African Fashion Equals Big Business

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“The retail landscape is changing, (digital) media have changed a lot and new generations of African women, although they are very much inspired by what’s happening in the world around them, find it important to still show something of their own African identity,” she said. It’s her belief that the ‘mix’ between western influence and appealing to African roots is what makes the Vlisco brand very attractive.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to talk about African fashion without examining its current position on the global fashion map and market. Today, Africa can boast of a talented generation of designers who are creating an array of contemporary and traditional styles that appeal to national and international ‘fashionistas.’ With designers like Tiffany Amber, described as revolutionising the fashion industry in Nigeria. Mustafa Hassanali, a celebrated Tanzanian designer, for who fashion is a religion that is to be pursued,  Stoned Cherrie, one of South Africa’s most recognised fashion brands and Zed Eye, and UK-based Nigerian designer, who can count Kelis, among her clients, these are exciting times for African fashion. It is bridging cultures and producing trailblazers. But how do those who are heavily involved in the same industry define its current status?

Disu, who says she started the much lauded AFWNY, now in its second year because she felt there was a huge gap in terms of representation of African talent during NYFW, said that there’s still a long way to go. “The global African fashion industry is growing at a slow rate,” she said. “I believe that it’s not where it should be at this time. It can be larger and bigger. The industry needs representation, manufacturing, wholesalers – an entire system that will make the process of marketing and selling abroad easier on the designers and bring revenue back home.” African fashion, now more than ever is fashionable. Arthur, who blends elements of her Eurasian and Ghanaian heritage into her designs, caters for an eclectic patronage, which includes actors and politicians. Even Mrs Kofi Anan has garments from her stead. She said she is “not quite sure why African Fashion is so ‘a la Mode’ now.” But admits it is an undeniably good sign.

South Africa is arguably Africa’s fashion capital with over three premier fashion weeks every year, including Cape Town, Durban and Joburg fashion Weeks. According to Business Day, one of South Africa’s leading business newspapers, as of 2010, the ‘South African textile and clothing industry employed 200,000 people and had annual sales of R20bn, which accounted for 15 percent the nation’s formal employment and was identified by the government as a key sector for economic growth.’

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