At the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, one section was the one where the main luminaries, industry captains and pioneers had their eyes focused on, “Africa’s Next Billion”.
Indeed, the world has realised that Africa and is countries have been the untold success stories of these last years. From the development of startups, digital companies and small to medium enterprises the Continent is showing that it is a force to be reckoned with.
As Aliko Dangote puts it, Africa must tell her story and it has started to do so. Nonetheless, the people that can help pushing the story are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs play an important role in the economy of a country. Their new companies establish relationships with suppliers, vendors and other companies and spend money purchasing good and services from the latter Hence, the formation of a new company can encourage others to open businesses in the same area, which in turn spurs new job creation.
Furthermore, these entrepreneurial ventures generate new wealth, with an increasing scope of progression as soon as the entrepreneur can understand the importance of diversifying and tap into new markets.
The likes of Uber, KPMG and many more have understood the importance of investing in a continent with a young and increasing population who is intent in grabbing the best that the twenty first century has to offer from social networking channels to mobile remittances. The narrative on Africa is evolving and despite many problems are still to be solved and currently in progress of solution, more and more Africans are joining in the conversation want to take ownership of the issues that impact the continent.
One of the industries propelling the Continent forward is fashion. For many years, Western designers have drawn their inspiration from the vibrant colours, hues and bold prints of African waxes and prints.
Looking at recent years, luxury brands such as Burberry and Valentino have paid homage to the African continent. Indeed, this is a mere demonstration that luxury brands have understood the potential that the African territory represents for their markets and expansion. Africa’s population possesses buoyant billion individuals who are now upwardly mobile and over the next decade the 55 independent countries will become a lucrative frontier opportunity as both a source of production and a consumer market for fashion.
Digitalisation has also contributed to spread fashion at a faster pace in Africa with many fashionista and bloggers interacting I real-time at Fashion Weeks showcasing their vast audience new trends and collection. It is also thanks to this technology that their followers do not need to wait anymore the usual six months to have those designs showcased in the continent after all has been showed in the Northern hemisphere. Another great aspect of digitalisation is that now fashion has been made more democratised and has led to a surge in entrepreneurship by creating a vast numbers of individuals who have spot a gap in the market and decided to create their own fortunes.
From the digital photographer, to the brand and image consultants, African fashion magazines are fuelled with young and mature, amazing talents that have decided to position as the trendsetters and arbiters of style to influence the Continent. Moreover, many Diasporans and inhabitants of the country have incremented the number of labels created and based on creating a new positive narrative and re-tell a story of a Continent not just [plagued by calamities, but of opportunities and economic upheaval. Countries such as Italy, France and England have realised the importance of the creative industry to boost their economic profile, as many investors understand that labels can create jobs, empower citizens in acquiring practical skills and creating alternative avenues to the traditional educational routes.
Most students and young individuals were in the past under the delusion that to work in fashion you had to go to Milan, Paris, Tokyo or New York to work for renowned maison and they were to reap excellent benefits almost immediately. However, fashion entrepreneurship has changed this, especially in the continent. A surge in people opening their own businesses has led to Western media reverting their attention to Africa and noticed the strong potential marketing, merchandising and brand expansion had. Also, with new international power players and socialites who make Luanda, Maputo and Victoria Island (just to name a few) their playground fashion in generals has grasped the concept that it must go to them to cater to their needs.
Entrepreneurship in fashion and in life in general leaves on the next generation a long-lasting legacy, as it teaches the necessary skills of manufacturing, designing, marketing and revenue production because it pushes individuals not to rely on anyone other than themselves and their abilities to create their own line.
Fashion nowadays is not about designing and manufacturing clothing, it’s about image and how you use technology is about letting people identify with a brand that speaks to them,” Huston says. “If you have the drive, I don’t think any doors close nowadays.”
Africa has the chance and the opportunity to grow exponentially but it is only when its governments and the various trade members understand that fashion represents a business and a great mean for the continent to make an economic and cultural impact.
Thus, it is of vital importance to create infrastructure to facilitate opening businesses, collaborating or simply create cohesive, solid work at grassroots levels. Only then, individuals will be allowed to grow and export their amazing creations to other parts of the world, making the Continent an attractive hub of production and expansion.
Forrester Research has predicted a 13% increase in e-commerce sales and for the new class of entrepreneurs looking at fashion as their answer to accrue their fortunes and success, it is important to understand the ethos and credo behind the brand.
Time is a precious and scarce commodity and everyone knows (especially businessmen and women) that only when you Have a clear message to convey from your company , customers can identify themselves with the brand and invest in it to ensure that the cycle of business is kept in a loop.
Africa regrettably still faces economic, geo-political and social challenges but fashion entrepreneurship can transpose and create a platform to enhance its status in the global community by producing an interest for quality brands that understand and beautify the impact of culture and draw on people’s imagination and curiosity.
Author: Honey Malaolu is a luxury African fashion designer, born in the UK but originally from Nigeria. After undertaking her Fashion and Textiles BA Degree at the University of Kent, Head Designer Honey was driven to create a womenswear brand. She wanted designs enhancing the beauty of a woman’s figure by combining innovative silhouette and exciting prints.