Control Freaks Are Limiting the Growth of African Fashion Weeks

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Ghana Fashion Weekend by Exopa

This article will probably offend many fashion week organisers in Africa, mainly those that do not wish to learn or improve. So far, I have written a few insight articles that have rubbed some people up the wrong way, the article on the Ghana’s Chaotic modelling ‘industry’, where I made some models and agents unhappy. Then there was the article on African textiles which I am quite glad it has climbed it’s way to the popular ‘view’ list on the left panel. Anyways that rubbed some bloggers up the wrong way to. Now unfortunately I think I might just do that to African orientated fashion week organizers. Hopefully the innovative ones will take this as a ways to reconstruct their events.

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This article takes a look at where Africa is limited with it’s fashion weeks compared to that of the main fashion capitals. Organizers shouldn’t be offended by the title, we had to catch your attention. We recognize the efforts, hardwork and concerns of ‘some‘ fashion week organizers.  They carry a heavy load, however they might just be carrying this heavy load in the wrong direction. Before we look at what African organizers are doing wrong in comparison to mainstream fashion weeks, there are a few areas we have to admit affects their ability to organize a fashion week outside of their control, and they are…
1/ the amount of money these designers are making,
2/ the amount of government support the countries receive,
3/ the amount of sponsors that are interested in Fashion weeks.

However, these obstacles do not defy the fact most of our fashion weeks are composed by people that do not understand the ethics, ethos, structures and composure of a fashion week which is meant to uplift the status of the nations fashion industry.

Fashion weeks in Africa literally consists of one person and their group/organisation, who usually hire out one venue. Then contacts some designers they know because they have to fill the space, then promote the event. They are usually faced with difficulties to surpass more than 3-4 days of worth of shows. Some even find it hard reaching those numbers and usually end up having to give space to designers for free, all whilst executing a 2 say event.

Ghana Fashion Weekend by Exopa
Ghana Fashion Weekend by Exopa

Meaning that there is a good number of designers getting free rides from African fashion weeks, so bad there is a culture of actually flying designers in to participate, just for the organizers to claim their international capacity when it should be the other way round with the designers chasing the space.

Fashion weeks in Africa hardly create business access or platforms for designers. Neither do most give fair opportunities to others who are not associates or personal friends of the organizer, it is simply who we know, who we want, who we like and who we will highlight with this nations titled project. And if that person has participated in a fashion show by your competitor, they can’t work with you. There is no straight process for participation, it is simply who is friends with who and or has connections to the organizer, if not, you might need to fork out more money than usual.

UK based Designer Adebayo @ Congo Fashion Week
UK based Designer Adebayo @ Congo Fashion Week

In hindsight, many will say but that’s how fashion weeks are organised, and the only difference is the size of the organisations to be able to execute a bigger event, WRONG!!! I’ll take this time to expand using London Fashion Week as an example. And whilst doing so you will easily identify the enormous weakness and limitations of fashion weeks in Africa.

Fashion weeks in the main capitals are a composition of various show organizers, pr companies, design organisations, designer agencies, schools and more, all coming together to display their talents, creativity, and designs within a set tourist and fashion orientated events in week, that is heavily popularized by one organisation. Unlike Africa this organization hardly organizes events, they organize the organizers of events. The same organisation responsible for the international promotion of the week is also that which organizes the schedule of all the fashion shows and activities taking place during the week by various event organizers, to make sure there are no outstanding clashes. In London for example, this is the British Fashion Council (BFC), and the calendar of events in this case is known as the on-schedule shows. All shows on this schedule are the shows of the main/top designers. So for those who think at least South Africa is doing it right, unfortunately not.

Notice the difference! Fashion Week organizers of the fashion capitals are not necessarily fashion show organizers, they schedule the timing of the various fashion shows organised by the various fashion show organizers. They alert all the fashionista’s of their magnificent internationally publicized week with a designers timetable known as on-schedule shows. And from this point on the whole world focuses their attention on this week, and the visitors during the week go from event to event, from venue to venue, from designer to designer, seeing various shows with various models taking place in various venues in the capital, organized by various show organizers etc.

