Post-covid fashion! What’s in store for Africa? This has been the questions running in the mind of so many African. While over one million people have been infected with Covid-19. Africa is still far below the number of index case recorded internationally. Despite this, the lockdown period has impact on local economies. This has pushed the fashion industry to learn how to reinvent itself in order to meet the needs of customers.
Omoyemi Akerele is a founder of Lagos Fashion Week. She organized a live debate on Youtube with other fashion professionals to speculate fashion’s future on the African continent. She said being able to get together to discuss the future of fashion in Africa was a very important action. It has to be done before even thinking of relaunching production or creating new collections. I think that this time it was essential to bring this debate to the public and invite everyone to think about it,” she explained. For this debate, Akerele invited four women that are players in the evolution of fashion in Africa. Adama N’Diaye, founder of Dakar Fashion Week, Lucilla Booyzen, CEO of South African Fashion Week, Gloria Wavamunno, who launched the Kampala Fashion Week and Claudia Lumor, founder of Glitz Africa Magazine.
According to these professionals, the strength of Africa’s fashion will lead to different events organized on the continent. “This season, we are only talking about community, collaboration, creation. Following the pandemic, we launched discussions live on Youtube. The ambition is to have a collective platform for African Post-Covid Fashion,” said Akerele.
Creation of an “African Fashion Council” Post-Covid Fashion
The fashion professionals that gathered during this Youtube broadcast agreed on one main idea. The future of fashion depends on exchange, collaboration and knowledge sharing. This project is realizable through the creation of an African Fashion Council. This was suggested by Adama N’Diaye during the live event. The aim is to connect designers and specialists from all over the continent. Despite differences in culture and languages, Akerele believes that this is the next step in the evolution of African fashion. She said we must work together. If we have to do it through a common organization, let’s do it. We have to be able to come together and make it happen. Collaboration between different forces can help build a network of fashion companies, which can have an impact on African economies by creating change, knowledge, development, skills and jobs. Working together is the opportunity to develop an African market,” she said.
The impact of going digital
From the very first day of the lockdown period, industry professionals have increased their presence on social networks. This has been one of the only effective ways to continue communicating with the general public. In Africa, as everywhere else in the world, the use of Instagram, Facebook and websites has become essential. Brands and designers share their new creations. Some of them organize live debates or playful and original activities. But on May 22, 2020, the use of social networks by fashion designers took on another dimension. A 29 year old Congolese designer Hanifa Mvuemba broadcasted a 3D fashion show on her Instagram account. This decision proved to be a feat acclaimed by the public. This has been in the biggest international magazines. “Doing 3D shows on social media is undoubtedly the future of fashion! I loved to see these virtual models but beyond the aesthetic, she took me on a trip to the Congo with her. I was touched by the story that was told,” said Akerele enthusiastically.
This opinion was shared by Anna Touré. She is CEO of the fashion agency Anna Touré PR. “This fashion show inspires me enormously! The crisis has at least allowed everyone to understand that organizing a digital fashion show is a good idea. This does not prevent you from seeing the beauty of a piece of clothing.” For her, the future of fashion is digital and a niche in which her company has quickly positioned itself. “As soon as we launched the agency, going digital was very important to us, even though we didn’t neglect physical encounters or the most traditional ways of presenting collections with regards to Post-Covid Fashion. We made this choice firstly because we mainly work with new brands that don’t necessarily have the budget to organize a fashion show or presentation.
Crisis Strategies and Post-Covid Preparation
In addition to the financial aspect, this choice is also an opportunity to reach a wider audience: “Integrating going digital into our strategy has also made it possible to reach customers all over the world. Both in Germany and in China. We mainly represent African-based designers. Also from the diaspora, so this international aspect also adds value.” This has been a strategic choice that proved beneficial, even during the lockdown period: “Even if events were postponed, we did not stand still and continued to be digitally active. With our brands, we have worked on crisis strategies and post-covid preparation. The period was also very satisfactory for some brands such as for Karidja & Khadija’s earrings. The brand has been selling very well in-store since its launch in 2018 but it has never sold as much online as it has since lockdown started!”
Local retailing, a promising business model
Regardless of this, fashion on the continent is affected for other reasons. “Designers work a lot with imported materials. In terms of sourcing, their businesses may have been affected. Local commerce has also been impacted since potential customers were travelling less than before,” observed Ramata Diallo, a fashion consultant and expert in African fashion. According to the specialist, local shops are the business model that prevails everywhere on the continent. “In Africa, we’re working on small-scale productions, these are limited editions. The relationship with the consumer is different. The couturier knows his client well and is attentive to their needs. There is a very pragmatic side because we don’t produce large quantities to fill a shop, but we produce to really meet a consumer’s need,” she explained.
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This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited.