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How to Be Good Designers Rather Than Good African Designers

An exciting new generation of African designers are making their mark in the global fashion industry. African talent is evidently gaining appreciation, and the limited view of Africa is slowly evaporating. Across the continent, African designers are being exposed more to the potential of their cultural heritage, which is bringing about sophisticated design aesthetics.

While there is a new acquired confidence, there is still a lingering scent of a complex that was brought about by the history of colonialism. The need to validate identity through labelling has resulted in the African fashion industry’s slow growth. Africa is currently a land of opportunity, and has by far what most ”first world” countries lack, with its economies growing at a phenomenal rate. Labels, however, have not done a very good job of representing African designers. Mainstream fashion has also taken on the assumption that the continent’s fashion industry desires to be alienated from the rest of the world. There is a definite emphasis given when an African designer does well on an international platform. Should the emphasis not be given to any designers who display innovation in their work?

It is about time our industry took responsibility for its actions. Our issues are mainly because of a disconnection of communication with the rest of the world. It is important to open up and begin conversations that allow us to be part of the developmental change taking place globally. Just being a ”good” African Designer is not ”good” enough. It may excite the women at the fish market, but it’s not identifiable on the international market. If we want to be respected as an industry, we have to start thinking about how we can combine our commercial knowledge with designing innovative products that compete with global consumers.

In the past it has been highlighted that fashion education is still a big problem. The global village is more sophisticated, and a new generation that makes career choices based more on passion than how much they can potentially earn has been born. On the flip side, our governments still do not see the potential that the fashion industry has. This shadows the ability to convince any international market of our ”thriving” existence. Designers need more lasting exposure like their peers in other parts of the world. Over the last few years, exposure of African designers has become almost a trend that lasts a season and, in many cases, is quickly forgotten.

Meanwhile, in the era of global competition, it is impossible to market a product without understanding the business of fashion and passing products through critical quality control. The latter still remains a problem, and this boils down to the inability to respect the products that are being sent out. Even designers themselves do not always have the confidence that orders can be fulfilled to the required standard in Africa.

We must understand that if we want to execute the processes of a leading fashion industry, we have to acknowledge our integration with other parties. This by no means reflects a failure in complying with our own way of doing things, but simply opens up a broader spectrum of collaborations and investment. African designers are pioneering new ideas of creatively expressing themselves. Their bold ideas are defining an interesting new aesthetic that captures the essence of modern Africa.

Finally, in order to create good designers and not good African designers, the industry must come together as one to unite and tackle challenges by visualizing what is urgently required to place the industry in the run for global competition. Programs that address skills and training need to be developed in order to raise awareness of opportunities in the industry. Designers must begin to focus on maintaining Africa as ”the” place to grow a fashion business.

African designer+ peel off labels+ jump start+ action = Good designer.


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