There were days when fans would proudly hoard vinyl records or proudly display their CD collections, these days, as technology renders obsolete any physical manifestation of such interests, merchandise allows consumers to own a piece of a celebrity’s world.
In a world where digital music now being seen as more of a throwaway commodity, fans are substituting it for a more physical, tangible product as a way to connect and be closer to the artiste.
In the midst of dwindling album sales – mainly due to massively disruptive streaming services – live concerts and tour merchandise have become an increasingly significant part of the business model for artistes.
The subsequent frenzy that surrounds the release of such merchandise can be extraordinary and quite loud at certain times.
Despite being a new phenomenon in the developing world it is catching up in Tanzania with several artists signing up for all sorts of merchandise from confectionery to footwear.
This week, singer Vanessa Mdee became the latest Bongo Flava artiste to launch her merchandise. However, unlike her peers who have gone for designer scents and energy drinks, the pint-sized singer is into young school girls
Speaking the beat in an exclusive interview Vanessa says she came up with the idea as part her continued belief of supporting young women and girls in Tanzania.
“ I strongly believe that success is a journey of a thousand baby steps from the foundation level and Bora Star is definitely a reflection of this. If a girl can look up to Vanessa and walk in her shoes then she is definitely a Bora Star,” she said.
According to Vanessa, the Bora Star is an extension of the Vanessa Mdee brand which is already doing very well both locally and internationally given the fact that it is versatile and aware of some of the community needs. “This shoe is re-imagining what I have already done with the Udada Foundation. I wanted to give girls a reason to go to school even if that reason is just about looking fresh in some cool shoes,” says the ‘Bambino’ singer.
Vanessa who is ending the year on a high with her partnership with Bora Shoes says the plight of the young women and their endavours was her main drive towards designing the shoe.
“It was important for me to do something that was in line with that message, I could have designed any other shoe but that would have driven home the message at all.
She adds: I know that statistically the African woman is the least educated; therefore, for someone who knows the value of education, it was important for me to in my support for the girl child’s education.
However, achieving her dream of a ribbon show (Bora Star) that will inspire girls was not walk in the park.
“A lot of work went into the designing and production of the Bora Star; it took the team over a year to create this shoe. We had to test for the material for several factors including climate and durability,” she says.
Vanessa admits that the first samples that were released didn’t make the cut because they had to look into a host of factors to create something stylish and affordable.
In an industry where copy sales are no more Vanessa maintains the belief that merchandising is a great way to maintain visibility and to generate revenue because it moves faster than the actual physical copies. The time of the release has already received positive reviews from parents who are looking forward to take their children back to school in three weeks time.
Sarah Joseph a resident of Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam was among the first customers to buy the Bora Star for her two daughters and she says she is impressed.
“I have picked two pairs for the girls and I think that has solved some of my New Year’s shopping woes when school opens,” says the mother of two.