With fashion season upon us we felt it would be fitting to have a look at African catwalk and fashion shows and discuss the impact and relevance of them all. As they grow day by day in numbers there must be something in it. So we asked our market analyst Cynthia to have a look at the growing interest and review with her thoughts.
FASHION AFRICA – CATWALK SHOW ANALYSIS
We have witnessed a rapid rise in the interest in fashion from African and its fashion scene over the last 5 years. This interest has in turn fuelled the need for the numerous fashion weeks and events we see across the globe. From Lagos to Douala, Johannesburg to London, Brussels to Paris, the need for these catwalk shows and pop up events just seem to keep increasing.
My question is; how are these shows meeting their objectives of furthering the African fashion scene as described on their mission statements and furthermore how are the brands within these shows benefitting financially. Is it possible to measure a brand’s financial or popularity growth after a participation in one of these runway events?
To answer this question, let’s look at some of the main catwalk shows happening around the globe that focus on promoting and sensitising fashion brands from Africa.
According to their website, AFWNY is a luxury multi-day event that includes runway shows, vendor exhibition, and industry networking events with the sole purpose of raising awareness of the African Fashion/Entertainment professionals in New York and Tri -State area. More specifically, buyers and industry influencers are given the opportunity to preview African designers. Their Vision is to break through the New York fashion noise allowing diverse and upcoming designers to voice themselves through creative forums. With a mission of raising awareness and marketing the diverse fashion professionals’ talents and skills.
What would be interesting to know is how many buyers turned up and how much press mentions this particular show received and how it was benefiting to the brands involved given that these brands have to pay a participation fee as well as cover their flights and accommodation for those attending from outside New York.
Arise Magazine Fashion Week last year provided a platform for 77 designers of African and non African heritage to show off their talent, bringing together fashion lovers from all over Africa and beyond to the city of Lagos, the crowned fashion capital of Nigeria.
Arise Magazine Editor-in-Chief Nduka Obaigbena, who is the founder and sole backer of the show personally covers the travel and accommodation fees for more than 300 visitors. He explains that “this is about putting Africa on the map.” Like their fashion guru counterparts in Europe and the United States, Obaigbena insists that African designers can contribute and can be the best and be world class.
“There is a side of Lagos that chimes well with the international fashion scene. We at Arise Magazine recognise that the city has much to offer in the way of vibrancy and extraordinary talent in abundance making it the cultural capital of Africa. Once more we are proud to be associated with nurturing new designers from the vast continent – and continuing our support of those who are more well-known in Nigeria and in the Diaspora’, adds Nduka Obaigbena.
We must congratulate Mr Obaigbena for his tremendous effort to showcase Africa and its very talented creatives. Nevertheless, like with most African products the main issue that these brands have is distribution. Making their products available to the public who are the mass buyers and therein making financial gain and developing their brands.
The AFI (Africa Fashion International) are the producers behind the premiere fashion platforms in South Africa including Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Jo’burg. The development of designers and of the local fashion industry is at the core of AFI, with a focus on emerging designers through the Fastrack program.
AFI aims to ensure the commercial success of the local industry through facilitating retail opportunities for designers and this is being done through the AFI Showroom and the Africa Trade Expo for buyers, media and consumers which also take place during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Jo’burg.
The leading runway shows have stemmed from South Africa where Dr Moloi Motsepe and her team are cautiously attempting to ensure they not only present entertaining “shows” but also attempt to give something back to the creatives. Ensuring that there are buyers and renowned media alike swooning over the participating brands. Nevertheless, it would also be interesting to see the relationship between participating in this show and the financial or popularity growth of a participating brand.
Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) according to their website is a collaborative fashion exhibition, highlighting the industry’s premier African prints and designers. AFWL wants to be at the fore front of capturing the surge of the African inspired trends in the fashion industry.
To increase the visibility of designers, enhance the productivity of the designers so that their brands become accessible globally seems to be their vision.
AFWL was covered by the free London Metro newspaper which is read by millions of Londoners every day. It would also be interesting to measure the success of the show and the success for the participating brands who are solely responsible for their participation fees, travel and collection budget etc.
MTN Lagos Fashion and Design Week (MTN LFDW) is another premiere fashion event founded by the fashionable lawyer Omoyemi Akerele and her team. The event brings together media, industry, buyers and consumers to view the current collections of designers in the fashion capital of Lagos, Nigeria.
The platform aims to cut across geographic and cultural barriers and position itself as a business of fashion and design event targeted at showcasing the best of the fashion and design industry, drive the Nigerian fashion industry and ultimately uplift its profile within the economy.
The event features fashion and exhibition led event that includes runway shows featuring new season collections from the best talents in the fashion industry; exhibitions featuring fashion products and accessories, textiles, design elements, photography and art installations and workshops and master classes that facilitate knowledge transfer, information exchange and networking opportunities across board.
Participants, designers and visitors alike are advised to expect a diversified and interactive platform that maximises their exposure within and beyond their industry circle and open gateways for more business opportunities for them.
Luxury high street store Selfridges attended the event. It is known that within the 200million people that visit the West End every year, included in this list are the Nigerians who flock to London to spend in flagship stores. The Nigerians are not shy to flaunt their wealth, they spend on an average transaction of £1,648 in the West End and even Selfridges have started catering to them by sign posting within the store in the Hausa language (Evening Standard).
Munich based MyTheresa.com were also present at the event. The online retailer which ships top designer brands including Miu Miu, Givenchy, Lanvin to clients in 120 different countries, was also looking for brands in Nigeria that will appeal to their wn clientele. The company hopes to discover new brands and add new products on their list that will set it apart from the competition in this fast-paced industry.
“For me, Nigeria represents a fun individualism,” the company’s buying director Justin O’Shea highlighted. He also added that MyTheresa.com was looking to work closely with designers and adapt products for their clientele if needed.
The event also boasted exclusive media coverage ranging from the Guardian online to Vogue IT online. Omoyemi was a speaker at the IHT Luxury Conference event that took place in Rome this November as was Dr Moloi-Motsepe of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Jo’burg.
The inaugural Vogue Italia sponsored, and AFG supported event, Ghana Fashion & Design Week (GFDW) is a contemporary international platform envisioned to direct, lead and promote both emerging and established designers to a global audience.
GFDW aims to bring together creatively talented fashion and accessories designers in Ghana, and in the Diaspora alongside international designers, to showcase their collections to local and international retail buyers, Africa’s neo-fashion consumers, influential press, media, and fashion savvy celebrities. It is not known which “international” buyers were actually at the show.
The event aims to incorporate “outstanding” display of fashion shows and a creative exhibition hub that gives fashion and creative businesses in Ghana, and across the globe the opportunity to exhibit their collections and related creative business services alongside the catwalk shows.
The annual event celebration is set to epitomize the fashion scene in Ghana, with platforms that celebrate Ghanaian and international designers from Africa.
The organisation is structured with an aim to develop and educate emerging talents in Ghana through its mentoring platforms and inspirational industry seminars to evolve internationally. GFDW is strategically placed to support and strengthen the fashion, textiles and apparel manufacturing industries in Ghana.
All these runway events are excellently trying in one way or the other to put our fashion industry on the map through high end well thought out shows as well as educational workshop and or buyers/media expo nonetheless, one thing still stands which seems to be the biggest obstacle between our brands moving from one step to the next and that is – distribution. Distribution equals availability which in turn equals sales. We all are aware that for a brand to be commercially viable, it has to sell its products. Therefore it would be interesting to measure a brand’s financial or popularity growth after a participation in one of these key runway events.
Author: Cynthia Anduhtabe