The African fashion industry is taking to the world stage

The African haute couture industry is entering an era defined and led by young African fashion designers. Taking to the world stage, young artists showcase the continent in all its glory through unique weaving techniques and patterns that combine rich African heritage with contemporary styles, Global Issues reported.
The African continent has what it takes to become one of the fashion leaders of the next generation. Africa is a major producer of raw materials - 37 out of 54 countries produce cotton.
"When it comes to fashion, I buy Kenya to build Kenya. We have no shortage of high-quality, fabulous designs. We've done really well with the Maasai shuka - a thick, stiff cotton wrap blanket. We're introducing to the world a garment traditionally worn by the Maasai - one of our ethnic groups known for staying true to their culture," says Sheila Shiku, a fashion designer from Nairobi.
"Buy Kenya, Build Kenya" is a six-year government strategy to unlock the potential of the local market. Kenya is in good company as some of the most notable African cities that are hubs of fashion and design as well as financial and commercial centers are Nairobi, Lagos, Casablanca and Abidjan.
The first-ever United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report on the African fashion industry, launched last year, reveals the trends, successes and challenges facing the promising sector, while detailing how the fashion sector of the continent is proving to be a powerful driver of the "Made in Africa" movement and putting Africa on the global fashion map.
African fashion is on the rise. Fashion Weeks activate markets and creatives in 32 countries on the continent - from Casablanca to Nairobi, via Lagos and Dakar. The growth of e-commerce, which attracted 28% of Africans in 2021 compared to 13% in 2017, has led to an increase in local consumers, according to the report titled Fashion Sector in Africa: Trends, Challenges and Growth Opportunities.
It is emphasized that the fashion sector has created new opportunities for the international development of African brands, whose annual exports of textiles, clothing and footwear amount to 15.5 billion US dollars. For Africa, fashion is a powerful driver of creativity, economic development and innovation, creating many jobs, especially for women and young people.
UNESCO wishes to ensure that the recommendations made in the report are implemented in order to support, stimulate and accelerate the growth of the African fashion sector. The report, which for the first time reviews the fashion industry at a continental level, also outlines the outlook for the future of the industry.
"Made in Africa" is increasingly popular, especially among young people under the age of 25, such as the Shiku, who make up 50% of the continent's total population, and among the growing middle class, which now makes up more than 35% of population discovering new consumer markets.
"They say we are not in Africa because we were born in Africa, but because Africa was born in us. Young people communicate through their choice of clothes and music. The only challenge we have is that high-end fashion clothes are slightly more expensive than mitumba (second-hand clothes imported into Kenya from the US and Europe),” notes Shiku.

Africa has also seen very rapid growth in the digital sector, facilitating intra-African trade and the emergence of young talent. As evidenced by the 32 fashion weeks held each year, Africa is also teeming with talent in high fashion, craft and apparel. A 42% increase in demand for African haute couture is expected over the next 10 years.
Equally important, the report highlights the economic and social opportunities created by the sector, 90% of which is made up of small and medium-sized enterprises whose profits directly benefit the population. The fashion sector can be a powerful springboard for achieving gender equality at a time when only 17% of the 3.5 million cotton farmers in the least developed African countries are women.
UNESCO organized an event that brought together various designers and strategic partners in the fashion sector to explore opportunities and synergies for the development of a dynamic industry in Africa. But also to find solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing the fashion industry.
These challenges include insufficient investment and infrastructure, incomplete intellectual property legislation and increased fabric sourcing costs. In addition, in Africa and elsewhere, the sector's environmental impact - one of the world's biggest sources of pollution - must be considered.
The report says that to build a stable and beneficial fashion ecosystem, governments and decision-makers need reliable data and the input of experts and civil society, emphasizing the need for public policies and practices that protect and support creators.
At the same time, the urgent need to encourage the development of fashion that is more sustainable and fairer, without forgetting to respect local skills and knowledge, is highlighted. In order for this sector to remain a driver of innovation and creativity, it must also reflect cultural diversity, including rich textile traditions./BGNES