Advice to African Fashion designers just starting outNovember 28, 2017
First of all, thanks for deciding to share your creativity with the world. Being a fashion designer in Africa is still relatively a new concept that has gotten more popular within the last decade. This means that there are limited designers to learn from. So for accepting to plunge into this industry, which is currently in its awkward adolescence stage, thank you.
As a designer (or considering being one), it is important to accept that your creativity will speak to some and might deter others. That’s totally okay. It is better to create for a few who love you than to create for many that “kind-of” like your designs.
If you try to know everything we- your potential customers- want, our input might stifle your creativity. I don’t think we want that.
With this saying, here are my thoughts as you build your fashion business.
1. Stay Authentic– Just like I said above, continue to create from within. Do not deviate and try to design what you think the world wants. Create what you want to create even if doesn’t “fit” what is expected of an African designer.
2. Be Inspired by anything– Most creatives — designers, painters, musicians-get inspired by their environment and sometimes from what they see in other people’s environment. With this saying, do not assume that your inspiration has to come “only” from Africa cities, cultures, villages, wildlife. Be free enough to be inspired by what you see in other cultures as well. Some of the most thriving African designers like Deola Sagoe, David Tlale, Maki Oh, Maxhosa by Laduma have found the perfect symmetry of combining inspiration both their African culture and other people’s culture.
3. You don’t have to use the so-called “African Prints”– When the world thinks about African fashion, they think of “African Prints,” which we all know is not necessarily an indigenous African textile. But anyway, it is rightfully so that these prints are called “African”- I mean my mom has a box filled up with them(They were used for her dowry). With this saying, it is expected that African designers incorporate prints in their designs to make a clear statement that their designs are “African.”
Well you don’t. African designers like Mimi Plange, Sophie Zynga, Gavin Rajah are examples of designers that do not always use the “African Textiles,” and they are doing really well.
4. Make your products in Africa– Make your products within the continent, and if possible, in the same country you reside. As you probably know, consumers are more conscious about how/when/where their products were made. Therefore, outsourcing your manufacturing to somewhere in Asia will not be beneficial in the long-run, even though it might seem like the best option currently. It is clear that manufacturing is still one of the biggest challenges with African designers but stick with it. You actually will end up being more creative with how you accomplish this goal. Stick it with! Moreover, when you make your products at home, you help create jobs and help contribute to the economy, by doing what you enjoy.
5. Your biggest market is in Africa– As you build your company and try to scale, it is tempting to try to expand to the ready market- western countries. But more than anything, an effort to grow within the continent is probably your best bet. Why? There is a rising concise consumption and African are increasingly trying to support local brands. This simply means that there more opportunity within the continent. Response to your products within the continent might seem slow at the moment, but in the long run, designers that are well known within the continent will reap the most financial reward.
6. Market Market Market!– Do not leave your marketing effort to be solely periodic Instagram posts. Consciously deter the “if I design it, they will come” mindset. I have also seen where brands leave their marketing effort to retailers- I mean this helps too. But overall, take control of your marketing endeavours and try to be clear who your customers are.
Go ahead and continue creating!
The world of fashion needs authenticity. The world of fashion needs uniqueness.
The world of fashion needs you.
This article was discovered on Medium and written by Chekwas Okafor. It’s a great piece! Are you a new, upcoming African fashion designer or are planning on going into the industry? Let us know if this was useful to you!