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The meaning of luxury in Africa and the development of African luxury brands dominated discussions on day one of the Condé Nast International ‘Nature of Luxury’ Conference in Cape Town on Wednesday, 10 April 2019.

Hosted at The Lookout in Granger Bay from 10 – 11 April 2019, the two-day conference kicked off with a candid discussion between Suzy Menkes, conference host and Editor of Vogue International, and Gucci President and CEO, Marco Bizzarri. The two discussed the role of business in society, inclusivity in fashion and Gucci’s blackface blunder.

The Italian luxury label came under fire earlier this year for selling a black turtleneck with an extra-high collar which featured a pair of exaggerated red lips around an opening for the wearer’s mouth. Gucci removed the item from its online and physical stores and apologised.

During the discussion with Menkes, Bizzarri acknowledged that the company had made a mistake and reassured the audience that Gucci was committed to increasing diversity throughout their organisation and turning the incident into a powerful learning moment.

The pair was later joined on stage by supermodel and special guest, Naomi Campbell. Campbell spoke fondly of her relationship with Nelson Mandela, who called her his “honorary granddaughter”, and how much she loved Africa and South Africa.

“I’ve realised what it is that I am supposed to do at this point of my career… to put this continent on the map where it should be,” said Campbell. “It should have the luxury goods, tech and everything that the rest of the world has consumer wise. Africa is a continent with big consumers. Here’s a huge market…”

Campbell told Menkes she wanted to change the way people think of Africa, “ we need to get big brands to invest in the infrastructure of Africa”.

Other speakers on day one included Hanneli Rupert, founder and creative director of Cape Town based Merchants on Long and Okapi; Laduma Ngxokolo, founder and designer of MAXHOSA by Laduma; Rosario Perez, board director of the Kering Foundation; and Alessandro Bogliolo, CEO of Tiffany & Co.

Said Menkes of the conference: “This fifth Condé Nast International luxury event in Cape Town is not meant to be a survey of fashion in this varied continent, nor is it limited to Africa’s local success stories, powerful as they might be. Rather, we need to look at the essence of style on this continent and what it can offer to the rest of the world in the physicality of material and handwork.”

 

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