer satisfaction.
Customer acquisition is also vastly different. For physical stores, if you have a location in a high traffic area and provide a great service, half the customer acquisition battle is won. For an online store, customer acquisition involves serious strategies and tactics because the marketplace is so crowded.
Joseph: Where do you see African fashion in the next 5 to 10 years?
STEPHANIE: In the next 5 years, African Fashion will become more recognized in Western country and will also be more influenced by Western countries. I believe strongly that more global mega fashion brands will enter African countries, particularly Nigeria.
In the next 10 years, I anticipate some break out success. A number of African Design Houses will emerge, to find massive global success and become household names like Prada or Gucci.
Joseph: What 5 pieces of advice would you give to young African fashion designers wanting to enter the fashion industry?
1. Dream big, no even bigger than that, and have faith that the universe will support you in your endeavors.
2. Embrace failure.
3. Always bet on yourself.
4. Anything is possible.
5. Be authentic.
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