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African fashion seduces Europe! Rama Diaw (middle) and her models present her collections in the old city of Würzburg during the 2016 Africa Festival. The Senegalese designer sold 2,500 dresses at the biggest festival of African music and culture in Europe. It is time African designers target international markets as well / © Bugs Steffen

Africa fashion designers change marketing strategies in the face of economic crisis

Designers in Africa have seen their business suffer as a result of the economic crisis which has hit the continent.

Many in different countries want to make fashion count as a burgeoning investment market and are looking at agencies to help them achieve their goal, as in Angola.

“It’s time for those in the government to try and revive the industry, we had a national fashion industry some years ago. It died. We need to wake up. We need the Ministry of Culture, we need the Ministry of Industry, we need the Ministry of Youth and Sports above all to be investing in the youth, to see the strength of youth to join us and we can give our ideas,” said Gloria Silva, a designer in Angola.

One strategy is to target exports to other African countries. That’s a tactic on which fashion designer Mzukisi Mbane has set his sights. From his base in South Africa he is looking for new customers across the continent.

“I started with going into Ghana. I did Nigeria. So I am looking at going into Kenya, yes the brand needs to be identified as a household brand in Africa before I can go over to the other side,” he explained.

Kenya’s Ujirani Mwema Community project- UMAC set out to boost local production of the Maasai blanket, a cultural checked fabric done in bright colours.

The community wants to counter lighter and cheaper versions of the blanket that are imported from China and have found their way into the local market. The workshop produces 40 blankets per day, which are sold in supermarkets, and has 10 employees.

“We have decided to discourage people from importing textiles. We have discovered that we are capable of producing the blankets ourselves so that we can sell them locally and internationally because we have a permit from the national and county government,” said Gertrude Nalianya from the project.

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