Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.



Business

February 21st, 2020

AFRICA IS NOT A DUMPING GROUND! – the Secondhand Clothing Debate

I recently came across two press features that raised an important discussion around ethical fashion in Africa that I feel would be of interest for you.

Firstly the BBC interview titled “Tackle fast fashion or ‘our days are numbered,’ warns design icon Dame Zandra Rhodes”. And in contrast the article about amazing footwear brand Enda which just secured funding for its made in Kenya sports shoe brand.

In my newest trainings newest trainings I share insights about my latest framework I call “The THREE pre-actions“. These are ones you can take for success and profitability in your slow fashion responsible African Fashion business. And Enda has proved one part of that which is “pre-selling”. I will share my new free masterclass in March explaining all three in more detail. If you are keen to learn more, then do join the waitlist to be advised once it goes live here.

SO I will explain the importance of these two insights for you as an African Fashion Entrepreneur starting out today.

The Zandra Rhodes interview highlighted the horrific sights of the results of the secondhand clothing industry in Ghana.

I shared this on LinkedIn and the comments I received included

“Thanks again for posting this Jacqueline Shaw. This is such a multilayered conversation for me. The UK and US both dump low-quality secondhand clothes made from non-biodegradable materials. It’s officially a health hazard and environmental crisis. There’s also this absurd idea among Western countries that African countries don’t have their own fashion supply chains. They do and they’re dope! I’ve always been dedicated to using my media platforms to showcase African designers throughout the continent and diaspora.” SuperJoy Media

A chief supply chain specialist shared that he thought:

if the apparel goes to the landfill, why not to make use of it and sell for recycling? This would help local jobs as well as recycling industry development.”

A textile industry writer said:

“is the sheer amount of clothing flooding the market combined with declining levels of quality which is the problem. Nothing wrong with secondhand clothing markets. But when the clothing being shipped abroad ends up in landfill because it is so badly made, I guess this is a huge issue – surely we are just exporting our excess trash clothing issue from the UK…?”

My thought, is that as an area I did focus groups, interviews and research for in Ghana during my MA Ethical Fashion degree is this, when you understand that African countries having their own production and manufacturing industries will increase trade and GDP you would think against Secondhand Clothing SHC.

So a few take aways from the above features mentioned.

Zandra Rhodes interviewed reminded me that

  • AFRICA IS NOT A DUMPING GROUND! Ghana for example has their one factory, one district policy which shows their government has this in their agenda. The SHC industry is just blocking the growth of this.
  • As the BBC interviewer says there’s an inherent flaw in fashion – it comes in how you create product because it is continuously being made. Making us all question how can we create more with a mindset of design for longevity.
  • With less mass produced clothing and to instil more into how we can reuse more is a great way to think and explore.
  • Unfortunately fast fashion has an appeal being that its cheap and it captures quickly the now trends, But this raises an importance of slow fashion being about unique ideas creating unique fashions.
  • Fast fashion is a huge problem ecologically and if we don’t do something our days are numbered.

Enda showed a few things

  • making locally in Africa is attractive
  • making locally is attractive to local investors too
  • pre-selling prevents waste and money
  • yet recall the Nairobi-based startup had to demonstrate proof of concept and a potential export market before any investors would bet on the company so validation of idea first.

So collectively we see the

  • opportunity to produce locally for local consumption,
  • to produce slow fashion.
  • responsibility to share the end of lifecycle for what we create,
  • need to be responsible designers and to source responsibly too.

Realistically fashion as an industry wont end but we can look at ways to improve on the systems and on what we put out there.

So here’s your opportunity to meet responsible suppliers in Africa in 2020, to support local African production, to support slow fashion – our Fashion Africa Sourcing Trips to Ghana and Kenya this year.

We go back in April and May and you are invited to jump on board!

Note you can see more details at this link. but doors close on 29th February.

Remember that manufacturing locally helps to create impact on the ground, helps to build a legacy business and creates a win win monetary solution for you and your African partners.

By visiting this allows you to build relationship with suppliers, you get to see new innovations when you visit and this can form a huge part of your content story for marketing too. (My youtube video shares more on this here 6 reasons why you should add travel africa to your business plan)

Look, I know this is not for everyone.

Maybe though, you are perfectly happy to have an African prints business using waxprint sourced from suppliers in China to India because you just love the way it looks. You just want to build a brand that makes money and can compete with the likes of Grassfields or Laviye and thats okay! But even Grassfields splits production to have some pieces sources and made in Africa to add to their authentic African story.

SO let us have this conversation as I have explained why sourcing and manufacturing locally in Africa is going you help you to win. Do comment below and let me know if sourcing locally in Africa is something you do or are considering today

Do also join me in the group for us to delve in more. Link here African Fashion Entrepreneurs.

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Remember these tips are just the “tip” of the iceberg really when it comes to doing business responsibly and sourcing sustainably. Also every Sunday I will be sharing with you more tips on sourcing in Africa. Do make sure to keep an eye out for your inbox weekly for these insights.

Need more active help with sourcing better in Africa? Then you can book a call with me at
www.fashionafricatalks.com to work closely on your sourcing strategy as a means to accelerate your business forward.





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