From Africa with love: Sukuma China

From Africa with love: Sukuma China

One woman brings the threads of Africa to the fashionable streets of Shanghai

If the thought of custom-made cashmere and skintight qipaos make you want to sweat and cry at the same time; if your epidermis is screaming for cotton yet you have a closet full of rayon and modal ... it might be time for a wardrobe update.

Thankfully, just in time for Shanghai summer, a new Africa-inspired boutique has opened its doors on Jiangguo Lu offering a bit of flair (and comfort) to local wardrobes. And best of all, a portion of the proceeds goes back to local African communities. Sukuma China - clothes

Situated in a small lane house just outside Tianzifang, Sukuma China specializes in the lively prints and eye-catching fabrics of Africa combined with styles that borrow from European and Chinese fashion. Owner Eleonore Yard designs all the clothes, a mixture of cotton shirts, skirts, and dresses that are simple, chic, and surprisingly affordable. Best of all, there’s not an uncomfortable piece of clothing in sight.

Sukuma also offers a collection of handcrafted jewelry from Nigeria and Mali, beaded leather goods from Kenya, and home décor items from the Ivory Coast to add a little flair to your flat.

More than a shop

For Yard, this shop was a way to bring a little bit of home to Shanghai. Although a native of France, she spent most of her childhood in West Africa. After moving to China and giving birth to her first child, "I felt like something was missing in my life," says Yard.

Sukuma China - jewelryShanghai’s dearth of all things African prompted Yard to explore her creative side. She started designing and eventually joined forces with friend Elisa Ye. The two opened Sukuma China this summer.

Yard maintains close ties with her adopted continent, visiting several times a year, sourcing new products, and dedicating 10 percent of the shop’s profits to Sukuma Kenya, a trust founded by Yard’s sister that works in eco-tourism and supports local women who create handicrafts. 

Yard chose to use the Swahili word "Sukuma" for the store name because it represents much of her personal journey and the purpose of the shop. Sukuma is the name of a tribe, as well as a vitamin-rich plant eaten when food is scarce. 

“Sukuma also means push forward,” says Yard. “I was quite lost after my pregnancy so for me the word and the store represent going forward.” Now Shanghai shoppers can also embrace the many meanings of Sukuma -- word, wallet, and wardrobe.

getting there

Sukuma China
111 Jianguo Lu, near Sinan Lu
建国路111号, 近思南路
tel +86 158 2133 2330
www.sukumachina.com