Unlocking Development For African Fashion Brands With Eme Bassey’s Fashion-ing A Future Initiative
A staggering $15.5 billion is spent annually on African fashion. The problem with this outstanding number is that the actual supply is only worth about 25% of that. Local brands are under pressure as most of the money spent goes straight to the wallets of non-African retailers and brands.
Consider the example of Kemi, a young designer from Nigeria looking to launch a fashion line to compete with retailers like Zara and H&M. She is committed to creating exquisite designs that combine African prints with contemporary cuts. But no matter how hard she tries, her brand never really becomes a success.
what is she doing wrong?
But more importantly, what can Kemi and other African fashion companies do to win in the ferocious fashion industry?
This essay focuses on the main obstacles many African fashion companies have to overcome and considers potential fixes to enable local brands to grow.
Driving force of value creation
Let’s start with what drives the industry: finance and people. Lack of physical and human capital is the biggest problem facing fashion industry entrepreneurs in Nigeria (and possibly other African countries). Almost every Nigerian fashion brand owner I work with cite infrastructure as a major problem.
Many African fashion companies want to be like Zara, Primark and H&M first, with the goal of creating fast and cheap clothing for the masses.
But they soon learn that it is easier said than done. They face infrastructure hurdles on their way to market, some of them being hampered and others coming to an end.
Human-level and physical-level infrastructure is a two-sided coin. African fashion makers face many physical infrastructure obstacles when trying to sell their products, from transportation problems to power shortages.
Even if all these problems suddenly disappeared overnight, companies still have to contend with another major obstacle to success: talent shortages. Physical infrastructure is the foundation of every industry, but it’s the people that keep it running.
Infrastructure could not reach its full potential without qualified personnel to implement it.
The majority of African fashion industry owners are dealing with one or both aspects of infrastructure. Even if you have access to physical infrastructure such as machinery and technology, you may not have the knowledge, experience, or skills necessary to use these resources effectively and deliver products that meet customer expectations. Difficult to produce.
But while the workmanship and design of companies that focus solely on human potential may be exceptional, they lack the infrastructure to scale their operations to meet demand.
This is a difficult balance to achieve, which is perhaps why African brands have not succeeded in building broad mass market appeal.
But the difference between demand and supply within Africa shows that the payoff can be enormous for those who do it right.
A system-wide view of the fashion value chain in Africa is essential for a more holistic understanding of the infrastructure dilemma. Since infrastructure development is a long-term undertaking, both the public and commercial sectors need to invest heavily in infrastructure development.
Business owners cannot undertake power or logistics projects, nor can they hire and manage the skills needed to deliver quality at scale.
So, while we briefly discuss long-term infrastructure efforts that require significant investments and external partners, we also list some techniques that African fashion companies can use to achieve short- to medium-term results. increase.
long term remedy
By investing in physical infrastructure to improve manufacturing facilities, logistics and supply chain management, African fashion entrepreneurs can increase production capacity, improve product quality and shorten lead times. .
They also need to invest heavily in top-notch training for all their employees to enhance their people skills in the fashion business. However, due to the highly formal nature of the curriculum and the minimum educational standards, many fashion schools exclude a significant portion of the out-of-school workforce from their students. The result is limited involvement, increased labor costs, and reduced quality. Including preschoolers in training can enhance matching, reduce costs, and increase productivity. This improves product quality, creates innovation and expands the local supply he chain.
The same goes for fashion incubators, accelerators and venture capital funds, which can provide entrepreneurs with the funding, business support and mentoring they need.
short term solution
When faced with infrastructure issues, certain fashion brands can take steps to mitigate the impact of these issues. Cooperation is one such tactic.
Brands can achieve economies of scale by pooling resources, sharing information, and collaborating with other designers, manufacturers, and stakeholders. Use the following two as examples:
1. Two fashion brands with complementary products can collaborate on collections by sharing resources such as fabric sourcing, manufacturing and marketing activities.
2. Groups of fashion brands can come together to share manufacturing facilities to reduce costs and maximize facility utilization.
Another strategy is to invest in technology. From 3D printing and augmented reality to online learning, many innovative tools and platforms are helping designers and makers create better products, manage their supply chain, hone their skills and enter new markets. help you to Let’s take a closer look at two examples.
1. Brands can invest in pattern making software to reduce reliance on manual pattern making skills and scale up the pattern making process.
2. Brands can leverage data analytics to inform product design, production planning, and marketing, minimizing the skill gaps required for these functions and reducing strain on limited infrastructure can.
In conclusion, expansion of local brands is hampered by lack of physical and human infrastructure. By supporting investments in physical and human infrastructure, these brands will be able to deliver useful output at scale.
By working together and investing in technology, fashion entrepreneurs can mitigate the impact of infrastructure problems, even though most infrastructure development involves significant capital investment by external parties.
The African fashion sector is thriving, bringing wealth to regional brands like Kemi, and following these options can help the continent’s economic development.
Content courtesy of BN-style & NFH