The Fashionomics Series: African Luxury

The Fashionomics Series: African Luxury

Photo cred: Ed Singleton

It’s been a great season for African Luxury. Hot off the back of Arise Fashion Week (ft Naomi Campbell and Ozwald Boateng) – Lagos, Nigeria is buzzing with African luxury excellence. The Fashion showcase exhibited African designers ranging from evening wear to tailoring and more – showcasing the diversity and quality of the African luxury industry and African fashion in general.

 

Ozwald Boateng

Naomi Campbell in Kluk CGDT

Laurence Airline

Photo cred: The Guardian 

 

African creative figures are also making their mark in luxury spaces. Edward Enninful is already shaking the table at British Vogue and most recently Virgil Abloh’s appointment as Louis Vuitton’s first black artistic director for menswear has signalled a new time in luxury fashion. Not to mention the impact of Wakanda… although fictional the celebration of African stylistic heritage that has emerged out of Black Panther is not. Including the luxury African designers whose brands have graced the Black Panther red carpets and featured as on-screen costumes.

It seems the stage is being set for African luxury – but can Africa ’s designers compete in the luxury market? Whilst African creatives seem to be occupying luxury spaces, could African made brands do the same?

Changing fortunes

The continent remains locked in a basic pattern of trade: ship raw materials out and bring manufactured goods in. This severely limits the value retained. For example, the global fashion industry is worth an estimated $1.5tr and the continent clearly sees very little of this.

“While Africa remains the number one source of raw materials for the tech and luxury industries, its own brands have struggled for access to markets and media spotlight.” 

 

Andrea Iyamah

However, intensive manufacturing need not be only way Africa could begin to move up the value chain. Investing in African made Luxury brands and designers is an investment in craftsmanship and quality outputs as well as the preservation of traditional heritage.

Luxury brands are helping to revive traditional craftsmanship. For example in Nigeria where the influx of imports led to the decline of traditional practices and the country’s textile industry, designers like Amaka Osakwe of  Maki Oh (worn by Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga) are using traditional fabrics such as Adire, an indigo-dyed cotton fabric worn by the Yoruba people of south-west Nigeria for their pieces. This not only encourages highly skilled labour but also preserves the unique heritage of its origin. ‘Luxury’ is often identified from craftsmanship, quality and uniqueness – Africa has all the makings to create a strong and sustainable luxury market.

Africa is on the move. Africa is in acceleration. Africa is birthing a modern luxury economy through its rich creative heritage and dynamic peoples and markets.” Uche Pézard of Luxury Connect Africa.

Andrea Iyamah

Last year, I explored the imprint of the African diaspora on Africa’s fashion industry. In this ‘African Luxury’ Series I will be exploring the luxury market and its potential to support development by providing solutions to unemployment and economic diversification. I will be interviewing founders and designers of African luxury brands at different stages of their journey.

Stay tuned for these interviews which I will be posting weekly. Make sure you’re subscribed and following me on social media so you’ll be the first to know when these interviews are posted!   

 

What are your thoughts on the potential of Africa’s luxury industry? Comment below x

 

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3 Comments

  1. Olivia Ogolo
    April 12, 2018 / 10:34 am

    This was a brilliant introduction and I cannot wait to read the rest of this series!!

    TAfrica’s luxury market has shown promise and there is the potential for this market to stimulate socio-economic development. As mentioned above. the celebration (and preservation) of a distinctive heritage is a beautiful bi-product of investment into African luxury brands; investment into luxury brands can only bring about positives!

    In order for the luxury market to really exploit such benefits, the focus should remain on SMEs which are integral in facilitating job creation, given that they are responsible for approx. 80% of employment across the continent. However some SMEs (more specifically African luxury fashion brands) are faced with a myriad of challenges of i.e. level of access to the international market, shortage of skilled labour necessary for innovation, organisational structure of the industry etc. which may bring into question the extent to which luxury brands can help facilitate socio-economic development in Africa particularly in the long-term. Either way, luxury brands are definitely taking steps in the right direction and these challenges further emphasise your point that investment is extremely important.

    • annettebena
      April 12, 2018 / 7:07 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Olivia! You make very good points and we’re on the same page – the significance of SMEs on the development of the industry and socio-economic development as a whole cannot be overestimated. The African luxury market is still so young and like many other industries still so raw with opportunity so I’m excited to see its development in the next few years. Thanks again for reading and stay tuned for the series! annette x

  2. Ebiye Beedie
    April 17, 2018 / 8:20 pm

    First of all, I loooove the new look. From the layout to the font it is just perfect!

    Re this amazing article I learned a lot (as I always do).

    ‘..Wakanda… although fictional the celebration of African stylistic heritage that has emerged out of Black Panther is not.’ This is too true! I feel like our influence is widening and being African is now embraced and celebrated and not ridiculed like when I was in primary school!

    Thanks for this post, Annette. Can’t wait for the rest of the series!

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