Building the Capacity for Africa’s Fashion Growth
Africa’s fashion industry is growing at an incredible pace; this year, market estimates put the worth of the industry at more than $30 Billion. And if you’re one for trends, then it would interest you to know that Lagos, Accra, and Dakar are now globally renowned as fashion capitals. No one overlooks African fashion anymore, neither the world-renowned fashion shows nor the biggest fashion brands, all of which now feature or are in some ways being inspired by African designs. However, there remains a wide gulf between where African fashion is at the moment and where it has the potential to be, and some conservative estimates put this gulf at over $100 billion. One of the major reasons for this massive differential is the dearth of capacity in the African fashion industry.
It is often said of Africa that while there are so many enterprising people, quite too few make it to becoming thriving business owners. This is especially true about the fashion industry, which is genuinely surfeit with vibrant and innovative ideas but also faced with the paucity of business skills and expertise. However, when people talk about how to grow Africa’s fashion industry, what is often neglected is the fact that in our new global economy, the success of African fashion enterprises, and thus the growth of our fashion industry, is contingent on the ability of the industry to flexibly and reliably respond to customers’ needs. This requires small business owners, who dominate our fashion space, to not only upgrade their design and marketing skills, but also leverage knowledge of global trends as well as connect with brands in other parts of the world.
So, for example, it is not unusual to find an exceedingly smart young Nigerian designer in Lagos with a die-hard passion for the business of fashion but with little or no business knowledge and skill on how to properly set up and grow his start-up. The absence of this capacity has led to our present situation where we have quite a lot of budding fashion talents who remain dominated by more skilled, better equipped and highly connected foreign brands. This is what really makes the GTBank idea of making masterclasses a critical part of the GTBank Fashion Weekend fantastic.
Fashion shows in Nigeria and across the world have always been known more for their glitz and glamour, and the GTBank Fashion Weekend takes no backseat in the dazzle department. However, the event, the second edition of which would be held on the 11th and 12th of November 2017, goes further than most to prepare a series of masterclasses, which only demonstrates that the bank is attuned to the needs of the fashion industry. “The GTBank Fashion Weekend is an initiative that is unlocking growth opportunities for small businesses and putting African fashion on a global pedestal,” said Mr. Segun Agbaje, the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank while announcing the second edition of the event which will hold on the 11th and 12th November 2017. “The Weekend will not only give visibility to the amazing talents and entrepreneurial drive of our people at home, it will also connect them with fashion leaders abroad, in order to build local capacity and expertise across the entire Fashion Value Chain,” he added.
Last year, during the first edition of the GTBank Fashion Weekend, the masterclasses featured renowned fashion personalities such as Sam Fine, one of the most sought-after make-up Artists in the world, and Africa’s most popular shoemaker, Bethlehem Alemu, amongst several others, who led conversations on a wide range of topics that dealt with the art, innovation and entrepreneurship involved in turning fashion ideas into successful businesses.
This year, the masterclasses of the 2017 GTBank Fashion Weekend will feature leading fashion and business heavyweights such as reality TV personality and runway coach J Alexander, best known for his work on America’s Next Top Model, Kenyan-born Vanessa Kingori, publisher of British Vogue Magazine, Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine, Vanessa De Luca, multi-talented Nigerian photographer TY Bello, professional Makeup Artist and Educator, Danessa Myricks and Fashion Editor & Style Consultant, Shiona Turini, amongst others. These headliners will share their experiences, exchange ideas and host conversations with the audience on how to grow Africa’s fashion industry.
Such conversations, with fashion experts from around the world and pacesetters at home, are the essential building blocks for an African fashion industry that can stand tall with its continental counterparts. Not only do these conversations facilitate direct connections between our fashion business owners and their foreign counterparts, they also serve to further integrate Africa’s fashion industry into the global economy. Indeed, with the global skills market becoming increasingly competitive, Africa faces further steep challenges in capacity building down the line. Yet, the masterclass initiative of the GTBank Fashion Weekend is very much a significant and necessary leap in the right direction.