Edited/ Translation by Adda Tidjani.
FORBES Africa | French Edition October 2013
The Business of Fashion Weeks
The number of fashion weeks being presented by African creators, either on the continent or away, never seems to stop rising. This trend comes with the main goal for designers: product sales.
To be a student of fashion trends, you need to have attended the foremost global Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris, all in this order. And with the absence of African designers in the traditional fashion weeks before now, a lot of events are developing to offer them visibility.
This sector has become a business according to Adiat Disu, the founder of Adiree, a communication and strategic branding agency based in New York that is at the origin of Africa Fashion Weeks in Fashion capitals- beginning in New York. “Our goal is to make Africa a reference destination for luxury brands. Adiree observed the way Africa is seen and what happened for designers who associated with us during our Fashion Week”. The first edition of Africa Fashion Week New York took place in 2010. Its success has given birth to the London and Paris editions.
“The positive perception of African fashion is due to a couple of factors, and actors”, explains Adiat Disu. One of such is Dr Precious Motsepe of African Fashion International in South Africa. She directs Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which has allowed for the emergence of new African talents. Another is Nigerian Omoyemi Akerele, the director of Style House Files, who during a conference organized by the Herald Tribune hit the nail on the head about the reality of the luxury industry in Africa. We can also mention the French-Senegalese stylist Adama Ndiaye, who illustrates herself by creating Black Fashion Week. After conquering Paris and Prague, the concept exported itself to Montreal, Canada and Bahia, Brazil. Adama is also at the reins of Dakar Fashion Week that is celebrating its 11 years of existence. Since 2011, no less than 16 major events showcasing fashion took place in Africa.
On the continent, professionals did not wait for this international infatuation with African fabric and fashion. South Africa is among the pioneers. The country is recognized for organizing the biggest shows on the continent with Cape Town and Johannesburg having their own fashion weeks. The South African government even made queries to observe the progress made and went ahead to finance a couple of projects. Other English speaking countries were not to be outdone: Nigerian Lexy Mojo-Eyes is the president and founder of Legendary Gold Limited, which has organized each year since 1997, different events linked to fashion. “When I introduced fashion to Nigeria in 1996, my goal was to show off Nigerians and Africans designers on an international platform, with the goal of creating a market for their products. Africa is the new ground of inspiration for international fashion.” He then joined the World Fashion Organization (WFO). “With the collaboration of the WFO and the Nigeria embassy in France, we have organized the Africa Fashion Reception, last June 22nd in Paris. Sixteen designers represented 16 African countries. “Next to the work of Legendary Gold Limited, the African Fashion International works have done well to promote African fashion. “The fashion industry can become a big business in Africa. It could contribute to the development of industrial fabric, infrastructures and even more with the support of governments. Fashion can create jobs,” confirms the Nigerian entrepreneur.
TO BE REALISTIC WITH THE MARKET
A runway show lasts less than 15 minutes and costs at least 300 000 euros. To this, we have to add the location cost, models, make-up artists, without forgetting the many famous guests. Costs can go as high as then thousands of euros. With those numbers, it is not surprising that none of the people interviewed, want to get involved. For instance, the majority of organizers affirm not making enough money from the shows. Adiat Disu state’s “My dream for Africa is to promote our own fashion. The continent has many millionaires. They should be able to spend for fashion products right at home. It is a starting point for a process of responsibility for national brands.”
According to many designers and organizers, the numbers of fashion weeks need to be reduced with a concentration on the commercial aspect. Photographer Mario Epanya, who has been invited to the majority of those shows, analyzes the situation. She says “What is sad is that we are more interested with the show than the creations. Sometimes, during the shows, there are no buyers, no information on the designers and where the pieces can be bought. The momentum needs to be slowed, create more accompanying infrastructure, be better equipped, understand and study the market and then celebrate these works twice or thrice a year, just like the big international fashion houses.”
One of the biggest challenges of African fashion is to convince the designers and the organizers to be realistic with the market. It is neither New York nor Paris; it is not the little amounts of wax pieces that are sold from these shows that will give them a living out of fashion. The answer to sustainable luxury and wealth is building a structure that will last for ages with good company management and organization.