• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tapping into opportunities in fashion retail

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The United Nations (UN) in 2012 selected African designers to work with it on its ‘Fashion for Development’ project. Two Nigerian designers, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, owner of LDA label, and Folake Coker of Tiffany Amber, alongside other African designers, were selected to take part in the UN project. This opened a new vista for made-in-Nigeria dresses.

And so, a real business opportunity for international fashion and homegrown fashion retailers in Nigeria was opened up. The International Herald Tribune’s Luxury conference is already bringing to fore Africa’s potential as producer and consumer of luxury goods.

In addition, the very best of African fashion was on display at pop-up shop in Selfridges’ departmental store on Oxford Street in the United Kingdom. Participating designers from Nigeria included Agu, House of Silk, DOT Handbags, Odio Mimonet, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, Jewel by Lisa, Eki Orleans, Ituen Basi, and Tiffany Amber. The project was a good way to showcase authentic designs by talented African fashion designers using local fabrics like Ankara.

Africa’s fast growing middle class is driving demand for products like mobile phones, televisions and fashion (they are wrapping themselves in Ankara). Approximately 310 million people on the continent are now deemed middle class (defined as those spending between $2 and $20 a day at 2005 prices), according to a 2011 report by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

It is not a surprise that the Ankara fabric is taking centre stage at Selfridges and the idea for most designers is that the ready-to-wear Ankara is available at retail stores globally.

The rapid expansion of the Vlisco Group, a major manufacturer of Ankara fabric, is a pointer to the new direction for most local fashion designers. Vlisco produced 58.8 million yards, or 53.8 million metres, of fabric in 2011, 4.4 million yards more than in 2010. In 2011 its net sales were €225 million, up from €186 million in 2010.

With large international fashion retailers like Mango, Zara, Levi’s, Gap, Woolworths, Mr Price already active in most countries in Africa, Nigeria may be the next frontier for fashion retail. International retailers, like Mango, are already targeting the emerging middle class in fast-growing countries on the continent. They are opening stores in cities like Lagos and Accra where there is a strong emerging middle class, growing infrastructure and political stability.

Aside from South Africa, Nigeria is another country that has the highest potential for fashion retail. Although local manufacturing of wax has gone moribund, there is a renewed interest from international fashion and local clothing retailers in the fashion industry. International brands have set up stores in the Palms Shopping Mall and Ikeja City Mall, Lagos. This offers a great opportunity for Nigerian designers to tap into this trend.

And so, there is an emerging market for ready-to-wear clothes made of the Ankara fabric. Smart fashion designers like Lanre Da Silva Ajayi are already tapping into this opportunity for high street labels. They are already dreaming big of having retail outlets like Zara within and outside Nigeria.