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#HeinekenLFDW Presents the ‘Fashion Business Series’: Looking Beyond Creativity by Ronke Adeola

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Fashion is beyond conceptualizing visually stimulating lookbooks and campaigns, complemented by intricately crafted story lines, the endgame should be business.  For the next three weeks, #HeinekenLFDW will present the The Fashion Business Series’ to explore conversations around scaling the fashion industry to a point where it can significantly contribute to the nation’s GDP.

In 2014, Nigeria was announced as Africa’s biggest economy. The GDP was revised to £307bn. This number included revenues from Nigeria’s newer business sectors, including its film, music, telecoms and e-commerce which had been previously been overlooked for more than two decades.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, film and music constitute to 1.4% of Nigeria’s GDP. This figure is a triumph if you consider that these industries have created their own processes and structures with little governmental support and less support from the private sector.

Sadly when discussing Nigeria’s economic prosperity and potential, (fashion) retail, textiles or manufacturing has not been part of the narrative. In Nigeria’s past textiles, fashion and manufacturing significantly contributed to the economy but due to a series infrastructural problems this sector waned.

If we look to other parts of the world, fashion serves as a key driver of the economy:

  • The global apparel market was valued at US$1.7 trillion in 2012 and employs approximately 75 million people.
  • Apparel and textile are among of the worlds largest industries. Total Global apparel exports are worth approximately USD 412 billion (2011) and global textile exports USD 294 billion

Why is this not the case in the Nigerian Economy? Fashion entrepreneur Bisola Edun of Tae says ‘In terms of challenges experienced in the business over the years, one of them has been funding, I have to say that the right type of funding for this type of business is still not available’ [1]

Fashion entrepreneurship pioneer, MD and Founder of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, Mrs. Ogunlesi also reiterates, ‘The Government does not in any way support the garment manufacturing industry. The infrastructural issues are so high that being competitive may pose a problem’[2]

However with adequate investment from the private sector and infrastructural support from the government, fashion can play an active part in the economy. Furthermore, fashion can create much needed wealth and jobs. Most importantly fashion entrepreneurs need to start focusing on the business of fashion because fashion is a business. Based on Mrs Ogunlesi’s experience she says ‘you need to have a good business plan and you need to set realistic goals for yourself. Sound business advice is absolutely invaluable; get strong mentors and learn from them.’

A business plan may sound daunting but it is really just an articulated vision that will help you strategize how to achieve both your creative and financial goals.

Keep the creativity but also widen the focus on the numbers, the sales, the distribution and the cash flow there is no reason why we cannot be a key player in the next 5-10 years.

Creativity in the Nigeria’s fashion sector has shown that Nigerian designers are talented. They have been featured in Vogue, Paper Magazine, Fader, Vanity Fair and many more. Our creativity can stand next to the likes of Valentino and Louis Vuitton. Yet, creativity has never been our problem, the main problems are profitability and scale.

The past five years has seen the advent of several fashion designers, retailers, stylists, fashion blogs and platforms like #HeinekenLFDW. There is a burgeoning value chain and eco-system that is in place; the next step is to expand in scale and increase value at all touch points in the value chain.

Designers need to work towards cost effectively producing in greater volumes at affordable prices across segments. There needs to be more points of contact for customers to buy these clothes, more accessible shops and larger emphasis on e-commerce channels to reach millions of customers.

2015 has been a difficult year for the economy with the reduction in crude oil prices and the sharp rise of the dollar exchange rate. Nigeria can no longer afford to be a mono-economy. All options must be explored and invested in for Nigeria to reach its optimum economic potential. Unlike what is published in mainstream media, the fashion industry has many streams e.g. retail, e-commerce, textiles, manufacturing etc. Fashion goes beyond fashion shows and beautiful editorials. It is time to focus more on the business.

Do you think the Nigerian Fashion Industry can become a major player in the nation’s economic landscape? Lets discuss! Please share your thoughts.

Article Sources
[1] Excerpt from Lionesses of Africa
[2] Excerpt from interview on Thisday Live

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Ronke Adeola is the Project Manager of the Fashion Business Series – a platform that aims to create dialogue between those in the fashion and textiles sector, relevant government stakeholders and key members of financial services community. To contact Ronke, www.fashionbusinessseries.com or send an email to [email protected]

9 Comments

  1. Yomi

    October 15, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Yes fashion can sure be major player in Nigeria’s economy . And now compared to three to 5years ago Nigerians have gotten to accept fashion in every way , even youths of today 1 out of 10 would want to dive into the fashion industry in one way or the other either by beign stylists ,designers ,illustrators or even fashion journalists .
    One way of helping this industry contribute more to the economy will be by having textile industries owned and run by Nigerians and the support of Government will also help boost this industries .
    Also mass production by designers but I begin to think how they can monitor sales and return because of these people who it takes no time to copy designs and sell at cheaper and lower qualities .
    And to add Designers really need to learn the business in Fashion ,I feel only with this proper knowledge can we begin to play majorly in the economy and greatly influence the GDP of Nigeria

  2. Tosin

    October 15, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    i think yes. stuff like this is all i think about. we have to make. make. own.

    today we’re good at telling, marketing, “packaging” – thank God o 😀 .
    now we need to add depth.
    are there excess materials we can use or recycle to build clothing? is there excess labour or skill we can employ in creating clothing? say we have no electricity and no hope of electricity for textile factories, there are things we do have so can we use those?

    some folks have tackled the low-hanging fruit, getting us designs to get us to fashion week worldwide, clothing women and men in Naija-sewn at least (not Naija-printed, so, not really Naija-made) now can we go down (not just up) the value chain, if that makes sense.

    i wore a wrapper in the house today, improvised from a scarf. i thought this is what i really want to wear, cotton, light clothes, easy and form-fitting and bright coloured and unslutty all at once.

