The BellaNaija Style Panel at Social Media Week Lagos 2019 certainly lived up to high expectations. Designers, models, established fashion brand owners and celebrities came together for the one-hour event to talk on the Democratization of Fashion: New Media, Storytelling and the role of Technology in the African Fashion industry.
Fashion, Style Advisor and CEO of Vanestyle; Veronica Odeka, Wana Sambo; Founder and CEO of IT-girl favourite brand Wana Sambo, David Peterside; Co-founder of the newly launched in-demand App Fashion Map, Sophia Ike-Onu the beauty and brains behind hugely successful budget-chic brand The5kshop, and fashion powerhouse and bespoke designer Toju Foyeh took the stage in a refreshing conversation moderated by BellaNaija Style’s Mary Edoro.
Kicking off the conversations, the group agreed that there have been tremendous changes in the fashion industry because of technology and innovations visible in the way brands advertise, put out campaigns, communicate with customers and in the same vein, customers are demanding more from brands in terms of personalization and the need to do more virtually.
This is obvious in major fashion capitals around the world. However, here in Africa are we missing out?
Businesses in Africa (should not be in a hurry to) copy and paste models from the international fashion industry. (Brands) Need to hone their business to suit the African market, especially if you want to sell here and then internationally. The Nigerian customers are very visual and mobile but still want that personal touch and would want to speak with a sales agent.
Sophia said about African brands catching up to the fast pace at which technology is moving into the fashion industry internationally. Supporting that, Wana added that Nigerians are more likely to want to speak with a rep from a brand because of our unique body sizing. The consumers here highly favour personalization.
Veronica had a chance to chat with David before the panel and was of the strong opinion that one major part technology plays in the African industry is with innovations like the Fashion Map app, which connects tailors, brands and fashion designers and basically simplifies long processes with the tap of a button.
When you look at a lot of Nigerian/African brands, they do not have a structure. When you look at a lot of American brands and European brands and Australian brands, they have a lot of structure. In running a business, there are several operations and several people that are running the business even when you have only two people, they are very organized, everyone knows their job expectations, there is data, they don’t have light issues – there are not a lot of interferences in the way they run their business. In Nigeria, we have a lot of interferences.
She explained that brands need to utilize technology to bridge gaps of time, power and infrastructural imbalance with useful applications.
Slightly pivoting the conversation, Toju spoke about how collaborations, giveaways and really engaging her customers on Instagram has been working for her brand. She also shared 2 apps that have helped her as a designer and brand owner to work smarter and faster. If you were not at the panel discussion, you have to wait for our full video to be out to hear about them.
From the actual cost of innovations to finding the missing link with regards to tech and its effect on the Fashion industry in Nigeria, the audience was captivated by the nuggets of wisdom the 5 panelists were dropped.
In conclusion, it was very important to ask with the speedy way it has become for brands and consumers to connect and close deals without any actual physical contact until delivery, is there still a need for brick and mortar retail?
To that Veronica emphasized that although all African brands should strongly be in favour of testing out the next new innovations, it is also important to create an experience for consumers and be physically accessible.