CHAK HANI / DAILY PAPER
Daily Paper started as a personal blog in 2008, covering the fashion, music, style and African influences of three young friends in Amsterdam — Abderrahmane Trabsini, Jefferson Osei and Hussein Suleiman. It got traction, so they launched merch, with five branded T-shirts. Today they have a €30 million brand, a cult following and a drop-based collection merging contemporary streetwear with traditional prints and patterns inspired by their African heritage.
Its ties to African culture (Trabsini’s family is Moroccan, Osei’s family is from Ghana and Suleiman’s family is from Somalia) have set it apart. High-profile collaborations have followed, including with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and Puma.
“You have people who are completely unfamiliar with those cultures buying into [Daily Paper’s African-inspired products], just through our clothing, strong visuals and storytelling,” says co-founder 32-year-old Osei from the Daily Paper’s flagship store in Soho, London, ahead of its opening in June. It’s the brand’s third store, adding to the Amsterdam and New York outlets and builds on what has been its best-performing year.
The loyal following of the brand’s community, prompted serial investor and entrepreneur Rodney Lam to join the company as CEO five years ago, keen to support founders from the African diaspora. He pushed wholesale stockists, including upmarket stores such as Selfridges, Galeries Lafayette, Browns, La Samaritaine, Flannels and Kith; opened the three flagship stores; strengthened their direct-to-consumer e-commerce site (now 60 per cent of sales); and boosted product offering. Daily Paper’s revenue rose from €500,000 to €30 million in five years, he says. A collaboration with Off-White in December 2020 added to the label’s cultural currency among its young audience: together, the brands built the first-ever skate park in Ghana and released a charitable collection featuring Off-White x Daily Paper T-shirts and bucket hats. The collection sold out in 15 minutes. Today a hoodie sells for £113, and a women’s blazer is £217.
Maintaining exclusivity while growing is a key hurdle for the Amsterdam-based brand, which has no external investors. “You don’t want to be everywhere. You’re not Nike. It doesn’t work like that for us, so we have to be really careful where we put our clothing and it’s very limited,” says Lam. “Cash is king. We run a tight ship when it comes to budgeting because we have to fuel our own growth.”
Fashion content creator Kofi McCalla, founder of the YouTube channel The Unknown Vlogs, has spent a decade studying the streetwear market and says Daily Paper has been on his radar since 2016 and has shot up recently. “It’s cool to see an [African-inspired] brand reach a luxury audience and be one of the few luxury brands that’s Black-owned,” says McCalla. “Daily Paper managed to reach the masses and get the co-sign from the likes of Virgil Abloh and big people in the industry.”
Physical stores for growth
The $185 billion streetwear market is estimated to account for 10 per cent of the entire global apparel and footwear market, according to PWC’s industry report, Streetwear: The New Exclusivity, and attracts a young male audience. The report also found that brands including Supreme, Nike, Off-White, BAPE, Adidas and Stussy top consumer recognition. In order for a smaller, emerging brand to hold its presence in the market, a hybrid of affordability and exclusivity are necessary as well as physical stores, says Laura Leeb, director at PWC’s Strategy& and co-author of the report. “Everyone is information gathering and community building online. But it is still very important to drop products offline, because there you reinforce that scarcity, you create a hype out of it.”Most Popular
Daily Paper tested pop-ups to gauge reaction. A Shoreditch pop-up in 2018 increased e-commerce sales in London by 450 per cent, prompting the decision to open locally. They also have an annual pop-up in Accra, Ghana.
Bringing culture to streetwear
A vital part of Daily Paper’s strategy is bringing the founders’ culture to streetwear by finding contemporary ways to showcase their heritage. “The most beautiful thing is that we’re showcasing a whole different section of our culture, where we come from, and people are basically accepting it in a more abstract and contemporary way,” says Osei. That includes traditional prints, unique masculine mannequins and their logo, which is a modern interpretation of the Maasai shield, an object traditionally used by the Maasai tribe in parts of East Africa. The Autumn/Winter 21 collection called ‘Ancestral Anarchy’ was inspired by “tribal societies, togetherness and community”.
