African Fashion Leaders are made, not born. A leader for fashion in Africa must possess necessary qualifications for the future of African fashion which include vision, values, motivation, management proficiency, mentoring and communication expertise, an ability to engender trust, humility, and a willingness to accept responsibility. In addition, African Fashion leaders must possess stamina, courage, resolution, adaptability, and flexibility. Many of these skills and attributes are unfortunately not found in the industry.
No wonder people are still asking the question “What is African Fashion ANYWAYS?” The challenges facing African Fashion require that our leaders can act collaboratively and identify with the vision and mission of Africa Fashion. In the past years, many representing African Fashion have come and gone because the skill mix necessary for leadership was not in them. For example, Arise Magazine and subsequent Fashion Week in New York was welcomed by many and praised for it’s attempt to provide a platform for African Fashion to shine. No offense, but with the amount of talent already in Africa, why did the organizers think that a non-African woman would be a leader for fashion in Africa. Then there are the never ending African Fashion Weeks with new and emerging fashion designers many may have or may not have heard of before. I applaud these fashion weeks for all they do and think that it is a valuable contribution for African Fashion to excel.
But after witnessing so many, in my honest opinion, African Fashion’s dismal performance in the global fashion industry can be summed up to bad leadership. We have no leaders in the African Fashion industry who make decisions not from a personal standpoint but for the success of the industry. We have few leaders who even know what the word humility means. If you don’t believe me, follow them on social media. It is always about them and what they can do or how they can do what they do for African Fashion and not whether you the consumer cares about what they are doing in the first place. Very few have made the decision to lead and not merely manage. Truth be told, many people in African Fashion industry are well managed, but poorly led. The proof is out there. Can you show me any African fashion brand or outlet that has managed to climb the major ladder that is the global fashion industry and do it so well like the likes of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Gucci or Michael Kors.I am not talking about inviting people to yet another launch of your collection, but for that launch to translate into sales as that is the bottom line.
The fundamental reason for this is leadership. African Fashion Leaders are made, not born. They should be able to draw others to them through focused commitment, make dreams come alive, and unite people behind those dreams. Leadership will never arise from micromanaging people. Instead, communicate vivid models and examples or simply restate your vision and mission time and time again. It really baffles me how almost, all of the so-called people who want to change African Fashion have no mission or vision or even know the extent of their skills or when to apply them effectively.
So today post if for all those who want or seek to be leaders of African Fashion, if you don’t get anything out of what I have written, know that African Fashion Leaders are made, not born. A successful leader of fashion from within and outside Africa should strive to inspire it’s people always by making them feel significant. Be authentic, value learning and competence so that your workers will feel that they are part of a genuine team or family. The most influential leaders motivate their people through joint identification of collective goals rather than through hostile interactions or punishments. If you hope or plan to lead your brand to prominence, then you must encourage disagreement and truth from your workers and search for the truth yourself even if it hurts by talking to people. If at the sign of dissent you choose terminate the working relationship with your employees, then you are not a leader, but one of the many people who will not make African Fashion succeed.
Finally, the most important distinction between African Fashion Leaders and managers of fashion from Africa is this: African Fashion Leaders do the right thing, while managers of African Fashion do things right. Both roles are critical but differ profoundly. But African Fashion leaders think and say “we” not “I.” African Fashion Leaders should work to think of the needs and the opportunities of others before they think of their own needs and opportunities. This is what separates the managers from the leaders. To become an effective leader in African Fashion can be learned, because leaders are made, not born. But at the end of the day, even that leadership must also be earned.