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This Made-in-Ethiopia Shoe Brand Nabbed a $10K ‘Fashion for Change’ Grant

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests, Informa and NuOrder introduced an incubator program aimed at supporting emerging designers within the Black fashion community in late August.

Now, a little more than two months later, the trade show organizer and wholesale e-commerce platform have announced they will be building on that initiative by awarding $10,000 grants to four of the Informa Markets Fashion for Change incubator’s 10 participants.

Among those recipients is footwear brand Enzi. Having started as a dream shared by high school friends in Kenya, Enzi now offers two made-in-Ethiopia shoe models in a range of colorways and priced between $165-$250.

“We wanted to start a brand that showed the world that premium products can be made just as well in Africa as in anywhere else,” U.K.-based Enzi designer and co-founder Jawad Braye told Sourcing Journal of the largely direct-to-consumer brand, which primarily sells in France, the U.K. and the U.S. “We’re also all about creating employment and paying our team correctly.”

The three others to receive a grant were custom-made men’s apparel brand Hamid Holloman, home and body provisions brand London Grant and children’s hair accessories brand Confidence By Gabby Goodwin. Nominees were judged based on past and present collections, craftsmanship, design integrity and commercial viability.

“The Grant Program is a natural expansion of our IMFC incubator program, which allows us to further enrich our offering and lend additional support to deserving participants of this program,” Nancy Walsh, president, North America, Informa Markets, said in a statement. “Access to capital is one of the biggest barriers to entry that many emerging designers face and can have a huge impact on future successes. As a connector of the industry, we have the means to tap into a large pool of resources in order to help raise capital and assist in opening more doors to opportunities for emerging Black talent.”

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As part of the IMFC program, brands received complimentary inclusion in Informa Markets Fashion’s inaugural digital trade event, which launched on Sept. 1 and ran for eight weeks. Participating brands received a digital showroom page. Brands are also promoted through editorial features as part of Informa’s exclusive content partnership with Mae Jones Magazine through an editorial video lookbook.

Informa and NuOrder also carried out various marketing initiatives—all aimed at greater brand discovery as retailers shopped the digital marketplaces of Magic, Coterie, Project, Micam Americas and Children’s Club. Additionally, IMFC program participants receive personalized mentorship, as overseen by IMFC’s advisory board, a team whose mission is geared towards allyship, inclusion and fostering equality within the fashion community.

Informa Markets Fashion for Change incubator program participants will return for another season this spring within their respective digital marketplaces: footwear brands Enzi and Kahume within Micam Americas; Leimert Park Threads and Hamid Holloman within Project Digital; London Grant, Re Ona and Confidence By Gabby Goodwin within Magic Digital; and LaQuan Smith, Selfish Swimwear and Pridd New York within Coterie. Dates for Informa Markets Fashion’s digital event have not yet been announced but are scheduled for the spring.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.