Are Nigerian Brands High Street Ready?

The second edition of Fashion Finest Africa Epic Shows was well attended by a good number of young fashion professionals and enthusiasts.  It started with a panel discussion on a pressing fashion challenge in Africa; How to get Your Brand from Catwalk to High Street. Compared to international counterparts, only a few Nigerian brands can be found in high street stores. Moderated by Sola Oyebade (CEO of FFA), the subject was addressed by an adept panel; Segun Ajasa, Ugo Monye, Anne Oti and a representative from the Bank of Industry.

Ugo Monye and Segun Ajasa with their wealth of experience in the industry explained the prerequisite for taking a brand from runway to high street, highlighting creativity, price, quality and capacity as the key drivers. Ugo explained the dynamics behind a runway show; what happens after the shows however remains a daunting challenge for Nigerian brands. Most brands do not have the commercial infrastructure required by international buyers. The ordeals of producing in Nigeria have pushed the likes of Segun to countries like Turkey; known to have good clothing manufacturing infrastructure, great logistics and quality control. Annie described the importance of having a fashion lawyer supervise business contracts.

It spikes curiosity that Nigeria with its large population and huge number of fashion forward enthusiasts does not have the right infrastructure to support commercial production. Factors responsible for lack of production capabilities were discussed; high cost of setup, poor work ethics, lack of a structured industry, inadequate power supply, lack of adequate government support and absence of collaborations/common ground amongst key stakeholders. BOI defended their contribution to the industry, stating fashion funds where available for fashion companies to grow their businesses. Companies can access 5-30 million naira at 9% interest rate provided they are duly registered, can provide two guarantors and 5% of the asking amount as security. With no other initiatives in place, Segun pointed out that the BOI requirements were unrealistic and suggested they came up with something practical and sustainable.

On the way forward for the industry; both short and long term, Segun said the country is in need of fashion schools that adhere to global standards. He added that it would be necessary for fashion professional to identify their strengths and collaborate, ‘there is room for illustrators, pattern drafter, buyers, cutters, machinists, creative directors. People with different skillsets need to come together to establish brands’. Ugo related a mindset problem where most labeled themselves as fashion designers unenlightened about other key roles they could play in building fashion brands, sighting examples of happenings abroad he added “We need to be ready to work and grow together’.

These suggestions have been echoed a number of times at other panels as this. While the numbers of designers, fashion forward enthusiasts and fashion weeks are on the increase, the industry is yet to see significant improvement in terms of commercial infrastructure. What initiatives and strategies have been set in motion by the government? What actions would be taken in the nearest future by individuals or organizations? With the growing attention on African fashion, would the problems identified be seen as business opportunities or would they remain the problems they are?

Fashion Finest Africa recognizes fashion as the most profitable industry in world, and they are doing a good job at contributing their quota to the growth of fashion business in Nigeria. The rest of the events went well as scheduled.

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