Numerous articles and analysis details a long list of reasons that restrict African fashion’s (and Africa as whole) development. From infrastructure (electricity, transport …) to governance (eduction, administrative mess …) passing by payment, logistics or financing , there are indeed plenty difficulties.
However, in our humble opinion, most of these reasons like other systemic/institutional should be ignored to grow.
Actually, although factually accurate, individuals alone or in groups can hardly act on it and should rather deal with it rather than dwell on them, by stating them over and over.
Most changes and progress are the result of the individual or concerted actions that then lead to macroeconomic changes when cumultated.
In my opinion and in all humility, as I have been a part of it for more than 5 years now, this environment is still far from being a real “industry”. It is difficult to speak of an “industry” when the majority of actors hardly make a living out of it. And when they do, most do not yet manage to establish real global companies and brands. My background in finance prompted me to notice the first and obvious obstacle to overcome : the total absence of figures on the field.
But we are sure that African creativity can produce an unprecedented economic progress, it will only happen if all the actors in the value chain agree on a creed: sell more, sell better, and most importantly, sell together.
“Sell more” because it is important for creative people, both sellers and the media or influencers, to put sales at the heart of their approach. I’m not just talking about making € or $ but focusing on the market, the demand, and the economic realities of simple personal tastes, since the African dream will not be built without a solid financial base. This will require to reinstated sales as the primary objective of the multiple events (fashion weeks, physical pop-ups etc...) or initiatives (books, medias, collectives etc..).
As, objectively, most events nowadays lead to few sales (and even less profitability due to the high costs) , are relayed by medias or articles that incite with direct links to purchase around 1/10 of the time maximum.. even if often, it is the designers’ themselves that do not request it because they do not have an efficient online sales channel. Or worst, they do, but their online shop often does not even have the said collection (even in pre-order at least) !
Whether it is by always mentioning the seller's’ social handles (and that they implement simple purchase solutions) or by integrating a selling dimension since the inception of every project or simply making sure of an easy purchasing trail for an amateur/visitor, any effort is welcome.
Finally, whether it is by measuring the number of persons wearing African inspired creations or just the value created, it is important to fix a numerical goals to any initiative.
Because the African dream will not be built without a solid financial basis.
“Sell better” because often, even the most talented of these creative entrepreneurs, once they have seduced an audience, often fail to follow the growth thus produced. This begins with the necessary distance to build a business rather than a personal vehicle of satisfaction. The challenge is then to know how collaborate, recruit and persist despite difficulties and failures. .
Then comes the need for methods and tools to deliver an experience of excellence to world standards. Creating beautiful pieces is important but it is just as important to simplify and magnify the experience of acquisition of the said crafts , for this to repeat and amplify over time.
If the goal of a designer is to create a real company and brand, this is radically different from an individual project or even a tailoring activity no matter how famous. The scale, the organisation and thus the team needed to create ready-to-wear businesses require financial, customer service, logistics and digital competences to exist in the current ultra competitive environment.
In the end, with more support, iteration, training or just ambition, the success of these examples will be the engine that will drive the success of African fashion.
Finally, “Sell together” because it is only through the feedback of experience and the pooling of needs as well as resources that the African fashion stakeholders can progress.
May it be on simple things like participating or creating content/events in common rather than separated or deeper synergies like grouped sourcing or shared logistics , every lead should be studied ! Ultimately, we should look for any opportunity to work together on different aspects over our business. And even join other’s business rather than create our one, bringing our own set and competencies to complement each other.
If even brands in fierce competition like those of French luxury can unite in entities like the Comité Colbert, why not us?
To conclude, if we chose to promote “selling” despite its nefarious mercantile aspect, because in the end it is what counts : transactions that bring value to each actor. And as this value is more and more translated in financial prowess, it will be easier for us to win the fights that matter , defend our values and in the end build a share of wealth that we are proud of !
Once we will develop entities that regularly sells millions of dollars per month all over the world, give jobs to thousands of persons in Africa and leads to recurring appraisal and successful references to our culture ; then the infrastructure, governance or the economy as a whole will just follow our unstoppable progress.
At our scale, we started to contribute with this blog and especially our White Paper Report on African fashion online (available here).
If all or any part of that makes sense to you, please give a maximum of applause *claps claps*, share this article and leave us a comment ! :)