Since the L’Uomo Vogue edition titled Rebranding Africa hit the newsstands last year, the world’s attention has been diverted to what Nigeria, nay, Africa, has to offer in terms of fashion. The African continent is already being dubbed the next Asia. The United Nations selected African designers to work with it on its ‘Fashion for Development’ project and the IHT Luxury conference is already bringing to fore Africa’s potential as producer and consumer of luxury goods.
Two Nigerian designers, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, owner, LDA label, and Folake Coker of Tiffany Amber, alongside other African designers, were selected to take part in the UN project. This opened a new vista for made-in-Nigeria dresses. And so, a real business opportunity for international fashion and homegrown fashion retailers in Nigeria was opened up.
In addition, the very best of African fashion is currently on display at pop-up shop in Selfridges’ departmental store on Oxford Street in the United Kingdom. Participating designers from Nigeria include Agu, House of Silk, DOT Handbags, Odio Mimonet, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, Jewel by Lisa, Eki Orleans, Ituen Basi, and Tiffany Amber. The project is a good way to showcase authentic designs by talented African fashion designers.
Africa has often served as a huge source of inspiration for European fashion designers, especially its African wax and print, but China, India and Brazil now offer the greatest growth opportunities as emerging consumer markets. It is not a surprise that the Ankara fabric is taking centre stage at Selfridges and the idea for most designers is that the ready-to-wear Ankara is available at retail stores globally.
With large international fashion retailers like Mango, Zara, Levi’s , Gap, Woolworths, Mr Price, etc already active in most countries in Africa, Nigeria may be the next frontier for fashion retail. Already, international retailers, like Mango, are targeting the emerging middle class in fast-growing countries on the continent. They are opening stores in cities like Lagos and Accra where there is a strong emerging middle class, growing infrastructure and political stability.
Aside from South Africa, Nigeria is another country that has the highest potential for fashion retail. As the continent’s largest producer of oil, Nigeria has lifted the ban on importation of textile. Although local manufacturing of wax has gone moribund, there is a renewed interest from international fashion and local clothing retailers in the fashion industry. International brands, including Levi’s, Mango, Nike and Swatch, Mr Price, Woolworths, have set up stores in the Palms Shopping Mall and Ikeja City Mall, Lagos. This offers a great opportunity for Nigerian designers to tap into this trend.
According to a New York Times article, there is rejuvenation and rapid expansion of the Vlisco Group, a major manufacturer of Ankara fabric, which was acquired in 2010 for $151 million by Actis, an Africa-focused private equity firm.
“The group, which also includes the more affordable West African-based textile brands of Uniwax, Woodin and GTP, produced 58.8 million yards, or 53.8 million metres, of fabric in 2011, 4.4 million yards more than in 2010. Its 2011 net sales were €225 million, or $291.65 million, up from €186 million in 2010,” states the article.