The African Development Bank launched “Fashionomics”, a platform to develop the African fashion industry for jobs creation, at Lagos Fashion and Design Week.
The launch included the dissemination of the final report and findings on Fashionomics, a demonstration of the dedicated online sharing platform and a panel discussion featuring designers from Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa, alongside relevant Nigerian policy-makers.
The event brought together around 300 designers, entrepreneurs, fashion bloggers, investors, and representatives of international organizations, as well as stakeholders from the textile and fashion industry.
The high-level panel comprised the Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar; the Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry, Folasade Yemi-Esan; Chioma Dike, Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Ministry; the CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Olusegun Awolowo; the AfDB Nigeria Country Office Director, Ousmane Dore; and Omoyemi Akerele, Founder of Lagos Fashion and Design Week.
Lagos Fashion and Design Week (LFDW) aims to promote the Nigerian and, ultimately, the African fashion industry by bringing together fashion producers, consumers and the media to review the collections of African designers in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub. LFDW is supporting initiatives to strengthen and develop the fashion industry. The annual event provides a physical platform that is repositioning the fashion industry for commerce and creativity.
The decision to use this event as a launch pad for Fashionomics in Nigeria ensured the maximum use of both the AfDB convening power and the presence of Africa’s vibrant creatives looking to unleash the economic potentials of the fashion industry. Designers, investors, policy-makers and media representatives from all over the continent participated in the event.
Addressing the panel, Minister Abubakar recalled that Nigeria was once a major producer of cotton and had a vibrant textile industry that has declined from over 135 industries to seven that are barely functional. This is why the government has been making concerted efforts to address the challenge by including the cotton, textile and garment (CTG) industry under the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP). A dedicated Fashionomics platform will shore up government efforts and those of other players in the sector to support the growth of the textile and garment industry. The Fashionomics online platform will expose designers and other stakeholders to the global market, attract international investment and improve skills development.
In her opening remarks, the AfDB Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, sounded a wake-up call. “Fashion is not only about design or inspiration. It’s also a multi-billion dollar industry that creates millions of jobs,” she said, noting that the combined apparel and footwear market in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be worth $31 billion.
At the interactive panel discussion, young designers agreed that the platform indeed had a two-way advantage in that they could both reap from and contribute to the industry across the continent and indeed worldwide. Omoyemi Akerele, the founder of the event, remarked that the platform would position African couture on the global fashion stage where it belongs.
The designers and budding entrepreneurs appealed to the media to assist in building and enhancing their work. Haowa Bello, a Nigerian handbag designer who rears her own goats and processes her leather into beautifully finished pieces, urged Nigerians to drop the big brands and showcase local talent. “Please don’t give me money. Instead, when you’re jetting off to New York to seal that all-important deal, drop the Louis Vuitton and wear one of my creations,” she said.
Fashionomics aims to create an enabling environment, where all players in the industry are connected to foster peer-to-peer learning, mentoring, information- and knowledge-sharing, and access to markets across borders with the click of a button.