Laureen-Kouassi-Olsson-Champions-Sustainable-Growth-in-African-Fashion African Fashion International

Laureen Kouassi-Olsson Champions Sustainable Growth in African Fashion

How Laureen Kouassi-Olsson is Taking African Fashion Brands to the Next Level

The Vision of Laureen Kouassi-Olsson: Championing Sustainable Growth in African Fashion

By Ranji Mangcu

Women have always been drivers of culture – space-makers, building networks and transferring culture through every avenue available to them. What African American author of Black feminist theory Kimberlé Crenshaw coined as an “intersectional” experience has – in conjunction with undeniable genius, dynamism, and entrepreneurship – instilled range, empathy and perceptiveness that helps us understand the needs of society. It’s about identifying where we can fill the gaps, and where we can build anew.  

From rectifying informational gaps about African fashion, to enacting the infrastructural development of African fashion industries through collaboration, what is apparent across the board is a commitment and renewed sense of priority to building a connective fashion industry, driven by collaboration and investment in the collective.  

This year, Africa Fashion International is celebrating the women who are driving African fashion both on and off the continent, from all corners of the fashion system. Braving the somewhat apocalyptic realities of the world – from regional wars to climate and inflation crises – they are driven by visions of the African continent’s fashion futures.  

From business and journalism to design and curatorship, women continue to move against the rules and limits of individualism, tokenism and glass ceilings to demonstrate the boundless possibilities of success and value-creation in the fashion industry.  

At the epicentre of creating value-centred transformation in African fashion business is Ivorian investment executive Laureen Kouassi-Olsson.

The economic infrastructure on the continent has not been conducive to the genuine, long-term success of Africa’s fashion design talent. With the goal of bridging this gap, Kouassi-Olsson actioned her mutual dedication to responsible finance and developing the African economic landscape, founding Birimian Ventures in 2016.  

Kouassi-Olsson holds under her belt a decades-long career in investment, financial services and private equity industries. In her simultaneous love of fashion, Kouassi-Olsson noted that despite the hordes of talent within the African continent, the value of it was disproportionately creating value elsewhere.

In facilitating connections between the African fashion industry both continentally and globally, Birimian’s fold includes brands from the African diaspora, including Haiti, and African labels based abroad.

Referring to itself as an accelerator programme, Birimian Ventures offers African luxury businesses capital, institutional support and strategic guidance.

Their cohort includes labels from across the continent, including South Africa’s Wanda Lephoto and Pichulik, Côte d’Ivoire’s Lafalaise Dion, Guinean model, Armando Cabral's label Armando Cabral, and Morocco’s Zyne.  

The guiding philosophy for most fashion entrepreneurs seeking to build the African fashion industry is the desire to champion the sustainable, long-term development of African fashion and luxury brands, and a focus on building community networks both on the continent and in the diaspora. 

Laureen Kouassi-Olsson is an inspiring example of how investment and a passion for fashion can come together to create positive change on the African continent.

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