CEO and founder of Nibiru footwear Pte Ltd, Chizzy Nnamchi returned to his native Nigeria after spending over 30 years in Asia, in Singapore. In 2014, he founded his company, which operated as a franchisee of Bata Shoe Company for West Africa (Angola, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire) and within three years opened 12 Bata branded retail shops and over 120 point of sale outlets. In 2018, he decided to launch his own brands: Black & Brawn, which offers luxury footwear, bags and accessories with a strong African identity, and currently has 4 shops in Abidjan; Green Shield, an industrial safety brand serving large companies in Nigeria.
We met Chizzy Nnamchi to discuss with him a market with great potential, such as the African market, and to learn about its peculiarities compared to other realities such as Asia, of which he is a profound connoisseur.
Let’s start with your brands: what is the long-term vision?
We are moving in two directions. On the one hand, the objective is to propose brands with an international outlook, but with a strong African identity, capable of competing with high-end brands. On the other hand, through our platform, we want to operate as a sort of ‘showcase’ that welcomes the best African fashion and accessories designers, to give them the visibility they deserve globally. But we do not stop at accessories: the idea is to expand the offer to various types of products, following the example of Nordstrom. My vision is to support and promote African production and brands and create a distinctive and unique ‘Made in Africa’.
Do you also have the support of the government or some local institutions in this project?
At the moment it is a private project, but we are working to receive support from institutions, especially to set up a local production plant. We also aim to create international partnerships, for example with Italian companies, to make finished products using African hides which are of excellent quality, and over time to develop new materials. Nigeria, in fact, has enormous potential for the design and development of high quality products, with excellent workmanship, and a unique and original character…
However, your company also works in the volume footwear sector: how do you reconcile these two realities?
Having worked with Bata for years, we started with the volume market, also because this gives us a very important production capacity and a solid financial base. We started with volume footwear to then raise the quality, research and creativity and direct ourselves, with our brands, towards a high-end market with a strong African soul. We want to create and offer consumers distinctive products that reflect our unique cultural realities. Of course it is not easy to industrialise a traditionally artisanal production, but we are working in this direction.
Going back to your sourcing activity, which are the supplier countries you prefer to buy from?
Initially, we mainly bought from China, but with the advent of Covid and the consequent delays in supply, and due to some problems we had with leather products, we looked for alternatives, such as Malaysia and Vietnam. Then, in our quest to offer high quality finished products, we turned to Italian manufacturers. Italy is now our preferred choice for the production of mid-high-end accessories, while for the medium level we focus mainly on China while we explore new sources in Sapin, Portugal and Brazil. This is why a trade fair like Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags represents for us an appointment not to be missed, where we can find manufacturers from all over the world, offering very varied product types and price ranges.