What do African Fashion Customers value? I would like to know. In a world where there are so many African fashion designers or likewise so many African fashion shows or events that purport to take us one step closer to fashion and style from the continent, I am really curious to know if any of these designers or organizers consider the needs of the customer or even what the value first. See the identification of a customer’s value should be the starting point for anyone interested in African fashion. Why should you care that I am making clothes which I intend to describe as clothes from Africa? Why should you care about where I got the materials I used to make the clothes or who made the clothes in the first place? Personally, without a robust understanding of what a typical African fashion customer values, then I am not sure that our industry will ever be able to move forward.
For example, see our feature image. If I were to purchase this skirt made by an African fashion designer and available at Zuvaa, what I may value may be the fabric (love the yellow color) used and not the cut (the length) or the style of the skirt? For others, the value maybe related to the cost or specific style features of the skirt or even the cut. The challenge for any African fashion designer is to design a skirt based on these value propositions. See from the way African fashion is currently manufactured and distributed, it is clear that value is not always considered. There are often no reviews of the value chain for a customer or a specific set of customers.
But why does value matter for African fashion? Take the definition of value used in lean thinking where it is practiced efficiently; Value is defined as the capability to deliver exactly the customized product or service that a customer wants with minimal time between the moment the customer asks for the products or services and the actual delivery at an appropriate price. By defining “what the customers wants,” African fashion can be pushed to new heights. If value is sub-optimal, then the need to engage with fashion and style from African is nonexistent.
For many people, our journey with African fashion has been one where value was never an issue. We buy our 6 yards of fabric, visit our favorite tailor and tell them to design a style to our specification. We engage in this act time and time again without consideration of value? Yes the tailor may sew the clothes to our specifications, yes the materials we used are exactly what we wanted, but have we ever taken the time to look at the finished product for what it really is. Chances are that the answer is no. See if you looked at the finished product closely, you would see that the end result really did not communicate value or deliver exactly what you wanted. It in the seams or the zipper or buttons used, or even the materials used to line the design. Chances are that the finished product looks good from outside, but the inner workings of the garment showcase the inability of the tailor to deliver exactly what the customer wants.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not applicable to every tailor out there as there are expert tailors who are sensitive to this value added proposition. It is how they keep you coming back to the store time and time again. But for many others, the idea of value is simply not there hence the need to not engage in African fashion. I am optimistic about the future where I hope that our seasoned and emerging designers will work hard to build a value oriented culture with African fashion. May this post guide their journey. As for me, a writer of African fashion, I also take this notion of value seriously and I will work to ensure that my posts are touching on the topics that will appeal to my potential readers given my vision as the “voice of African fashion.” See value matters a lot for African fashion and until we begin to develop a shared understanding of what is important to our customers, then I am afraid that we are not ready for the global fashion industry. My goal is to help us get there and I will start by asking the question, what do African fashion customers value?