Friday, November 25, 2011


 African fashion is “in” in case you did not know. You only have to read your favorite African fashion media outlet every week to be drawn to the sprouting fashion labels, fashion designers, fashion shows, fashion gatherings, fashion selling events, fashion pop up boutiques, fashion, fashion, and more fashion things taking place.Don’t misjudge me; this is indeed a great development.  African fashion has now become a revolution and so rightly so given our history and how far we have come to believe that we can do and we can create things for ourselves that we and others can appreciate.

This revolutionary aspect is fueling the rise in the creation of fashion labels and events feeding this popular culture craze around the African communities in Africa and beyond.

With all this focus on the creative side, what structure and regulations are in place to ensure that the African fashion industry as a whole moves in the right direction?

In mainstream fashion, the elements that have kept the fashion scene alive and kicking is the structure and regulations put in place since years gone by, by individuals who have wanted to see the fashion industry in their respective countries develop into something beyond fabricating and selling of clothes and accessories.

We see the great designers in mainstream fashion setting the trends which are then translated onto the streets by high street fashion labels and boutiques. These trends are yearly unveiled at reputable fashion weeks set forth by reputable and organized organizations thrust with the responsible role of putting together these events across different cities.  Examples of such organization are; the London Fashion Week being controlled and organized by the British Fashion Council, the Milan Fashion Week by the National Chamber for Italian Fashion, Paris Fashion Week by the French Fashion Federation etc.

These fashion weeks are fashion industry events, lasting approximately one week, which allows fashion designers, brands or "houses" to display their latest collections in runway shows with buyers and the media all present to take a peek into the newest trends. Most importantly, these events let the industry know what's "in" and what's "out" for the coming season.

This structure and regulation seen in mainstream fashion has enabled the fashion scene to have and to control its growth, its focus and its branding identity ensuring that it is taken very seriously amongst those who lead the mainstream fashion market citing Vogue editor Anna Wintour as an important guest very often seen at these Fashion Weeks.

Comparing this structure with the African fashion scene on the other hand, is evident that there exists a very wide gap. The industry is in dire need of a reputable organization that can step in to control these numerous fashion shows around the world that are doing nothing more to add value to the growing industry.
A reputable organization by individuals who understand African fashion that would become responsible for standardizing industry procedures such as fashion event production, backstage requirements, model sourcing, buyers and media relations etc is valuable for the proper development of the industry.

The creation of fashion weeks around Africa which will be the setting stone for trends, for buyers and for press to attend in order to well represent and communicate African fashion branding and identity to the wider world is very much needed here.

This structure and regulation should follow that of mainstream ensuring that fashion from Africa follows a process. The “designers” create their fashion pieces; these pieces are unveiled at reputable events that actively promote the designer’s work, the pieces are seen by buyers and the media who are then responsible for bringing these pieces to the buying market either physically in stores and in boutiques or visually in magazines and on blogs.

For if the African fashion industry wants to be seen as reliable, efficient and bankable, it needs to start positioning itself in a strategic business position and step one of this positioning is introducing order and structure.

Stay Fah-schyonable! Cynthia


  1. I hear you Cynthia. The challenge is that the continent is really vast and diverse. Therefore, I think it is up to individual states to take up the challenge and streamline the local industry. So far I am happy with the developments here in Kenya, with the recent registration and incorporation of the AFAD(K) Association of Fashion Designers Kenya. There are also more fashion designers venturing into the industry and putting their craft out there. Like any other industry, the more the merrier...competition is healthy which will then result into differentiation, economies of scale... and so many other commercial benefits. Just as in Music, one has to make a foothold first at home, then become regionally acclaimed, then international.

  2. its safe to say that some African countries like Kenya are taking fashion really seriously.

  3. Two Points to note One the value "fashion week" structure, even within traditional fashion circles is often debated...with everyone but the designer profiting from the model (even In NY)! For smaller labels the cost and subsequent sales return even the much touted "exposure" is NOT relevant to the current business models of many in the diaspora! Secondly it is about business and the BUSINESS of independent Fashion design is an eco-system, sourcing, inspiration, trends colors prints fabric; Design- fabric trims notion lines and branding; Production- fulfillment and consumer support ans well as Sales and marketing support... all the chins in the link NEED to be developed and addressed for success! Many designers are firstly making clothes, not collections and cannot present for sales or speak on fulfillment! Structure & regulation is needed but they need to be culturally (as in how things actually get done0 sensitive and designed with a view of addressing REAL issues that exist!


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