Vogue is talking about it. BBC is talking about it. CNN is talking about it. No one can ignore the popular, growing market of African fashion, both on the continent and worldwide. Often times being overshadowed by international competitors, and their countries brushed aside as despondent places, Africans are taking steps to show the world their abilities—especially in the fashion industry.
Ethical Fashion Forum decided to start a column on Africa, headed by Market Editor Krystle Epum, with regular contribution from African fashion expert Jacqueline Shaw, because of its growing relevance to the global fashion market, including sustainable fashion.
Many African designers and people who work with African producers, focus on the empowerment of people in small communities in the people/planet/profit equation. Although fabric dyes may be harmful to the environment, many entrepreneurs are very socially conscious and push for ethical business models.
The major fashion contributors come from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Rightly so, as all of these countries are home to steady growth in gross domestic product (GDP) every year, with expected GDP increases of 3-9% for 2012 (1). These African nations, as well as others, are recognizing their growing middle class and potential US$1.3trillion spending power of the continent’s top 18 cities by 2030 (1).
The entrepreneurs of these countries have been able to focus on the creative industry, building successful brands and businesses, alongside the boom of mobile phones, mining, and oil. But, as a positive outlook hovers over the continent, there are still issues that need to be addressed before everyone can fairly compete in the fashion industry.
In Ghana, designers have complained of tailors not showing up to work, hindering the output of production. While in Nigeria, the lack of consistent electricity poses a serious problem. However, the law against importing textiles was lifted by the Nigerian government in just 2010 (2), providing some relief for the county’s retail industry. Many nations have also face issues with the production of raw materials and cotton.
While these concerns stand, designers and brands still manage to thrive internationally. The ones to look out for include Jewel by Lisa, Lanre Da Silva, Christie Brown, Sika, Tiffany Amber, Black Coffee, Ann McCreath, and Mustafa Hassanali.
On the crucial supply side of fashion, innovative platform Design Africa is looking to bring fashion’s global leaders together to look at the potential for growth in production on the continent. One of their goals is to obtain the prestige of Italy or France’s ‘Made in’ label for many of the countries, bringing attention to the luxury products that can come from Africa.
Other up and coming manufacturers from the continent include SOKO in Kenya, a CMT production workshop that manufacturers clothing for brands such as ASOS Africa, Choolips, FAIR + True, Lalesso, Modahnik, + more.
Along with discussion of major players in the African fashion industry, EFF will bring our subscribers: opinion and analysis pieces on the latest news surrounding the topic, expert voices, and highlights of developments in the market.