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CDI - Christian Dior SE News Story

€624 2.5  0.4%

Last Trade - 14/05/21

Sector
Consumer Cyclicals
Size
Large Cap
Market Cap £96.95bn
Enterprise Value £142.34bn
Revenue £38.46bn
Position in Universe 8th / 850

AFRICA BUSINESS-With African fashion in vogue, home talent shines

Fri 6th February, 2015 2:32pm
* Burberry, Louis Vuitton have Africa collections 
    * African designers starting to gain global status 
    * World has changing attitude towards Africa 
    * African countries struggle to trade with each other 
 
    By Joe Brock and Helen Nyambura-Mwaura 
    JOHANNESBURG, Feb 6 (Reuters) - When Michelle Obama and 
Beyonce Knowles attended high-profile events in clothes made by 
African designers, it was a sure sign that the continent's 
vibrant style has arrived on the world stage. 
    The showcasing of clothes from home-grown African designers 
in stores in New York, London and Tokyo is a sign of a broader 
change of attitude towards a continent which is earning a 
brighter reputation beyond stories of war and disease. 
    It has proven difficult for Africa's home grown designers to 
break into the mainstream fashion market because the perception 
has often been that products from the world's poorest continent 
are of low quality or just not cool. 
    Global fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent took 
inspiration from Africa decades ago and more recently brands 
like Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior have embraced 
the continent's style and broadened its appeal. 
    But consumers now want products made by Africans, not 
replicas produced by Western clothing chains, according to 
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, who owns Ethiopian shoe company, 
soleRebels, which has a dozen stores from Singapore to Greece. 
    "The global consumer today is hyper-aware. They want 
authentic and innovative ideas delivered from the authors of 
those ideas," Bethlehem said. 
    "We have always had incredible design and production talent 
here, but it was invisible. That is changing."     
    In 2010, the first annual New York African Fashion Week gave 
home-grown designers the chance to showcase their work on the 
world stage. 
    Global celebrities have endorsed African designers including 
Nigerian label Maki-Oh, Ghana's Osei-Duro and South Africa-based 
retailer Kisua.com. 
    Nigerian lawyer-turned-designer Duro Olowu has become a 
well-known name in fashion circles and has a collection at U.S. 
department store J.C. Penney and his own boutique store in 
central London. 
    "It was a good thing to see international designers putting 
African fashion on the map," said Ghanaian entrepreneur Samuel 
Mensah, who quit his job as a fund manager to launch online 
clothes retailer Kisua.com. 
    "Now we're starting to see Africa taking ownership of its 
own cultural assets. African designers are being noticed. They 
are stocked in international stores." 
             
    CHALLENGES AT HOME    
    While attitudes abroad have changed the industry is also 
trying to meet latent demand for quality fashion among the 
growing middle-class at home. 
    "The change has been brought about by global developments, 
both economical change and a communication change," said Roger 
Gerards, creative director at Vlisco, one of the world's biggest 
producers of African fabric. 
    "People see other countries and other cultures more easily 
than 20 years ago because of social media," Gerards added.     
    Sub-Saharan Africa is the second fastest growing economic 
region in the world behind Asia and has a rapidly growing 
middle-class who have more access to world trends as mobile 
phones and the Internet reach tens of millions more people every 
year. 
    The industry has chosen to focus on middle-class consumers 
who value traditional manufacturing methods and local materials 
because it cannot compete with cheap mass-produced imports. 
    The lack of investment in infrastructure and a failure of 
African governments to agree favourable trade agreements with 
each other have seen imports continue to rise. 
    China has grown its share of Africa's clothing imports from 
16 percent in 2001 to 55 percent in 2013, while intra-African 
trade has remained flat at around 10 percent of imports, 
according to International Trade Centre data.  
    Even companies that are showcasing African talent often have 
to rely on resources outside the continent. Vlisco is based in 
the Netherlands, while Kisua.com only gets half of its materials 
from within Africa. 
    "It is easier for me to serve a client in New York or London 
than in Lagos or Nairobi," said Mensah, who struggles with 
reliable warehousing and postal services in Africa. 
 
 (Editing by James Macharia and Elaine Hardcastle) 
 ((joe.brock@thomsonreuters.com; +27117753142; Reuters 
Messaging: joe.brock.thomsonreuters@reuters.net)) 
 
Keywords: AFRICA FASHION/
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