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Rethinking The Business Of Fashion In Africa

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The severe negative impact of the COVID-19 on the global economy has caused dramatic changes in many businesses and consumers’ behavior, leading to an unprecedented disruption of commerce in most industries and pushing quite a number of them towards adopting tech-enabled operations.

Of course, the pandemic has turned the fashion industry on it head like every other sector, with the most vulnerable and lowest paid people in the fashion supply chain – have been left to feel the worst effects.

Designer production on hold, fashion shows and events are postponed or produced virtually. Brands have been a force to set up profitable online businesses to cover lost sales. As the global fashion industry struggles with the pandemic’s effects, Africa’s designers’ network is particularly vulnerable to disruption.

Designers who depend on Europe and China to import raw materials are beginning to rethink their production circle, changing their supply route to sourcing locally.

With Tech gradually marking a significant territory in the fashion industry, tools like Augmented reality, Tiktok, Reels and Instagram live sessions have enabled fashion entrepreneurs to reach a broad audience from their homes’ comfort.

On Wednesday 16 september, South African, Laduma Ngxocolo, of the popular Maxhoda label, showcased his second collection at the New York Fashion Week. This time, it was a virtual show – the very first for Maxhoda fashion label. 

Ngxocolo wowed viewers with his collections, creatively playing with different fabrics and prints apart from his knitwear and mohair fabrics that he is popularly known for. This development proves we are gradually entering a phase of innovation.

Just as many fashion experts, Madame Modish, Author and style consultant, agrees that the pandemic has revealed that events can be experienced in various unique ways digitally as majority of the process fashion go through to reach its audience is now widely carried out online.

Photo credit: Madame Modish

She believes that the fusion of fashion and Tech is the future, and it’s only welcoming that the pandemic has given us an insight.

“This is our new normal, whether we like it or not. I believe more of Tech based strategies will be experienced even after the pandemic blows over, hoping it will.” Modish told Access24tv.

“I also think it’s a very welcome development as tech is the future, hence a fusion of that and fashion makes the latter more relevant in these time and beyond.”

 “It has improve the quality, accessibility, saves costs of manpower and increases final product visual aesthetics, if proper production is in place,” she added.

Speaking about how she has been able to leverage some of these emerging technologies to improve her brand and some of the experiences she offers, Modish said 

“Everything I’ve done since March, 2020 has been online. 

My annual sales, which have been physically done in the last three years, had its first online edition this April – June. 

The process of styling right from the consultation is being done online, 

I launched the first fashion & style book in Nigeria – Modish Maxims: A set of style rules, which i wrote, online and available in hardback and E-book on global online platforms. I’m about to launch my first online fashion & style course online as well! So, for Fierce and Modish as a brand, Tech is the way forward. It creates a global perspective to local ideas and expands the possibilities one may have never even seen coming before now. A dynamic, entirely welcome, especially in these times.”

Internationally published stylist and founder of NOJ company, Nkem Okorafor believes in the continuity of the fusion of fashion and technology, as it’s beginning to open up access to  African fashion on virtual global platforms.

Nkem Okorafor

“Definitely, I see the fusion continuing,The pandemic has forced us to adapt with this. It will help shape the fashion industry but first, opening up access to our fashion on virtual platforms and affording us the opportunity to compete on a global scale.” Nkem told Access24tv.

“The pandemic has driven businesses to think outside the box. Virtual fashion shows, 3D animation viewings have popped across Nigerian brands, developed by Nigerian techies. It’s been exiting to watch”, she added.

Nkem believes the need for Africa to entirely shrug off western validation and find it’s own way.

“The African Fashion industry will forge its path as opposed to its reliance on western fashion structures,” Onyinye notes. “Looking inwards, we will continue to develop structures and platforms that work within the confinement and complexity of operating a fashion business in the continent. The pandemic has revealed that no one has all the answers and surviving will be dependent on every brand doing what works for them to stay afloat and alive. This notion will be carried into the Post-Covid19 world. More African fashion brands will be more in-tune with what works for their business and what doesn’t. This will enable them to make more confident decisions concerning their value chain.” Onyiye Fabiti Obi also noted.

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