“People can see our journey, and they can really identify themselves within it. People recognise themselves, their backgrounds within us,” he says. “That’s why the community is getting bigger and bigger and more global. It resonates with their lifestyle.”
Daily Paper’s stores are also physical extensions of their blog. “When we open a store abroad, we want to build a store for that community. We try to export a little bit of Africa, a little bit of Amsterdam to that country and build an experience,” explains Lam. “But in building an experience we try to connect with the local community, because that’s the only way that it can work for us.”
Daily Paper’s message is clear: it’s a brand that spotlights African culture and represents those of the diaspora community. “One factor that makes a streetwear brand successful is its heritage and being authentic about something,” says Leeb. “Culture and [having] the same values in streetwear is much more important for a brand to represent in order for customers to select them.”
Browns say their consumers are drawn to Daily Paper’s unique and inclusive approach. “There is an appetite from our customers to explore and question the heritages and cultural references behind their clothes and Daily Paper brings something meaningful and relevant to the streetwear scene, helping its appeal and relevance amongst educated customers,” says Heather Gramston, head of womenswear buying at Browns.
Building a strong community
Keeping their community alive and engaged in the pandemic meant reverting back to their blogging roots. “We really needed to find different ways to communicate with our audience, based on the fact that we were not able to do offline activations. So we created a whole new platform called the Unite Hub,” Osei says.
With an audience of mainly 18 to 30 year-olds, Unite Hub provides behind-the-scenes access to the brand. “Behind the Shield” takes readers inside Daily Paper’s factories, production and creative processes, “in order for our consumer to love the journey, instead of just the end product,” says co-founder Trabsini. They have also produced short films and collaborated with musicians including local London grime artist Ghetts. It chimes with Euromonitor International’s lifestyles survey, showing some 60 per cent of Gen Z and millennials make their purchasing decisions based on brands’ social and political beliefs.
YouTuber McCalla says the brand affinity is strong. “It’s a community. It’s a culture. Everyone shares similar interests and listens to the same kind of music. Daily Paper created a platform for those people, those individuals to come together and connect and elevate a new kind of subculture.”
Beyond the Unite Hub, the founders are also brand ambassadors, who collectively have a following of nearly 100,000 followers. “We’re bringing people on the journey. A lot of people like and prefer to follow us personally because we show a different angle from day to day,” says Trabsini.
Collaborations and marketing
Collaborations have also been a natural driver of growth, leaning into the streetwear playbook, including popular Nigerian musician WizKid and sportswear brand Puma.
Daily Paper’s second capsule collaboration with Puma in 2017 was inspired by the football kits of Puma-sponsored teams from the Confederation of African Football. “I remember when we did the soccer field, together with Puma, instead of a [paid marketing] campaign, that became the campaign. It wasn’t set up like, ‘oh, wow, let’s do a marketing gimmick to get exposure’, it was like, ‘let’s do this, because we want to give back to the community.’ And the world picked up on that.” The partnership tapped into a vital element of sports in streetwear, and underscored their own core strategy of showcasing culture and community, Lam says.
Keeping a lean marketing budget is crucial for Lam: only 8 per cent of Daily Paper’s sales are dedicated to marketing, including shoots, ad buying and other brand activations. “One of the biggest things is because our stories are organic and true, it needs less money to drive it to words. It travels on and sells because we’ve got word of mouth. So that, I think, is different from a more standard company where you still need to buy a campaign,” he adds.
Daily Paper’s collaborations have not always been a success. A campaign with an alcohol brand failed to resonate: a mismatch given the founders don’t drink. Lam says the lesson is always to be more organic and authentic with collaborations.
2020 was “the most successful year ever in the history of Daily Paper” Lam says. So what’s next for the brand? For Osei, now is the time to keep the ball rolling. “We can’t take too much risk; right now, we should focus on what we have,” he says, noting the brand’s emerging markets — France, Ghana, Germany and Asia. “So from now on, we’re going to plan collaborations surrounding those markets, and travel to those locations to get inspired and to build a relationship.”