Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is internationally renowned for having hosted, up to 2008, the most important rally in the world. However, for the past 15 years, it has been considered as the African fashion capital. And this is where one of the most important events in this sector takes place annually, the Dakar Fashion Week. The latest edition, held in June 2016, reunited 20 stylists from ten nationalities and launched new fashion proposals to the market, such as Inass Saghdaoui, Moroccan, who has been noteworthy for her asymmetric shapes and unconventional materials utilized in her creations. Designers and buyers from various regions, such as Johannesburg, Casablanca, and Lagos go there seeking original designs and also multiple trends the local fashion provides.
Daker Fashion Week has not only possibly placed Senegal on the international fashion map but the country is also recognized as a place populated by elegant people. “We have always been a fashionable country. But fashion in a traditional manner. We have always worn the “boubou” [a local typical outfit] and we even make things out of silk. Now, as years have gone by, we have introduced modernity”, confirms Adama Paris, stylist. She was original name in the Congo was Adama Amanda Ndiaye, she created the event in 2002. She is the daughter of a Senegalese diplomats and lived in France with her family and then she became interested in fashion when was still quite young. She quit her job in a bank and returned to Senegal. “Don’t you have a Fashion Week like in France?” she remembers asking at that time. “And they told me they didn’t. So, I created one”.
The event began just funded by Adama’s own money, but now we count on diverse sponsors and coverage from large-scale press vehicles, such as the Vogue Magazine and The New York Times newspaper. “People know me, but there is still a struggle for getting financial support. But, I know it is easier now than when I first started”, she compares “My reputation on the continent has been made this way, by speaking about my project with influential people. Now I am fighting a great deal to get funding and economic perks from the industry. We are not just designing fashion for the sake of fashion”.
According to Adama, Dakar Fashion Week has sought to go beyond just fashion shows and is trying to organize and professionalize the fashion sector on the continent. There have been meetings with designers and business people resulting in the creation of a television program on fashion, featuring her and also the creation of the African Federation of Fashion Designers. “We have met to define next year’s fashion calendar for Africa”, she reveals. The idea is to prepare a calendar including such important events on the continent as: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Lagos Fashion and Design Week (LFDW), held in Nigeria, Angola Fashion Week (AFW) and the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA), created by Alphadi, in Nigerian by the stylist in 1998, sponsored by Unesco, and even other editions can be held in various countries.
“I think African fashion is growing quite a lot and quickly”, evaluates Adama Paris. “The local production is a great opportunity for everybody, because our continent is so vast and there are so many resources. And the costs here are lower than in Europe”. During the course of the 15 years of Dakar Fashion Week, it has already reunited at least one thousand 200 professionals from the fashion industry. “Investors are looking at Africa and now we have the opportunity to make joint business ventures. We are tired of seeing people who come to our country and taking all our resources away from us. Now, I am part of this generation that wants its own fashion”.
In April 2015, at the São Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW) the Africa Africans Fashion was on the catwalks. On that occasion, the visitors could check out five African stylists on the catwalks: Palesa Mokubung (South Africa), Amaka “Maki” Osakwe (Nigeria), Jamil Walji (Kenya), Xuly Bët (Mali) and Imane Ayissi (Cameroun). The idea of the organizers of the show was to trace a panorama on the contemporary visual designs of the African continent through the artist works arising from diverse countries.
“We put the most contemporary on display related to African fashion design, through the individuality of each stylist. It was also extremely important to make Africa achieve closer relations with Brazil, where Black culture is so ever present and important”, said the Nigerian editor and art director Andy Okoroafor, who was the curator of the Show. “We wish African fashion to be understood and absorbed by the Brazilian public in general and also by the Afro-Brazilian stylists”, Emanoel Araujo commented, curatorial director of the Afro-Brazil Museu, who is a partner of SPFW in this initiative. “I am glad to put on display my designs and participate in a project to disclose African culture”, stated Palesa Mokubung, the South African. She was in São Paulo participating in the Exhibit, together with her colleagues Jamil Walji and Amaka “Maki” Osakwe. Currently, in spite of being called the Rally Dakar, the famous Rally event takes place annually in South American countries; as well as the African style, which are sought to transverse the ocean and conquer new followers.
3 Trillions of dollars is the approximate amount the fashion industry transacts annually, including the textile, wearing apparel, footwear, and luxury fashion sectors. The source of this information is from the World Trade Organization (WTO). There are an overall 59 million people employed in the textile sector.
Kaftan, the traditional Moroccan fashion
Contrary to Dakar Fashion Week that wagers on global markets, Caftan du Maroc is an event focused on promoting traditional kaftan Moroccan fashion, a type of handmade tunic or robe. This has been in progress for 21 years partnering with the country’s government, the event is held in various world capitals, such as Paris, London, and Amsterdam.
“The activities are planned to provide the visitors an imaginary escape to distant lands, to a world of beautiful clothing, unforgettable cuisine, and romantic entertainment and sounds”, explains Loubna Ennadir, directress of the North American edition that was held in Washington DC last November. The fashion show displayed 25 models by six renowned stylists. The US$ 185 dollar entrance fee also included a typical Moroccan dinner.
Ethiopia: the large fashion factory
In search of competiveness and generating jobs, in such countries as Ethiopia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Ghana, and South Africa, this country has invested in implementing wearing apparel and footwear factories. The Hawassa industrial park was inaugurated in Ethiopia in June 2016 and it provides 1.3 million square meters of space and houses 21 clothing, fabric, purses/bags, and footwear factories, which will double the job positions for Ethiopians in this sector. The space will generate 1 billion dollars in exportation revenues, 10 times greater than the current volume.
The new industrial park once it is completely operating will generate 60,000 job positions in one single location, more than the current 53,000 industrial textile jobs nowadays in Ethiopia. It was built by the Chinese China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation for 250 million dollars, invested by the Ethiopian government; the industrial park is located 275 kilometers from Addis Ababa, the capital city.
Hawassa provides enormous industrial sheds for meeting the needs of international manufactures, but there are even smaller industrial sheds for Ethiopian fashion companies and from other African counties as well. There are such fashion companies as PVH Corp. (owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands), the giant Swiss fast-fashion H&M company, and the Chinese Wuxi Jinmao Foreign Trade Company, as these are among the 15 foreign companies renting industrial sheds in the park, as well as others from India, Sri Lanka, and China, as well as six Ethiopian companies.
Ethiopia is nowadays at the center of the attention of global companies due to the low overhead compared to its main competitors, such as China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Besides that, the country also has the potential to become a source of raw materials: there is over 3.2 million hectares of land including an appropriate climate or growing cotton and other natural fibers; although, only 7% of the land is currently being harnessed for crop growing.