Acclaimed superstar Oliver Mtukudzi’s launch of Hai-kobo footwear at Barbour’s department store in March this year was well received. Finally a local artist had introduced a high quality fashion line after failed attempts by many, including Sulumani Chimbetu and Alick Macheso.
Hai-kobo is however unaffordable for most of Tuku’s fans. The cheapest in the collection, the sandals, are going for $50. Most of the shoes cost over $100, which is a lot considering the meagre monthly income that the few people with a steady income can bring to the table. The shoes are exclusive to Barbour’s, a retail outlet viewed by many for the rich and famous. The launch party was also attended by the retail outlet’s top 100 clients, Harare’s elite.
Tuku fan and entertainment reporter Shane Makanjera said, “The footwear line is a great idea, and the Hai-kobo products are amazing. Partnering with a retail outlet was just brilliant, but the makers of Hai-kobo should consider the financial situation and make the products affordable.” He added that, “slashing prices will increase sales, thus Tuku and his business partners will still benefit while fans will also get to support local products.”
Fashion and celebrities have always had strong ties, as many popular artists create their own brands for clothing, foot wear, head gear, and fragrances. Leveraging the power of their personal brands in this way can be incredibly lucrative. International star, Gwen Stefani’s clothing line L.A.M.B., for instance, brings her a reported $90 million per year, while the famous Sean Jean jeans by American rapper Sean John Combs a.k.a. P.Diddy was reported to have netted $250 million in 2004 alone.
This idea has been tried locally, but with little success so far. Renowned musician Alick Macheso for instance, came up with his Cheso Power or Kete jeans, but unfortunately the poor quality of his products failed to impress the market. Another attempt was by Sulumani Chimbetu, but once again, the low quality of the product also failed to take over the hearts and wallets of Zimbabwe’s dendera fans. There are also other musicians who have different products on the market but they are sold mostly during their live performances.
Tuku said the brand came from his ’90s hit Bvongodzamoto. “The idea behind Hai-kobo came from the dance hai-kobo, which was pioneered by the song Bvongodzamoto,” he said. “The shoes are very comfortable shoes made from genuine leather, designed by local company Green Tag.”
He added that the footwear is something new that needs support. “Without your support we will fail, and it will not only be Tuku’s failure, but also another initiative by indigenous business people that would have failed. Hai-kobo is for you and not just for Tuku, so I urge you to support it.”
Many designers have been trying to penetrate the market through retail giants, but with no success. Tuku expressed gratitude to Barbour’s for taking on his brand. “When new things come it’s hard to receive them, but Barbour’s did not hesitate to embrace us,” he said.
Barbour’s general manager Jeffrey Mhando said having Hai-kobo on their shelves is big for business. “I’m very happy that our icon has really demonstrated how to support business in an indigenous manner,” said Mhando. In Zimbabwe, Hai-kobo is currently exclusive to Barbour’s shops, available in men’s wear, with ladies and school wear in the pipeline.