I came across an op-ed published in the Business of Fashion today which really highlights why it is going to really, really take a long, long time until African Fashion makes any headway in the global fashion industry. The articles goes on to discuss 5 things they think are important for structuring African fashion ranging from the need to develop a Pan African Fashion Council to the need to ensure more training for African fashion designers or more commitment from African media, plus more occasion for professional seasonal rendez-vous and finally home grown investments.
As if these things are not already happening. But no offense to the writer (which shockingly is the founder of a magazine), where have you been for, I don’t know the past decade? All these things except the pan-African council have been happening and they have still not worked to make African fashion profitable or even part of the global fashion industry. So unfortunately, even op-eds like yours do nothing for the structure needed for African Fashion. Financial organization structure from the west will never do it, neither will Africa’s mainstream media or even platforms you choose to submit your op-ed to-BOF (news flash, they don’t care). Yes I said so. Training and job opportunities are great and education matters alot. Fashion weeks, also do nothing and I agree that there are too many and too poorly executed with almost no opportunity to allow international press, buyers, designers and sponsors to schedule properly.
So what to do? Honestly, the idea of a pan-African council sounds great, but not for the reasons stated. It may offer the structure which African fashion needs badly but only if it ensures that our fashion is accessible which for now seems to target only the elite in our society or rich people with their dollars, pounds or euros abroad. The average African woman is not investing in our designers because many of them have too many egos and are so not personable or customer-friendly. If we can’t invest in our own, how much less the outside world. When was the last time Bellanaija for example offered a great commentary on African fashion besides press releases from designers? Can you remember the last time that favorite designer you like, reached out to her fans for inspiration? Where are the writers of African fashion, those writing for the sake of writing and not because they want to be the next trending topic and who cares really about who wore it best?
There is not platform for African fashion, forget what you see at some occasional fashion events and until we learn to do better for ourselves, I am afraid that structure which we badly need will not come. On the contrary, I like what places like Zuvaa are doing. They are at least trying to help people make a profit. At least that matters too, turning African fashion into a profitable money making machine.