🦄 vol. 7
claude and sash chat about disruption and south african fashion brands
We've covered other buzzwords in the past, but it's hard to navigate the world and not come across some mention of “disruption” and “disruptive innovations”. The concept originates from Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma. It is concerned with answering the question of how successful companies can do "everything right" yet still be overtaken by new entrants into the market.
What is disruptive innovation? ⛈️
Disruptive innovation is when a product starts out positioned at the low-end of the market. This product addresses a need that high-end market solutions are already servicing but;
at a lower price point
with lower margins
initially serving a much smaller market segment.
They are initially viewed as inferior but with time, low costs, accessibility and other benefits make them appealing to the mainstream.
Interestingly, Christensen notes that in the time that disruptors are taking over the market, the established companies are not simply watching idly but are also innovating in a different way. They are engaged in "sustaining innovation".
So what is the difference? 🤔
Sustaining innovation is aimed at improving product performance based on features valued by mainstream customers. On the other hand, disruptive innovation is an unproven opportunity that could be the future of an industry. It addresses a niche thereby creating a new market that can eventually disrupt already existing markets.
Why can't the established companies catch up? 🏇💨 🏃
Innovation follows an S Curve. Product Innovation provides minimal value in the first couple of iterations, exponential value once it picks up momentum, but minimal value again once a product matures.
The incumbent company is operating linearly at the end of the S-Curve, improving on their established business. By the time they take notice, the new entrant is operating in the middle of the curve and their rate of improvement is too fast for the incumbent to compete with.
Tying it together ⛓️
M-Pesa is one such example of disruptive innovation. Initially its utility was unproven. M-Pesa initially targeted the "niche" market of low-income and under-banked households by facilitating payments. This was a market that was ignored by incumbent financial institutions (banks, insurances and the like). Based on its initial success as a peer to peer payment mechanism, M-Pesa started adding exponential value by democratising (drink 😉) access to products in microfinance, investment, insurance etc. This growth eventually eroded the market share of several incumbent players, revolutionising commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa, and eventually other parts of the world with the mobile money movement.
less gucci, more maxhosa 🇿🇦
In ~2018, I made a personal decision to actively increase my support for local fashion brands (you’ve probably noticed if you follow me on social media).
Fast forward ~3 years, and I’ve had the pleasure of supporting and working with some of the coolest brands in the country, and I’ve become good friends with several of the founders / designers.
The landscape 👕
While there are too many dope local brands to cover, I’m going to highlight a few that are really well publicised:
👑 High Price x Limited Production (Luxury)
👑 High(ish) Price x Limited(ish) Production (not quite Luxury)
✊ Low Price x Mass Production (Accessible)
Bathu Shoes: founded in 2015; just opened their 29th store; collab with Somizi
Drip Footwear: founded in 2019; just opened their 15th store; collab with Cassper Nyovest
What drives their clout? 📈
Disclaimer: no two brands are the same, but in my opinion, there are a few common marketing threads that are worth breaking down:
👑 MAXHOSA AFRICA, RICH MNISI, THEBE MAGUGU and TSHEPO Jeans:
🌍 Global recognition: I’d argue that local consumer perception changes when these brands receive attention abroad. It’s likely due to the influence of social media and desirability being shaped by what we see international celebrities wearing online.
🥰 Brand love: Almost all of these brands have had experiences of getting roasted for their high price points (mostly on Twitter). But each time this happens, brand advocates come to their defence and the “trend” quickly becomes the equivalent of free and positive PR (see example).
✊ Bathu Shoes and Drip Footwear:
💼 Hustle narrative: These brands are very centred around the founders and their “come-up” stories, and often highlight the impact that they have on creating employment (see example).
🧱 Brick and mortar: Both of these brands have experienced rapid expansion of their national footprint, creating a visible and widespread presence in mid-tier malls all over the country.
What do they all have in common? 🤔
📲 Omnichannel: Most of these brands have both a physical and an online store presence, which speaks to how retail has transformed and how consumers shop.
🤩 Aspirational founders: All of these brands have a strong sense of aspirational appeal, with founders who have inspiring stories.
🇿🇦 Buy local: Each of these brands can be seen as an “alternative” to an international brand.
🏴 Support Black business: All of these brands are well positioned to leverage the global movement to support Black business.
In closing 🤝
I made a personal decision to support these brands.
Whether you choose to support them or not is your own choice.
But one thing is for sure: they’re making waves, with or without you. 🚀
sash put together a (non-exhaustive) list of south african fashion brands with links to their online stores
claude saw a thread with some useful tips on writing better google queries
If you’re wanting a breakdown of the recent onlyfans controversy, matt found this cool article from the verge