Global fashion markets are turning to African designers for inspiration on some of their red carpets and special events.
The creativity of fashion designers is a valuable resource that must be nurtured if African countries are to grow their fashion industries into competitive global players.
In Nigeria, we have to encourage the development of a local designer-led fashion industry, and the value it can create for a country’s brand and economy.
Some number of multi-talented local designers are creating and redefining the way we see fashion.
For many years a lot of countries have depended on second hand outfits from abroad to help its populace dress affordably. However, things are gradually changing; many of our local designers are creating their collections from locally made fabrics.
Everything about this fashion country has changed as Africans take a leap of faith in showcasing our pride to the rest of the world. We have made fashion look better with our local fabrics. Take for instance; our Ankara has been worn in different parts of the world.
In countries such as Italy, the fashion industry is an important contributor to GDP, but this was only possible because the governments drove coordinated support for the designers and their work, which were identified early on to be valuable resources for the country.
A mainstay of African fashion, the Ankara, wax hollandais or Kitenge fabric holds up a mirror to history. Though focusing on manufacturing in and of itself, without investing in the intellectual property of designers, means facing the challenge of competing with manufacturing powerhouses like China.
What we as a country can create that’s truly competitive rests with the creativity of designers.
Designers tell the story of the soul of a country.
Many Nigerian designers are opting to leave the continent and establish themselves further elsewhere.
They win an award and then they leave. We haven’t built the supportive infrastructure for them to grow within their own countries. We haven’t developed a system to sustain the development of the backbone of the industry – the designers.
While government is hyper-focused on manufacturing, a government-backed programme that assists with upskilling designers and which allocates funding and grants to eligible business owners. You have to put money behind the industry if you want to grow it,.
We need to focus on developing the designers and fashion businesses in our country first, and then there will be a natural evolution into exporting.
Exporting aside, the local creative fashion industry would advance greatly if a larger share of the general public wore locally-designed and made clothing. Buying power sits everywhere. Everyone wears clothing. We need to have different designer collections at different price points – affordable designer clothing that can be sold to lower-income consumers who have an affinity for fashion.
There is need for a holistic approach from the government for the development of the fashion industry,