Revitalizing African Fashion: Pioneering a Textile Revolution

In the dynamic core of Lagos, This is Us fashion studio is at the forefront, reshaping African fashion with contemporary Nigerian designs. Founder Oroma Cookey-Gam shares the remarkable journey of embracing locally sourced cotton, challenging the norms of an industry grappling with rediscovering its former glory.

The Ebb and Flow of the Textile Saga:

Once a thriving hub in the 60s and 70s, Nigeria’s textile industry, akin to its counterparts across Africa, experienced a downturn due to an influx of secondhand and foreign-made garments. Today, emerging fashion enterprises encounter hurdles in material sourcing, with ginneries often prioritizing bulk orders, leaving smaller ventures vying for recognition.

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The Cotton Quandary:

While Africa contributes two-thirds of the world’s cotton, an alarming 81% of it is exported from sub-Saharan countries. This export-centric model, as emphasized in a recent Unesco report, hampers the local growth of textile and fashion industries, missing out on significant economic opportunities.

A Plea for Strategic Policies and Investments:

Renowned designer Alphadi underscores the urgency for African governments to curtail textile imports and diversify production beyond cotton. Despite the global recognition of African fashion, there remains a critical dearth of policy and investor support. Alphadi points out that investors, buyers, and policymakers often struggle to grasp the unique challenges faced by African designers, impeding the industry’s true potential.

Navigating the Costly Landscape:

While the “Made in Africa” movement gains momentum, elevated production costs and dependence on imported textiles contribute to soaring prices. For example, This is Us offers designs ranging from £50 to £150, limiting accessibility for many on the continent. Alphadi advocates for addressing fundamental issues like local production capacity to foster a more sustainable industry.

Investment Strategies for Tomorrow:

Acknowledging the need for transformative measures, entities like the Impact Fund For African Creatives (IFFAC) are taking proactive steps. IFFAC supports sustainable fashion businesses, extending grants and investments of up to £1.7m. With the recent acquisition of a Ghanaian factory, IFFAC seeks to amplify local textile manufacturing capacity, nurturing a self-reliant industry.

Shaping the Future:

In the eyes of entrepreneurs like Oroma Cookey-Gam, African fashion emerges as a burgeoning force poised to positively impact lives and reshape the continent. As the industry strives to surmount challenges and unlock its true potential, the spotlight turns toward policymakers and investors, urging them to champion a renaissance in African textiles. This collective effort aims to empower the fashion sector, allowing it to flourish on its unique terms.

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