With the closure of companies and offices, African designers have chosen to start their own direct businesses.
The lockdown restrictions are unique in each country. In Nigeria, we have seen several phases of lockdown that have negatively affected all businesses, and sadly fashion brands, houses and designers have not been left out.
In Africa, most fashion designers have refrained from developing their e-commerce operations, which means physical stores and online retailers, including Konga and Jumia, are pitted against each other. Fashion designers without direct online businesses or large chain stores, relied on retailers to reach customers across the continent in the pre-pandemic period and on the flip side, retailers rely on brands to bring designer cachet to their stores. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a change in that dynamic. Over the years, the average Nigerian consumer has been apprehensive towards buying fashion online purely due to delivery restrictions. Now, the transition to online sales has adapted to customers’ behavior amid the stay at home order. African customers are buying more online and visiting fewer malls. Fashion designers are now rethinking their strategy, organization, and staff to better adapt to changing customer preferences.
The Pressure to Digitize
Despite the obstacles, some designers believe that the digitalization of the African fashion industry is inevitable. We cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong digital presence. There have been several webinar series that has boosted momentum for a stronger digital presence and training for designers who start businesses online. It wouldn’t come into play if the pandemic hadn’t happened, and this shows how resilient we are to move forward.
With the rise of e-commerce, the runway’s digitalization is leading thousands of designers to connect much faster, while designers publish their latest collections on social networks. Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba led the initiative by creating 3D models and sending them to a virtual podium.
Some designers are motivated by the global inclusion movement sparked by the pandemic and the attention it has started to afford local artisanship. Designers have learned to focus on solving core issues and what they can do to build from within. It’s time to expand all aspects of the supply chain.
It is with the hope that this trendy can lead to permanent change, with brands reconsidering their representation in their businesses. We will see its effects in five to ten years, with a more diverse global fashion industry comprising African brands globally.
How Tech Can Help Grow Fashion Retailers And Brands in Africa
Like any other industry, the fashion industry is not immune to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact. And it’s not difficult to see why
- stores are closed,
- designers can’t deliver their products across the border,
- orders are canceled,
- scheduled events and shows have been postponed indefinitely, and
- the supply chain is disrupted.
This has serious consequences for fashion companies around the world. Bangladesh garment factories reported a loss of $ 1.5 billion due to massive order cancellations. The main European fashion houses lost $ 54 billion in market value. A report from Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company predicts that the global fashion industry’s $ 2.5 billion in revenue will fall by 30% this year, predicting that many fashion companies will go bankrupt in 12 to 18 months after that.
In 2019, fashion brands and retailers tested new technologies and developed new business models. 2020 has seen them identify and multiply practical use cases of these models.
Last year’s investments in fashion technology have kept pace with changing trends in customer behavior. Developments in data and artificial information have led to new programs such as Kering and Yoox Net-a-Porter, with the aim of better delivering what customers want, including smarter omnichannel purchases, from customers, advanced and product-based development and marketing. A growing interest in newness and innovation has led to several rental and resale models. At the forefront of this trend, brands such as Farfetch and Louis Vuitton have pioneered the digital design in the fashion world. It also saw Congolese designer and founder of Hanifa, Anifa Mvuemba, launch a new line, using 3D models on the runway live on Instagram.
This is certainly not enough, but it is the necessary wake up call for other fashion brands. Let’s highlight some of the areas technology facilitates the growth of fashion industry in Africa.
1) The Influence of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence helps the fashion industry forecast, plan and promote apparel, and fashion, improving product availability and accurate deliveries.
Every designer and brand’s dream is to know what the next trend is to avoid overproduction. Today, artificial intelligence can predict trends and sales, enabling brands to understand consumption standards and predict their production levels.
- Project Muze and Google are good illustrations of how machine learning is helpful in fashion. Using neurotechnology, the Muzes project enables creative decisions to be made on behalf of the consumer through their personality and interests.
- Amazon, run by Israeli researchers, would use artificial intelligence to determine if clothing is plain or fashionable.
2) Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality Re-evaluates online and in-store experience.
We have seen virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology improve the overall in-store and online experience. Several startups support brands in the use of these technologies. The virtual reality platform for experiential shopping can use AR or VR in three main areas:
- E-commerce: Online / mobile shoppers can view 3D products on their screens.
- Marketing: Pop-up window for augmented reality, interactive catalog, or virtual reality version of clothing, store, or boutique.
- Physical retail trade: Use augmented reality in-store to enable customers to access digital media about stock products.
Amazon has another awesome instance of how AR functions in the fashion world. The retailer has patented a virtual mirror in which a user can test products at home. Soon it will be possible to sit in front of a mirror and try on realistic clothes without worrying about deliveries and returns.
3) 3D Scanning
3D scanning can provide customers with a positive virtual shopping experience. The 3D body scanning solution also lowers the short and long term production costs to get an accurate estimate of the required production.
4) Retail Distribution
Ushering in the new era of fashion, technology has created lightning-fast manufacturing systems to track and distribute orders using state-of-the-art inventory management tools. However, while consumers now want to enjoy the benefits of shopping online, the in-store experience of luxury brands is still relevant. Here’s how fast delivery can help you here. Artificial intelligence has also made it possible to merge deliveries through different applications.
5) Blockchain Technology and Fashion
Yes, the fashion industry has also found a way to use blockchain for its purposes. Blockchain helps brands have transparent supply chains, giving each product a unique digital ID. This will allow brands and consumers to create an end-to-end digital history for all the inventory items.
Fashion and technology are like two peas in a pod. With each passing day, the fashion industry continues to rely heavily on tech. Given the turn of events in recent times, we wont be surprised to see a seismic shift in how fashion houses, brands, and designers make use of the benefits technology guarantees.