  3. Joke

    October 15, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Do you think the Nigerian Fashion Industry can become a major player in the nation’s economic landscape? That is to be seen…Try getting a bank loan to be a designer… Most of these celebrated designers are around money that is not from their design business. Don’t let me name names. But if somehow talented designers can get loans to get scale/mass production to where it is affordable for everyone, then yes. But if a designer wants me to “commission” an outfit, or pay like I commissioned the outfit when I can have my regular taylor sew my fabric, it won’t happen. But aside from that, my thing is that if we don’t promote ourselves enough, no one else will.. Even the model in this pic is Caucasian and we are talking… Fashion is not isolated, nor exists in a vacuum. Let us push ourselves further in every sphere including using models that look like the people we want to wear it. All this using Caucasian models is good for them, but not for us, especially when we know Western economies are over saturated and even their manufacturers including designers are looking for where to dump their products and Nigeria is the destination, so anyway people who look like me can get the edge should be exploited.

  4. Sam

    October 15, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Lets look at it this way. As of now we do not have a fashion compamy owned by a nigerian that has a production line. Having a production line means that the clothes produced will go through the process of garment production. Sketch, illustration, CAD, pattern, sample prototype, draping to correct any errors, then multiple production of collection and distribution. That is why you ll realize that all the clothes they push out look the same even when they are made by different tailors. The machines are almost all automated. THAT COSTS MONEY. BIG MONEY! Nobody would want to invest that kind of money in fashion around here. That is why all our big designers do is work their way up to make clothes for big people who can pay high then they ll grow the business as much as they can.

    About the textile industry. Its good if the government helps but what do they produce-ankara print fabrics. Well, our female designers use these fabrics but designers that make male clothes rarely use it and it is just one of the fabrics we use in making clothes.

    MY SOLUTIONS
    LET DESIGNERS MAKE CLOTHES FOR NIGERIANS, NOT JUST THE ELITES. YES YOU NEED THEIR MONEY TO BEGIN WITH BUT YOU LL MAKE MORE MONEY IF YOU MAKE FOR MILLIONS OF NIGERIANS AT AFFORDABLE PRICES. YOU CAN READ THE STORY OF DESIGNER -ZARA….I WANT TO SEE KOLAKUDDUS, YOMICASUAL, APRIL BY KUNBI… IN STORES AT PRICES THAT A REGULAR GUY CAN AFFORD.

    WE WOULD ALWAYS USE FOREIGN FABRICS TO MAKE CLOTHES. I HEARD THE DUTY ON FABRICS IS VERY HIGH. LET THEM REDUCE IT SO FABRICS CAN BECOME CHEAPER IN ESSENCE IT LL HELP DESIGNERS IMPORT THEIR OWN FABRICS AND PRODUCE EN MASS

    LET DESIGNERS WHO OUTSOURCE FABRICS TO TAILORS ABROAD STOP! THEY ARE NOT ADDING ANY VALUE TO THIS INDUSTRY ESPECIALLY THE MALE DESIGNERS.

    WE CAN GET THERE, IT LL TAKE SOME TIME. WE HAVE STARTED. THERE IS A LONG ROAD IN FRONT OF US. MARC JACOBS CAN SPEND AS MUCH AS 1000000 DOLLARS ON REPRESENTATION AT LONDON FASHION SHOW- THE COLLECTION MODELS WOULD WEAR WONT BE ON THE MAINSTREET IN MONTHS AND THE BUSINESS WOULD SURVIVE. THAT IS WHAT WE WANT TO SEE.

    MY NAME IS AGBEFEYITIMI SAM
    RESEARCHER (STYLE ELEMENTS) AT CAWBID COUTURE

    • temi

      October 16, 2015 at 8:01 am

      Pls, you have an IG account or something else I can reach you with? Important.

    • Street wise Tailoring

      July 5, 2018 at 8:31 am

      I m seeing this 3years after
      Sorry
      Cawbid_ on IG

    • kk

      October 16, 2015 at 9:00 am

      You have made valid, salient points Sam!!

  5. @BossRicky01

    October 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    whoop! I bet with such a review! lfdw will be on point! can’t wait! nice one Ronke!

  6. Yemisi

    October 26, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    In my opinion the Nigerian Fashion industry , is growing butwe have a lot of challenges like every industry in Nigeria . A massive kudos to all the Nigerian designers and tailors who have for years continue to contribute to the growth of the industry , now fashion is taken seriously in Nigeria that was not the case years back . To compete with the rest of the world, capital investment needs to be made by private /public sector towards providing world class factories for production both of our textiles and garments . The private and public sector need to look into investing in this area. Already it’s clear that there is talent in Nigeria in every element of fashion. From fabric sourcing , illustration , production , marketing , styling, merchandising etc . Countires like Malaysia , Mongolia , China, USA etc have factories were you can walk in and produce your own line . We need such factories in this country and trust me designers will be ready to pay for the service after all Nigerians are already spending alot producing their lines abroad . These factories are expensive to build , but will add value , create employment and the ripple effect on the Economy/GDP is just huge . We will also begin to attract foreign investment and the world will come to us as a fashion hub in Africa if we put in the work .
    Like Sam said it would be nice to see our favorite designers available at affordable prices but for that to happen cost of production needs to drop . If as a designer you spend so much on labour , rent , energy , materials ,tell me who bears the brunt ? The customer . I strongly believe that Fashion can be a major player in the economic landscape of Nigeria , we just have to get the business and economics of Fashion right .

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