Thursday, February 23, 2012


Hello fashionable people! I hope all is well. So here goes another brand analysis. This time my focus is market positioning and premium footwear brand Oliberté is a perfect brand that highlights this concept.
Please read, share and comment as you like or get in touch with me at I am always glad to assist brands or companies.  

Founded in February 2009 and based from Oakville, Ontario (Canada), Oliberté is the first company of its kind to market premium urban-casual footwear exclusively made in Africa. To Oliberté and its founder, Africa is “more than just poverty” and so they demonstrate Africa’s “pride, power and liberty” through their products.

Brand Bio:
When asked why Africa was the focus of the brand, the answer was all so simple – they never have and still do not see an Africa that's categorised by negative generalisations. Oliberté believes that with the right partners, each country within Africa has the means to grow and support its people. So that's just what they do – and why Oliberté forges partnerships with factories, suppliers, farmers and workers to produce premium footwear in Africa. They also do more than just that! They work to create fair jobs, with the goal of contributing to the development of a thriving African middle class.

According to Oliberté, the African middle class is increasing in size and one of its goals is to therefore support this growing tier by building a world class footwear brand that can create thousands of jobs and also encourage manufacturers from other industries to work within Africa.

Founder Bio:
31 year old proudly Canadian, Tal Dehtiar is the founder of Oliberté footwear. He is a guy who in essence has done it all. From selling sandwiches on the beaches of Chile to launching a radio station in Singapore to co‐founding and leading “MBAs Without Borders”, an international charity that supports socially‐minded businesses across 25 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With an MBA from McMaster University, Tal has travelled, worked, studied or lived in over 50 countries. He is a recipient of awards such as the International Youth Foundation Fellowship, Ontario Global Trader Award, Arch Award and was nominated for the YMCA Peace Award, Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and Ernst & Young's Social Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2010, he took part in Episode 12, Season 4 of Dragon’s Den Canada shown on CBC, asking for 200K for a 30% share.

Brand Personality:
Simple with no frills.

Brand Target:
The person who wears Oliberté is a personification and an extension of the footwear brand’s core values and attributes - simple and fuss free with a high social consciousness and a desire to see change and developments in areas that are needed.

Brand Image:
Fair Trade
Green – environmentally conscious

What is Market Positioning

In marketing, positioning has come to mean the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for its product, brand, or organisation and what adds value to the customers.

It is a concept in marketing which was first introduced by Jack Trout ("Industrial Marketing" Magazine- June/1969) and then popularised by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their bestseller book "Positioning - The Battle for Your Mind." (McGraw-Hill 1981).

What most will agree on is that “Positioning” is something (perception) that happens in the minds of the target market. It is the aggregate perception the market has of a particular company, product or service in relation to their perceptions of the competitors in the same category. It will happen whether or not a company's management is proactive, reactive or passive about the on-going process of evolving a position. But a company can positively influence the perceptions through enlightened strategic actions.

How has Oliberté positioned itself in the mind of its target market?

They play Fair
They were aware of the challenges before them but they were also very focused in ensuring they maintained ethical practices. This means that Oliberté ensures its partners with suppliers and factories that demonstrate respect and equality in the work place for men and women.

The company carefully selects each of their partner factories based on their "play fair" motto. They continually monitor these factories to ensure they are complying with their standards and policies. In all the factories, women make up approximately 50% of the total workforce, including junior and senior administrative positions. All partner factories exceed local labour standards and workers are provided current benefits such as subsidised or free lunches, tea breaks and job security with maternity leave for women staff.

The brand also intends to further help these factories by improving on their current compensation and benefit structures through adding programs such as health and life insurance, credit savings programs and training etc.

They care about the Environment
Water: Due to the tanning process of the leather requiring a lot of water, the company specifically requires that all of their leather tanneries are either ISO 14001 certified or at minimum have water treatment plants that are constantly inspected.

Natural: They are proud that the cow, sheep and goats from which their leather is sourced have lived a life that is free range, hormone free and on average 5-6 years longer than livestock from most developed countries. For the outsoles, the brand uses natural crepe rubber tapped straight from rubber trees, which allows them to avoid using toxic equipment and chemicals commonly used in making machine-made outsoles.

Recycle: They also offer 3-way shipping which means that once the customers have enjoyed their Olibertés and if they can't donate or reuse them, the brand will happily take them back and recycle them on their behalf.

Environmental Improvement: Oliberté definitely understands the challenges of working within Africa and to ensure their products maintain the quality that they deserve, they fly out the footwear products from the countries they are manufactured which currently presents an eco-challenge for the brand. Their goal was to find an efficient and responsible transport means with a greener solution by the end of 2011. This goal was not achieved, nevertheless, Tal Dehtiar is confident that by this time next year the company will be shipping more and if not all their goods by sea to reduce their carbon footprint.

