FROM Ankara shoes to kitenge dresses, to kente and other tribal fabric patterns — Africans are wearing African, as the continent’s apparel market shifts and grows.
More Africans are embracing their cultural heritage through fashion than ever before, with the continent’s vibrant styles increasingly showcased “at home” on the African continent as well as on the world stage.
Euromonitor estimates the continent’s clothing and footwear market is now worth more than 31 billion US dollars and growing, nurturing a new crop of home-grown African designers keen to wrestle the market from importers of cheap and second-hand clothes.
From Ankara shoes to kikoy turbans, to kitenge dresses to kente and other tribal fabric patterns — Africans are wearing African.
A 2017 report by Statista estimated the e-commerce sector in Africa alone generated 16.5 billion US dollars in revenue that year, to reach 27.7 billion US dollars in 2020 and jump to 47 billion dollars by 2024. Many young producers and designers are eyeing e-commerce as a fast and efficient route to growth. According to African Business, under-35s, keen to change the fashion landscape of the continent, will drive a change in buying and production.
Demand for these apparel has been growing to supply the African diaspora in the United States and Europe as well non-African consumers around the world.
As a result, more flea markets have popped up across the continent and overseas as, designers seek platforms to sell and showcase their fashion.
But it is e-commerce platforms and social media that are proving to be the game changers in Africa’s apparel industry. Africa’s burgeoning internet population and growing e-commerce sector are making social media marketing necessary tools for to market.
Facebook and Instagram particularly, have been become a hit with fashion designers who can now connect with a wider market across Africa ― to them, these platforms are the new runways.
The African Development Bank has also launched “Fashionomics Africa” in 2015 to promote investment in the textile and fashion sector by leveraging data, information, and communication technologies as drivers of development.
It aims to increase entrepreneurs’ access to finance while nurturing the business skills and digital tools for start-ups as well as micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
While Hollywood has come knocking, with African fashion appearing more regularly in internationally released movies, closer to home, renowned African musicians are making a point of donning home-grown attire, adding fuel to a fire that has caught under African fashion.