Jendaya Is The E-commerce Platform Serving Africa’s Fashion Forward Consumers

Ayotunde Rufai's direct experience with family members who lived in Nigeria and wanted to access a luxury shopping experience online became the engine that powered Jendaya, which he runs alongside Kemi Adetu and Teni Sagoe. The idea of a global luxury e-commerce platform that first and foremost serves an African market is not a new concept; it has been attempted before, Rufai tells me. However, it is yet to be executed to the high level expected for an upmarket platform. 
by TERNA JOGO Jul 20, 2022

The African market has often been overlooked in conversations about fashion. When people do think of African style, the first thing that comes to mind might be headwraps and traditional prints. Thankfully, there has been a cohort of designers from Africa who have flipped the perception of African fashion on its head, producing forward-thinking garments for a modern audience while paying homage to their heritage.

Designers such as Tokyo JamesThebe Magugu and Andrea Iyamah continue to demonstrate a taste level that could only have come from their lived experiences as Africans. Simultaneously, there is a class of African consumers who regularly shop luxury clothing, especially when travelling but are currently underserved by popular e-commerce platforms. 

Around 2017, Ayotunde Rufai, co-founder of e-commerce platform Jendaya, recognised this gap in the market when his auntie, who lived in Nigeria but shopped at stores like Selfridges when she was in the UK, had to keep enlisting him to return things for her. 

“She came that summer, and I was like, why don’t we just do it from Nigeria? Why don’t you just do it from Lagos? And she was kind of like, we don’t do it that way. So, then I started researching…and it was all logistics and opacity of data, and trust and security.” Rufai tells me. 

Rufai’s direct experience with family members who lived in Nigeria and wanted to access a luxury shopping experience online became the engine that powered Jendaya, which he runs alongside Kemi Adetu and Teni Sagoe. The idea of a global luxury e-commerce platform that first and foremost serves an African market is not a new concept; it has been attempted before, Rufai tells me. However, it is yet to be executed to the high level expected for an upmarket platform. 

When it first launched, Jendaya focused first on putting the brand and its mission, to serve the African luxury consumer first, on people’s radars. Although you couldn’t shop on Jendaya until December last year, the team applied pressure to create awareness around the platform and its brands through content pieces, YouTube videos, editorials, articles and billboards in the two years before launching e-commerce. In February, Jendaya powered ‘Tokyo James Presents: A rave with the frogs’, a party for the Nigerian designer’s AW22 collection, for London fashion week. Now the figurative shop doors are open to those who managed to sign up in time for an access code; Jendaya’s priority is to continuously improve the online shopping experience for their customers.

What does a luxury online shopping experience look like? I hear you ask. Well, exclusivity is a given as you can only shop on the Jendaya if you signed up for an access code before the launch in December 2021. But the decision to launch the site as invite-only doubles as a form of traffic and quality control that allows the team to deliver a consistent experience to all customers. Subscribers have access to brands exclusively stocked on Jendaya and a real-life stylist via a widget on the site that allows you to seek advice on what to buy according to your needs, wants, and style. If you’re looking for an item that’s not on the site, Jendaya’s concierge service means a stylist can source items not currently on site. 

You can expect a diverse range of brands, from luxury heavyweights such as Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton to smaller but established names like A-Cold-Wall* and Rich Mnisi, amongst emerging designers Jermaine Bleu and Abigail Ajobi. This eclectic mix is edited to appeal to an international audience, “but with the African on the continent in mind who is also very metropolitan and very exposed,” Rufai says, “they’re in the know, and they trend set. In fact, they’re not following trends. They’re even trendsetting. So the edit has to be cool, it has to be on the pulse, it has to be fashion forward.”

If you do a google search, you will discover that Jendaya is allegedly a Zimbabwean girl’s name that means ‘to give thanks’. I say allegedly because there doesn’t seem to be an official source, except in an interview with Zendaya where she says her dad kind of made her name up by swapping the J for a Z from the name Jendaya. Regardless, the name encapsulates how we feel about Jendaya’s existence. 

Keep up with Jendaya here.

Discover more from GUAP’s Fashion section here