The Nigerian Fashion Industry
Whenever the talk of the Nigerian fashion industry comes on the table, there are always different opinions on the importance of the sector on the country’s economy, and its overall influence on the global scale. The Nigerian fashion industry is one that often faces a duality of recognition. Locally, many indigenes feel the industry is still at its infancy. While on the international front, there is a general idea that the industry is on an upward trajectory.
The emergence of prestigious events like the Lagos Fashion and Design Week, GTbank’s Fashion Weekend, and the inaugural Style by Zenith bank means there are platforms where fashionistas, designers and stylist have a runway to showcase themselves.
The good news is that before the emergence of these events, designers have been waving their flags on the international platform. Designers like Deola Sagoe, Zizi Cardow, Ade Bakare, Mai Atafo and Folake Folarin-Coker, have helped put Nigeria Fashion on the global map. Their efforts over the years mean new designers like Amaka Osakwe, Oluwatobi Akintoye, Tracy Reese and so on, have the platform to keep the fire burning. Together, there is continuous innovation, recreation, and designing of indigenous fabrics with a blend Nigeria touches to create styles with mass appeal.
It is safe to say that Nigeria designers have acquired the right recognition with a distinct style synonymous with the country’s rich cultural heritage. Take, for example, Amaka Osakwe dressed celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o and former first lady to the president of the United States, Michele Obama. Not just that, the fact that Beyonce featured Nigeria’s own Edwin Okolo’s fashion brand, Imo Studio, on her Instagram, speaks highly enough of the growth fashion designers within the country are attaining.
Still The Giant Of Africa?
There is no doubt that Nigerians have a keen eye for fashion. This has played a role in affecting the fashion industry within the country. To meet the demands of both local and international markets, indigenous designers have increased their level of delivery, output, and creativity. And now, they go toe to toe with seasoned designers from not just Africa but other parts of the world.
Put it this way, the Nigerian fashion industry has seen a sharp growth, with the emergence of premium designers, and their stylish use of local and foreign materials, to make aesthetic outfits. Given the country’s exploits and exports in terms of designs, and designers, it begs the question, is Nigeria, the giant of the African industry?
The few data available points at an unlikely turn of events. In terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), values from the National Bureaus of Statistics show that the fashion industry (this encompasses textile, footwear, and apparel) has seen a median growth of 17 per cent in the last 10 years. This rise is all down to the increase in pushing Nigerian fashion on a global scale.
But while the growth on its own, is appealing, comparison to other markets, show there is lots of catching up, the Nigerian Fashion industry has to do.
Though there is a lack of accurate data on the Nigerian market, few reports suggest that the Nigerian fashion industry is worth approximately $5 billion. Compare this to the South African market, worth close to $15 billion, and you will see that there is a lot of catching up to do.
When it comes to designs, styles, brands, and names, the Nigerian fashion industry is force. But when it comes to financing and returns, the industry is not a giant in the continent. So, what’s wrong?
Although the industry is vibrant, and it has the ability to cope with local and international demand, there is still much work to be done. Looking at the industry from a professional point of view, it is grossly underdeveloped, and as such, exports are slow. From basic economics, exports are usually the primary source of income in any country. There is a need for structuring and restructuring of the current fashion landscape in the country.
There is so much that needs to be done in taking the Nigerian fashion industry to the next level. We can’t fault our designers, and stylists, they’ve already done a fabulous of prompting the industry as best as they can. But there is still so much that the government and well-meaning institutions can do in terms of fashion seminars, schools, workshops and more.
There is already a market and a demand for Nigerian products. What is lacking is an enabling environment for the fashion industry to exile. The fact that indigenous designers are already styling some of the biggest names in the world shows that there is global demand for what the Nigerian fashion industry has to offer.
The Way Forward
After all said, and done, we can be proud of our fashion exploits on the international front. It is good to see Nigerian designers and by extension African designers, now have their works on the biggest of stars.
A testament to this is how Zerina Akers, Beyoncé’s personal stylist, has used a different array of African designers, to dress Queen B. In Black is King, the visual accompaniment of Beyoncé’s 2019, album The Lion King, Aker tapped into the soul of the African heritage to pull clothes from some of leading and emerging designers from Nigeria, and the rest of Africa. The act alone not only puts the global spotlight on Nigerian and African fashion designers, but it also shows that our fashion is changing the way people perceive our fashion.
Thanks to the work of prominent and emerging designers in Nigerian fashion, who are working tirelessly and giving Nigerian designers a shoulder to stand on, we can on have heart felt conversations about the Nigerian fashion industry.