Why Africa could be the next big thing in fashion
Sep 16 2013
Africa is experiencing a similar scenario. In fact, experts say Africa is the “next Asia” and there are strong reasons behind it. It’s a continent of 56 countries out of which seven are amongst the top ten fastest growing economies of the world. Increase in the number of middle-class is also an encouraging factor. The youth of this continent is becoming more and more brand conscious and, prefers latest looks rather than traditional clothing. Various fashion weeks such as the one sponsored by Mercedes-Benz makes the continent more close to fashion trends and pushes dapper looks.
However, political instability has been an issue due to which lot of brands have refrained from entering the continent. Nevertheless, the fashion scenario in the region is slowly and steadily changing. South Africa is already the place for retail expansion, but even countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya among others are also viable options for these brands.
A lot of strategic planning is required to make retail in Africa successful, especially with the contrast in cultures, demographic factors, political conditions, shopping patterns and government policies. Africans are quite similar to Indians in the sense that they take a lot of pride in their culture and history, so one needs to adjust according to their sensibilities.
There are some wise ways to move ahead in the continent such as partnering with local investors or even going through a franchise model, which will automatically involve locals. This will help in understanding the market and the risk will also be divided. Another issue here, which is quite similar to India, is the demand of “Made in Africa” label, which a lot of local weavers and textile manufacturer are asking for.
“Mivumba,” also known as import of second hand clothing generated through charities in the US and Europe, and sold at cheap rates in Africa, is already hampering the growth of local textiles. They feel that reduces the demand of their own manufactured products and has even resulted in job loss. Adding to their misery is the inception of the retail of international brands. Overall, when we see the continent’s present circumstances, we see hints of Asia’s history in the fashion segment. So, if these issues can be negotiated along with keeping the interest of all the stakeholders intact, then we are looking at a retail boom in the Dark Continent in the near future.
(The writer is a Delhi-based fashion designer)