The Fashion Business Series: The Road To Manufacturing
Nigerian designers have through dint of hard work, and countless challenges risen to prominence with their works making inroad in trickles into international markets. Many of these designers run cottage businesses producing garments for a few individuals. Not many have been able to bring themselves to the point of manufacturing as seen with other designers in developed countries.
It was in order to address this notty issue that Style House Files organizers of Heineken Lagos Fashion and Design Week in collaboration with Pal Pensions and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), held a one day seminar themed: “The future of fashion: manufacturing”.
The event which took place last week in Lagos at the Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, brought together industry stake holders; private sector practitioners, textile companies, retailers and manufacturers, fashion retailers, luxury fashion brands, designers, and fashion entrepreneurs.
Founder and Creative Director, Style House Files, Omoyemi Akerele said, the fashion business series became imperative as young designers often besiege her with issues of manufacturing, access to funding, access to well skilled artisans, machinists and tailors, access to good quality infrastructure that can help take their businesses to the next level. “We don’t have direct solutions to that. But when we put together a programme like this, you get to understand that it is not only the designers that are in the value chain. There are machinists, there are people who train others. So connecting everybody together in such a way to make the value chain a little bit more beneficial is where we are going. And we believe that today, within this room, they can find the answers that they seek”. She added that fashion is not just about the glamour but about how to get investors to take designers serious.
In a keynote address Simone Cipriani, Chief Technical Adviser, Ethical Fashion Initiative, Geneva Switzerland, while examining the issues of manufacturing and exporting in Nigeria noted that Nigeria is operating below par due to lack of business plan, skilled labour, poor power supply, poor quality control and lack of managers to run the supply chain.
He pointed out that the natural position for Africa Fashion in the value chain is in the production of fabrics. He noted that Africa produces some of the best fabrics that are not even used by African Designers. He cited the case of Burkina Faso that produces “Danfani” some of the coolest fabrics for men and Mali that produces Bogolan”.
He said for Nigerians to export, they have to invest in quality control, and employ computer experts to do pattern cutting and costing as well source for raw materials within the continent.
But having worked with Luxury brands in New York and seen the commitment to quality, craft, heritage and pursuit of excellence and value accorded European brands, Ghanaian, Abrima Erwiah, says such value is not accorded African brands who do same hand craft products. Instead, they haggle over price. She called on designers to work with local techniques all through the value chain to ensure we meet international standards.
Speaker after speaker, stressed the need for designers to meet international standard if they must export. But as a participant queried, who decides what this standard should be?
Speaking on Retail& etail, MD David Wej stores, enjoined designers not to impose their designs on consumers but to allow customers tell you what they want. For Kachi Udeoji, Editor, Fashion Business Africa, designers and retailers of luxury goods should make luxury approachable and not stand offish.
In his contribution, MD, Pal Pensions, Mr. Dave Uduanu, pointed out that the fragmented nature of fashion today, a situation whereby people operate as sole designers and tailors makes it difficult to invest in it. As a way forward, he gave the following tips.
“The first thing is to get a business partner, look for angel investors who can help them structure the business, build partnerships and invest in the brand, achieve scale and increase turnover”.
By Jemi Ekunkunbor