Vogue’s First Fashion Week in Africa Highlights Renewed Interest in the Continent

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Meanwhile, those who can afford to pick up what is colloquially known as a “half-piece,” or six yards of fabric, at prices ranging from 25 Ghana Cedis (about $13) for imitation Chinese prints to 200 Ghana Cedis and more for luxe Vlisco wax prints; then collaborate with their preferred tailors and dressmakers to copy pieces featured in catalogs and magazine editorials, or design something all their own.

Accra-based seamstress Mary Squire Beumer confirms, “In Ghana, we like to make clothes to the occasion. We don’t like buying… We sew [custom pieces] more than we buy clothes.” This custom work comes at costs far below international market rates with designers conducting multiple fittings for anywhere from 25 to 1000 Ghana Cedis—or $12 to $500.  For this reason, Ademola decided to go the opposite route with Kiki. “I wanted to introduce that concept of ready-to-wear/off-the-rack.”

But it takes capital to launch a ready-to-wear business. Nii Ampem Darku Thompson operates his tailoring business out of his Accra home and enjoys a relatively steady stream of clientele. He says his clients have been telling him to sew ready-to-wear designs for them. The problem is, he would have to front the money for the fabric.  “It’s just the financial problem; that’s the problem,” he explained over the phone. He’d also have to get more sewing machines and employ more workers to sustain such a business. Beumer agrees, the risk is not worth it to her right now. “Sometimes the [ready-to-wear] product doesn’t move fast.”

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