Though Africa Day May 25th has just finished we are still in Africa Month and it seems fitting to give an update on the events from our Fashion Africa Conference 2015 edition.
Is Africa having it’s own Fashion Revolution? Is Africa Fashion’s final frontier? Can Africa be realistically open for business?
This was the part of the deep questions I, my team and our counter parts were asking ourselves and which has drawn me since September 2011 through my Social Enterprise Africa Fashion Guide to launch a panel discussion and book launch in London. Conference events and seminars followed in locations such as Accra, Ghana; NYC, USA; Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, Nairobi; Kenya and back to London, England in 2014 and again this year 2015.
On Friday 24th April 2015 strategically held on Fashion Revolution Day, we hosted a full day conference event once more in London where it started and it consisted of 6 panel discussions with international industry leaders entitled Fashion Africa Conference 2015 – An African Revolution. The seminar event were aimed to act as a means to discuss and promote the full supply chain of African Fashion Design, Textiles, and Manufacturing and thus communicate this to a larger, global audience.
As the Twitter comments at the base of this report shows you, this event has become a must attend event on the African and Ethical fashion calender. From previous events there has been a mix of press (Ethical Fashion/African fashion), fashion brands/designers, cotton specialists, Academia and industry influencers and insiders with a mutual involvement and/or vested interest in elevating African trade, design and production. The attendees were people who want to be part of the wider solution to raise Africa as a trailblazer in quality design and production and this year never failed to bring together those with this strong mindset.
Over the years including 2015, that we have held the London conferences we have had attendees and speakers whom include International Trade Centre, Yodit Eklund of Bantu Wax, Christian Smith CSR manager of ASOS (now at PvH), Solidaridad, Textile Exchange, Cotton Made in Africa, Designer Chichia London, Hollywood Actress Rosario Dawson, Expert and Author of book Salaula Karen Tranberg Hansen, Curator of Africa Utopia Hannah Pool, Designer Annegret of Choolips, Samson of store Soboye, New African Woman mag, Jennifer Williams-Baffoe of Willbaforce (and Ethical Fashion Africa ITC project), WGSN, Textile Intelligence, Alice Wilby Editor of Future Frock mag, Ann McCreath from Kiko Romeo and Mark from Sandstorm in Kenya, Alex Smith of Considered Style, the team from Canadian online store KuwalaInc, Pamela Ravasio of Observer Ethical Award winning blog Shiramine, Veronica Crespi of ReWardrobe, TED speaker and popular blogger Minna Salami, Mantisworld, Ethical Fashion Forum, UCA Epsom, Value Added in Africa, Forum of the Future and so much more! It has truly been a blessing for me to have such great minds speak and visit our events. Guests flew in from Sweden, Ethiopia, Copenhagen, Germany, France, even from Canada!
‘Fashion Africa’ Conference and Seminars were created to be a catalyst in the industry, to raise awareness and elevate the image of design from the continent and to help change perceptions of the fashion and textile industry in Africa. We use these events as tools and aim to ask those in Africa working in garment design and textile manufacturing what THEY think and need. We therefore plan to keep these discussions ongoing in different locations annually where possible so international industry leaders can connect.
By centering the event around the sub-topics Sustainability, African Fashion Manufacturing, Africa’s Retail Market, The Growth of the African Designer market, Africa as New Luxury we were able to create open discussions and knowledge share on the grander topic of Africa’s position in the Global textile industry with is itself worth billions internationally.
Our 6 panel discussions ranged from the titles African Revolution – Fashion Made in Africa through to Africa is Open for Business – Africa as a Source for New Business and ending on Africa’s Triple Bottom Line – Sustainability, Ethical Credentials and Responsibility in African Fashion Industry
We created heated discussions which included looking at the methods of workshops versus factories and discuss the ongoing challenges and the positives of production in Africa; the rise of the retail industry from standalone stores to the online business, importance of ecommerce and online retailing, selling and making available African fashion to retailers internationally and also retailers in Africa and also Africa’s own growing consumer market appealing to industry retailers; fashion to mobile technology to agriculture to IT and more, how Africa as a region is appealing more and more to investors abroad for new business ventures.
