Exploring the key to the growth of Afrika’s fashion industry

Art & Design | By Nkanyeziyethu Malunga, Designer | 08 May 2015

I am a young self-taught designer at Ganu creations. An old soul. An animal loving globe trotter, and potential chef who has secret aspirations of becoming a scientist. Being a designer is mother nature’s way of entrusting one with the power to enchant, charm and whisk away the ordinary style palette. Designers in Afrika carry the diverse yet similar cultures ( which are the foundation of our creativity) much to the world’s amusement and fascination. However, the fashion industry in our continent is far from being the ‘fat man’ within the international arena.

The cultural and creative industry is not given the practical attention it deserves, nor the potential it has to generate income and economic independence. Despite the increasing interest in the fashion industry in Afrika, there is a need to establish a sustainable market for artists. The minimal economic freedom and the absence of locally produced resources means local designers are at the mercy of the global community. Asian and European domination in the continent restricts its potential growth and exposure. At the end of the day the usage of ‘ grown-in-Afrika-manufactured-in-China goods’ mean our identity as designers in Afrika is a product of complex cultural relationships.

For some reason, the current state of our continent feels like the renaissance of an industrial revolution, only difference is our case is continuous.
It sees the lower classes not graduating, the creatives not getting enough legislative regard and art being the art effect reserved for the home industries. Art for us is a spiritual, priceless process. It serves as a medium of communication which bridges racial, gender and geographical boundaries. The mammoth task is to be able to strike a balance between passion and the need to create a sustainable environment for artists.
As if not receiving sufficient support from governments and concerned stakeholders is not enough, we have to deal with social red tape. Private institutions can only compensate so much. The provision of relevant education from academic institutions is needed in order for us to permanently mark our existence in the international market. Afrikan governments need to rally behind the fashion industry. A unity of effort will get us moving at an international speed.

We need to create organisational models unique to us. Models that are innovation-driven and reflect the gradual transformation of designers.

One wishes for a united designers/ creatives’ front. A union that will advocate for networks that encourage and inspire creativity and innovation. Solidarity will be the ultimate survivor. Afrika is a habitat to home industries and craft works. But this is not enough, since artisans require intensive training in order for us to meet the global benchmarks. There is a need for modernisation, if we are to improve our production pace and quality.

I am just a voice of the designers in Afrika. I see the Afrikan fashion industry blowing international fashion week events off their boots. Talent is in abundance, and our own if not better ‘Zaras ‘will soon be born. My goodness, I am starting to sound like a 1950s vinyl player. Having almost exposed the lives of Afrikan designers, one would proudly say it is passion that drives creatives, it is what keeps them going. Wear Afrikan, to help grow the industry. Buy Afrikan to help build factories and invest in emerging designers. We are getting there. One needs to invest in the future of the creative industry. Let us rally behind each other.  Remember Solidarity will survive.