The Business Of Fashion: Challenges, Opportunities

Fashion scenes and activities in Nigeria may be slow in growth, but the enthusiastic stylish people, mostly Nigerian designers with awesome creative minds are gradually adding pace to the growth.

With efforts of fashionistas, modeling agencies, tailors, fashion schools and style magazines, the couture industry is improving daily with good percentage of the Nigerian population spending more on fashion and accessories.

African fabrics are currently being used in different ways in the industry, perhaps Ankara fabrics are the most used by designers. Ankara, called prints and tribal by the western world, is used in making blazers, customized accessories, jumpsuits, dresses, bags, shoes, etc; and it is being worn all over the continents. Even the first lady of United State of America, Michelle Obama, was photographed and spotted on various occasions wearing African influenced designs, made by a Nigerian Designer Duro-Oluwa.

Meanwhile, the journey so far for the fashion industry has not been a bed of roses. A creative director and fashion consultant at DoubleO Concept, Ifeoma Obidike, said, “The desire of fashion industry practitioners is to break into the larger market and make cloths available for the different class of people in the society. But that has been a serious challenge because of lack of funds, either from the private financial sector or the government. What you see today is Nigerian designers making cloths for the rich and the average class. Sometimes we even find it very difficult to showcase our designs and make sales.”

However, Ms. Obidike said despite the challenges, there are some stores and retail outlets in and outside the country that encourage and showcase designs from different designers to help them make sales. “Most of these sales come from specially ordered designs by notable personality and celebrities who flaunt these designs on the red carpet and various events,” she added.

No Support

For Designer Kiki Kamanu of Kiki Kamanu’s label, “electricity and inadequate retail outlets for products” are the major challenges facing the industry, adding that government has also neglected the sector. “Sadly the Nigerian government has not been supportive to the garment industry. Though the Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM) did have funds available a few years ago, but it was poorly advertised and thus virtually inaccessible to those in need,” Mrs. Kamanu said.

On what is obtainable in other countries, she said, “Most countries recognize the need to support new talents in any industry. It is typical to have low interest loans or grants available to jumpstart a career or to take it to the next level.”

However, she said, “Seeing your ideas take shape and being able to mentor others in the industry” have been the fulfilling part of her career in spite of the challenges.

In the meantime, while our designers are still a bit far from competing favorable with the likes of world-class international designers –Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani, Giambattista Valli, amongst others, the fashion industry in Nigeria, in spite of its challenges, has been quite encouraging, interesting, and most importantly, innovative.

From Paris, New York, to London, Ankara has taken a strong stand on the international fashion radar. In the 4th season of Nigerian models and designers participating in the New York couture and DC fashion weeks last year, Nigerian designers like Joan Okorodudu of House of Jola, Fatima Aliu Garba of House of Farrah and Rukkaya Suleiman of Reeda’s couture made Nigeria proud with a collection of cutting edge designs, all made with the Ankara fabric.

Organised fashion shows in Nigeria have also contributed immensely to the success so far recorded in the industry with several fashion runway events and the array of other platforms used as an avenue of expanding the industry.

The Arise Magazine Fashion show organized by the founder of Arise Magazine, Nduka Obaigbena; CLAN Fashion show usually organized by Designer Lanre Dasilva Ajayi’s daughter every year; Fashion Lounge organized by Kemi Akande and Rachael Taiwo-Akingbade; MTN Fashion and Design show; Music Meet Runway; are some of the events that have further shaped the industry.

Arise Fashion Show

The 2011 Arise Magazine Fashion show was a blast with lots of exciting activities. The show had about 5,000 guests, 51 designers, and 81 models in parade. But the 2012 Edition of the event was more exciting, as it was an improvement on the success recorded in the previous edition.

The 2012 Edition of the Show, which held in March at the Federal Palace Hotel & Casino, provided more opportunities for designers, models, and makeup artists to showcase their talents. The edition featured 77 designers from six continents with 31 of them being Nigerian designers.

Prominent Nigerian designers whose contributions have added value to the fashion industry with their ready-to-wear designers and accessories includes: Tiffany Amber, Deola Sagoe, Frank Osodi, Tsemaye Binitie, Jewel By Lisa JBL, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi LDA, Meena, Viv La Resistance, Mai Atafo,  Ejri Amos Tafiri, Eredappa, House of Divas, Kiki Kamanu, CLAN, Daviva, Nkwo, and Bridget Awosika. The others are: Zizi Cardow, Ituen Basi, Iconic Vanity, Bunmi Koko, Eki Orleans, Kemkem Studio, Maki Oh, Hallero, House of Nwocha, Ouch, Chocolate, Adebayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Couture, Bubu Egusi of iamISIGO, and Lola Faturoti amongst others.

The media has also been a major contributor in the fashion industry. The media consists of the fashion magazines, fashion journalists, fashion photographers, fashion stylists, fashion advertisers, and fashion bloggers.

Yemi Ayinde, the Managing Director of HomeTouch Design, an Ankara fabric designer store, said, “The industry can achieve more success if the government recognizes the potentials and talents in the fashion industry by providing stable power supply, as well as provide huge fund to support and complement the hard work of this group of entrepreneurs.”

Mr. Ayinde said such efforts would assist practitioners “to reach their goals, make sales and be profitable; as it would also make the fashion industry strive to be regarded as one of the top in the world.”