Over the past 10 years, the world has seen a surge in the demand for fashion outfits from various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and more specifically, Nigeria. This is directly connected to the emergence of the Nigerian entertainment industry (Music and Nollywood) as big players in the global space, thanks to technology that has allowed direct access to consumer distribution of music, music video, movies, and all sorts of content like never before.
Nigerian artists are quite proud to showcase fashion curated by various homegrown designers which connect to people of colour globally, as the expression of eclectic patterns, motifs, and styles speak to a culture lost that is booming to be reborn.
According to a report by Stears Business titled “The State of the Nigerian Fashion Industry in 2019”, the global fashion industry is worth over $2.5 trillion, with Africa’s share estimated at less than 1% of that amount. Digging further into that report, it also indicated that the Sub Saharan Fashion Industry is worth $31 billion, with Nigeria accounting for 15% of that amount ($4.7 billion). Those figures are low when compared to a country like South Africa, which has about 46% market share of the Sub Saharan Fashion Industry ($14.4 billion). Several factors contribute to Nigeria’s small market share, such as the low purchasing power of the average Nigerian. Also, Nigerian Fashionistas are unable to scale up production and distribution to the mass market at lower costs due to financing and infrastructure challenges (electricity and transportation networks), and the lack of a robust value chain of raw materials to finished products.
Looking at the above challenges, the Nigerian fashion industry has experienced a downturn in the projected growth that came out of interests that the global market expressed especially after movies such as Black Panther and The Queen of Katwe where African fashion was strongly illustrated. One can only ponder what ensuing effects and further challenges the current COVID19 pandemic will create. With restricted movements in major hubs such as Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun states which has created limited access to areas such as Aba in Abia state (a major center for the manufacturing of clothes in Nigeria), the fashion industry are among those that are going to get hit hard with a steep decline in revenue numbers.
Access to financing for scalability and control over the value chain has also slowed down due to the current disruption that every business entity is facing.
So, the question now is “how does the fashion industry stay afloat and relevant during these very challenging times?”
The solution could be taking a step back from addressing the apparent issues around mass-market production and focusing on what has worked up until this point, which has been the messaging and narrative created by the emotional attachments to fashion from Nigeria.
Essentially, Fashion Industry players need to focus on creating top of mind awareness using digital channels by hosting web-based VLOGs with scheduled programming. The VLOGs could cover topic areas such as “Tips for what to wear when working from home”, “Fashion redefined by Coronavirus”. They can also broadcast live and recorded virtual fashion shows with designs for Personal Protective Equipment (P.P.Es) with pattern designs for face masks and gloves.
At this moment, every industry affected by the pandemic is struggling to remain relevant. Depending on which lens with which you look at the spectrum of things from, members of the Nigerian Fashion Industry are in a prime position to respond with innovative solutions. These solutions will allow them to sustain during this lockdown, and recover and reboot post the pandemic with success achieved from deliberate decisions made to repurpose their business strategies in the times of a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous climate.
Senior Managing Consultant