Do we have a Fashion Industry in Ghana?
Often times we may have come across or heard someone mentioning the “Fashion Industry” in their conversation and one may wonder who or what makes up the fashion industry.
In the last few years working and keenly following fashion in Ghana, I have become accustomed to seeing individual creatives and people doing their own “small thing” to build a brand for themselves. Yet, we complain about not having an industry. We complain not having an organization that speaks to the challenges facing entrepreneurs and young businesses and not having the support needed to build global brands.
It is often being said that the fashion industry is a million-dollar industry. According to the McKinsey Global Fashion Index 2016, the global fashion industry worth is estimated at $2.4 trillion. With that said, Africa only accounts for a small portion of that. One may wonder why that is the case looking at all the attention African Fashion has received in the last few years.
So, then what is the fashion industry about and how important is it to have a robust fashion industry?
As referenced in the book “The Dynamics of Fashion” there are four levels of the fashion industry: the primary level of textile production, including mills and yarn makers; the secondary level of designers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and vendors; the retail level, which includes all types of stores and distribution points of sale; and also a fourth level—the auxiliary level—which connects each of the other levels via the press, advertising, research agencies, consultants, and fashion forecasters who play a part in the merchandise’s progression to the end consumer.
The Fashion Industry as a business is much broader and does not only include clothing, accessories and footwear but rather manufacturing and textiles, importing and exporting, marketing and promotion, wholesale distribution, retail and branding. All of each player contributing their quota to establishing and growing a strong fashion industry.
In the Ghana case, for instance, we have no doubt these levels of the supply chain are available. What seems to be the challenge is the unavailability of a body or organization that will have the mandate to oversee the interconnectivity of these levels and serve the interest of all industry players.
Countries like Nigeria and South Africa have become the frontrunners of the African Fashion in terms of putting together good quality fashion shows featuring a high calibre of designers and have managed to some extent created their own fashion industry that works.
For instance, the British Fashion Council which has as its main goal to promote British fashion design in both the UK and internationally also has as its primary activity to organize the London Fashion Week twice every year.
And twice every year, we witness how the major cities such as New York, London, Milan and Paris cash in on the most prominent fashion weeks as it gathers all the big players in global fashion. They are called the “Big Four” and have been hosting the major fashion weeks for many years and reaping millions of financial benefits for their countries.
Where is the Ghanaian fashion industry? Who is supervising all the fashion events we have across the country. How are people making money from their fashion businesses not just as designers but also models, photographers, bloggers, PR practitioners, makeup artists, stylists, event organizers etc?
I have heard of organizations which were established in the past with the objective to create a unifying platform for all that matters but have all gone into redundancy. Perhaps they did not have a clear mandate of what they want to pursue or rather suffered from a broken system.
Thankfully with social media, some brands are managing to earn global attention as a result of the work they put out there. But it is not enough. How can designers get the opportunity to promote Ghanaian fashion internationally? For a few that have managed to do that, maybe as a result of their personal connections and capabilities.
With 2 major fashion weeks coming up in the next month, Glitz Africa Fashion Week and Accra Fashion Week, I wish it won’t be the same old things we have been used to but rather a new direction that will move towards creating a desirable fashion industry. No industry survives just by living off its own products. We need to promote and export Ghanaian fashion.