We discussed how Africa is also an opportunity for existing businesses abroad to open up similar businesses there. Media and researchers are also recognising this and we discuss what angle they are taking and the opportunity Africa has to offer. We went on to look at sourcing cotton and local fabrics, Fairtrade issues, local production, artisans to the whole industry of textiles in Africa and discussed the future opportunities and needs, and highlighted what other beautiful fabric options Africa has to offer; We highlighted infrastructure and distribution, the need for more skilled labourers, red tape and logistical issues, and how all this leads to international trade for Africa, why this is significance to GDP and country market research and ended at discussing sustainability what is this all about, how relevant is this for Africa and what does it mean to Africa. We questioned what is the future of global textiles and Africa’s part it in, to discuss the triple bottom line way of thinking in business.
With 36 speakers, 6 panels and 3 rooms to navigate through over the day it was an intensive day but one which allowed for more effective networking at the end and I heard many discussions going around that included connecting further post event. There was a lot to cover but from the event feedback forms everyone wanted even more! SO we are planning two events for 2016. For our conference we plan to take the conference back to Africa in collaboration with an awesome platform that I am uber excited about and then we will launch a new event altogether. I will be embarking also on a big Africa trip over the next 6-12 months to connect and meet again with Designers, Artisans, Creatives, Manufacturers, Textile people, Academia and more in preparation for this event. This we will do through a Kickstarter campaign so I encourage you to stay connected in order to be part of an amazing new project which will bring more awareness and business towards Africa. Looking forward to our next year events and hope you will support us on this journey to deliver an excellent service to you wheverer you. Whether in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, Americas if you have a connection to Africa and equally want to see Africa’s textile industry grow we want you to be part of our journey.
But I cant finish without sending out firstly special thanks to our sponsors and partners which included The Africa Centre in London, Mantisworld, AO-Photography and Fashion Revolution Day – they helped us to meet costs, to spread the word and to have a successful event, Thank you! To gift bag sponsors – Black Secret Makeup UK and Textile Intelligence we appreciate you!
We were glad to have our sales desks – Jacaranda Books, Gitas Portal, Hiro + Wolf your product looked hot! Then of course the next big thanks and shout out must go to to all of our speakers, they shared their amazing knowledge and experiences and we couldn’t have done this event without them (see the list of speakers at the bottom).
Lastly hugs, kisses and thanks to Falone Shimba who worked closely with me to project assist the entire event then to manage her team of volunteers who ushered and looked after our guests, she did an amazing job and I am well proud. To Abigail Akinde on the ticket and reception desk getting guests in swiftly, Richard Mkoloma on special speaker support, Sara Shahin on speaker support looking after all they needed on the day, Abi Oshodi our ongoing photography support (well gifted i must say!), Christina Belloge on all our amazing social media coverage, Mathy Lisika-Minsende and Mayline on video capturing the moment – you guys really were my backbone and at the last minute too – I am humbly grateful, bless you.
So check out our twitter feed for FA-Conf15 below – do feel free to tweet us with this hashtag if you have yet to contribute. Our full event photo album can be seen here:
and here is a link to a few videos from the event too:
(Please note that the official and final video will be released very soon.)
We are very grateful to all of our speakers:
|Rosario Dawson / Abrima Erwiah||Studio one eighty nine|
|Joan Hughes||The African Shirt Company|
|Fee Uhssi||Fee Uhssi|
|Arieta Mujay||African Creative Collective|
|Helen Jennings||KISUA / IAM mag|
|Nkwo Onwuka||NKWO / Afromania|
|Beatrace Oola||Africa Fashion Day Berlin|
|Hannah pool||Africa utopia|
|Kiran / Alae||Styled by Africa|
|Yemisi Mokuolu||Hatch Africa|
|Leigh Odimah||Style Canteen|
|Jordine Bartlett||Financial Times – lifestyle|
|Liesl Truscott||Textile Exchange|
|Chris Springs||British Museum|
|Simon Ferrigno||Cotton Specialist|
|Teleica Kirkland||Costume Institute of the African Diaspora|
|Kate Eccles||Value Added in Africa|
|Madeleine Rosberg||Responsify Africa|
|Mo Tomaney||UCA tutor|
|Tamsin Lejeune||Ethical Fashion Forum|
|Annick Gouba-Guibal||Cotton specialist|
|Jose Hendo||Jose Hendo|