Building an African luxury brand: Interview with model turned shoemaker

Once gracing international runways as one of the world’s premier models for labels such as Dior, Calvin Klein and Gucci, Armando Cabral has transitioned into the role of an entrepreneur, founding his eponymous luxury shoe brand. Today, the Armando Cabral brand is not only housed in a store at New York’s Rockefeller Centre but is also adorned by celebrities, including Afrobeats superstar Burna Boy.

In a candid conversation with Ibrahim Sagna (see video of interview above), the chairman of investment firm Silverbacks Holdings, Cabral, an alumnus of a London business school, revealed that he always viewed modelling as a stepping stone for something else. His time working with major fashion houses was not only a career but a period of immersion into the business mechanisms of the industry. “I didn’t go to jobs just to show up and do the job. I was always curious about the whole process and logistics behind it,” he says.

Cabral identified a gap in the market for high-quality shoes that cost less than typical luxury brands.

Starting the brand with his own capital, Cabral secured distribution for his first collection in two Portuguese department stores. The subsequent collection found homes in retail locations such as Dover Street Market and Japanese department store Beams.

Since the pandemic, the brand’s direction has shifted slightly to incorporate more of Cabral’s West African background. He conducted research on the 13th-century Mali Empire, of which his country of birth, Guinea-Bissau, was part. Some of the brand’s shoes now feature hand-woven West African fabrics.

Watch the full interview at the top of this article.