Michele Obama is probably one of my favorite fashion icon and I tell you why, she makes African Fashion profitable. She has been spotted wearing effortlessly stylish pieces from two very talented African designers, Duro Olowu and Maki Oh. Her style keeps people captivated which is a good thing for African fashion.
At the first ever fashion education workshop she held last week at the White House, she invited Duro Olowu, Maki Oh, alongside other fashion big weights like Anna Wintor, Diane von Fursternberg, Naomi Campbell, Zac Posen and of course her all time fashion favorite, Jason Wu. Two things that I appreciated in her speech to the guests was the complicated process of fashion designing and it’s role in boosting her confidence. I also appreciated that fact that she continues to support emerging designers wearing for example, a sleeveless navy dress designed by Natalya Koval, a student at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
I share this information, because here is a first lady of a great country who could easily wear anything she wanted, but yet, she continues to support designers many people may never have heard off before. For African Fashion to become profitable, the first steps would involve branding. Of course we cannot expect Michele Obama to wear every African designer on the market. That should be the job of our own first ladies and other influential African people in between. But let me repeat again: “African fashion needs branding.”
Of course it’s no secret that the fashion world is tough and some speculate that 9 out of every 10 African fashion business will fail in the first 12 months due to many barriers, including the really low brand loyalty from African consumers themselves. In fact many, would rather “copycat” the style at the nearest tailor they can find, down to even they same fabric, than support the original design itself. This is the environment in which African Fashion currently operates in. But it can be better.
Many African fashion do not fail because of their poor designs. I would suggest that it is because they fail to properly communicate their brand’s original value clearly and consistently to the right audience. Duro Olowu and Maki Oh have managed to do so to the first Lady of US. For other African fashion houses to follow suit towards profitability, branding is essential. They would have to communicate a vision that inspires consumers and others in a more relevant way, paying close attention to the needs of their target market. They also need to determine how African people would benefit from wearing their clothes, create a compelling story filled with customer testimonials, communicate widely and consistently about the brand, while also believing in the brand itself. In fact, the more committed these designers are to their brand’s value to customers, the more people will believe in the brand and support it fully.