They care about their Quality
Natural Crepe: The versatility of their natural rubber crepe soles used in their products has been noted. These have been a regular on natives of colder climates such as Canada and Russia as well as on soldiers working in hot desert climates.

Hand-Picked Leather: They hand pick each piece of leather used in their footwear and also have a quality team within each factory ensuring quality standards.

Goat Lining: Their shoes are lined with 100% goat leather allowing their clients’ feet to breathe naturally, as well as stretch and form to their foot perfectly.

Reverse Backing: The leather on the heel of each shoe is reversed, ensuring the client’s feet does not slip but provides added comfort.

Personal Touch: Special details are hand stitched or hand-guided to add that extra personal touch.

Stitch: Using a variety of stitches, the brand averages over 1,000 stitches per shoe providing extra reinforcement and allowing Oliberté shoes to rely less on glue and more on craftsmanship.

In conclusion, effective brand positioning is contingent upon identifying and communicating a brand's uniqueness, differentiation and verifiable value. Brand Oliberté has definitely understood this concept and are adequately applying this to ensure their brand’s uniqueness, differentiation and values are effectively communicated. Through this, the brand ensures that they are well positioned in the minds of their target consumer market. From client care to staff care to a special care for the environment which they work in, Oliberté seems to have a fairer vision than most brands who go especially into Africa for business.

Some brand images below...

So that's it for today!
Until next time
Follow me on Twitter: @Brownschuga

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Hello Fah-Schyon lovers! Just wanted to bring you a long overdue update on the Talk Africa Fashion discussion that took place 2 weekends ago and hosted by Chidubem (@lostintalent). See below her review...

Last Sunday, I got the opportunity to play host to the Talk Africa African (thank you @Brownschuga)

The topic of discussion, African seasons vs Western seasons. As we all know, most of the Western countries have four seasons: Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, & Africans have just two; Wet and Dry seasons (where the temperature doesn’t vary much).

The first question of the forum: How will African designers break into the Western industry with this weather difference? Should they (a) adopt the Western season system or (b) stick to pleasing the African weather system [everything else comes after] or (c) other.

Everyone had a varied opinion. Some thought, why should African designers put Western needs ahead of African needs? Others argued for business freedom, if designers choose to go four seasons then so be it! I agree with the latter, they may be African designers but that doesn’t mean that their target market is based in Africa or does it?

Marissa of Hint Magazine pointed out that “Cultural artefacts are a free-for-all these days, so who’s to slap geographical boundaries on them?”

The conversation soon broadened to how their choices could result in elimination of customers. And how to downsize issues, as it seems to be an unavoidable thing, while creating a brand identity. Surely they can’t please everyone?

The forum soon moved on to the basics of African fashion when @MalakhandSco raised the question: ‘What is African fashion?’

A toughie! It was concluded that African fashion is very difficult to define and subjective. But @MalakhandSco said they’d never equate African fashion to African fabric!

The beginning topic allowed us to cover such a wide range.


So there you have it. A short and very sweet summary of the discussion on the rising African industry. It is very true that to define "African fashion" is not an easy task and I know I wouldn't necessarily equate African fashion to African prints. The versatility and freedom of expression between the designers is a must to allow the industry to grow and survive.

Unfortunately last week's session to be hosted by moi was cancelled and postponed to this Sunday (19th Feb) at 2pm UK time on Twitter. Find me and follow me to take part in the show. Feel free to contact me to propose a topic to host.

Until then

Thursday, February 2, 2012


The third edition of our usual TalkAfricaFashion Twitter discussion kicked off in great style last Sunday hosted by @NgumNgafor.

The topic in discussion was "How journalists write about African Chic" following the commotion that Elle France caused with their article on African fashion.

Many points were raised and below is a summary.
  •  African fashion coverage is inaccurate.
  • Blanket terms like ethnic/tribal, trivialise its complexity and originality. In essence, these terms are vague at best and fail to tell the story of African styles.
  • Mainstream journalists don't seem to take the time to research  about African fashion. Lots of education and proactivity is needed.
  • Even more worrying is some African journalists copying the careless trend of writing about African chic. Once African writers take the matter more seriously and push for quality writing of the subject, then the rest will have no choice but to follow.
  • We need to support those who get it right and are representing the real image of African chic. Publications like New African Woman, FAB magazine, Fashizblack, Ghubar etc and many bloggers are doing a great job.
  • We need to challenge the status quo. We also need to write to fashion editors who get it wrong and fashion bloggers need to refuse to feature inaccurate articles on their blogs. This will also educate mainstream writers. African fashion is getting too big to ignore and they need to start to getting it right.
  • The African fashion industry needs to develop good fashion critics to create glossaries in order to facilitate research.

So thats it! Thanks to all the participants and contributors. Stay tuned this coming Sunday at 2pm UK time for another dose of #talkafricafashion on Twitter. The topic is "Fashion seasons and how it affects business".

Follow me on Twitter if you want to take part in the discussion.

Until next time!
Stay fashionable!