All shows that exist outside of this schedule is known as off-schedule shows. These are smaller London Fashion Week shows not necessarily authorized by the BFC nor on their publicized timetable, however, the alternative organizers are in their full rights to capitalize of this period. At times, you might even have celebrity designers or major designers do off-schedule shows to.

The BFC doesn’t take any responsibility in auditioning models for the main shows, nor deciding how a designer will exhibit, and all other event matters. They simply create the calendar of shows to ensure the top on-schedule designer shows are fairly spread across the week.. Then they pr and promote the week, fund and sponsor various activities based on their received sponsorship, leaving whatever happens on the runway to the event organizers and their designers. With this said, there are tonnes of auditions by the various organizers, lots of pr organisations working for various designers that are promoting their own show resulting to the mass popularity of the fashion week, compare that opposed to 1 organisation’s capabilities. This is how the jobs flow in making a real fashion week lucrative.

Burberry's catwalk show at London fashion week
Burberry’s catwalk show at London fashion week

Various buyers, celebrities and more are guested at many shows to see new collections, some invited by the the main fashion week organizers, some by the designers, and some who come at their own will. The result is then a large cohesive unified result of many event organizer’s efforts, abilities and capabilities, all making one international extraordinary fashion week, with shows in different venues, locations and so forth. Do you now see the difference? African fashion week organizers simply try to do this all by themselves with a 5-8 man team, a facebook account and twitter page.

Malabo Fashion Week in Equatorial Guinea
Malabo Fashion Week in Equatorial Guinea

This is why the fashion events are not well sustained with the exception of a few that most likely will not survive without sponsors. Because the designers become subjects of the show as opposed to initiators, marketers, promoters, and their own pr agents and celebrity guest organizers. All simply because the fashion week organizers of events are also the event organizers. They do not arrange or schedule the activities and show, they simply control all the shows.

Therefore in Africa, the only responsibility of the designers is to simply bring their clothes, do a bow at the end, a few interviews and that’s it really. They have no need to further the project because it’s not theirs, nor at their cost. Most designers don’t even republish fashion week pictures on their social media. Neither is the failure of the event at their individual expense. It is also why you can buy one ticket and you can watch everything, because simply you are attending a fashion show that could be executed in 2 hours, spread over a couple days. It also means that to view the work of one or two designers, you are going to have to sit through 24 of them.

This limiting approach to organizing fashion weeks is either the result of 1/ an egotistical monopolistic power grabbing approach where one wants to be in control and won’t work with others. 2/ doesn’t realize the necessities of growth because they are caught up in trying to do what they see on the front end of mainstream fashion weeks instead of understanding structure and necessity. or 3/ possibly the approach of individuals that have more to learn. People don’t fly over to fashion weeks in Africa, fashion weeks in Africa fly people over.

Model Angela Egbadon of Erigks Models @ Ghana Fashion & Design Week
Model Angela Egbadon of Erigks Models @ Ghana Fashion & Design Week: photo by ACCRA dot Alt

There are so many flaws in organizing such fashion weeks. For example some buyers are also very busy and know exactly what they want, such fashion weeks force them to sit through some shows they might have no interest in at all. Also the fashion week organizer now becomes responsible for paying a whole host of models, a lot of venue costs, creatives, make up artists, photographers, pr agents, when truly most of this should be at the expense of designers and they benefit from buyers. Only for the same designers to later hound the organizers at the end for the limited contributions to their success.

Yes we can applaud some impressive events, but this is not a realistic approach to a fashion week. I am not a designer, but if I was and I came across such fashion weeks, I would rather act rogue, work around their designer schedule and organize my own personal show, well advertised even bigger whilst capitalizing off the attention. Why? Because that way I would capitalize on the ability to advertise and invite their tourist guests and attendees and also to have my own space, reaping just as much benefit or even more than their showcasing designers. In fact, I dearly advise designers and event organizers to do just such when restrictive behavior is present. By the time they realize, the fashion week will be out of their hands if they do not think of the nation as opposed to their egos.

The bottom line is Fashion Week should be seen more as a festive season of fashion in a particular capital, kind of like a carnival of fashion going on for a number of days. The only responsibility and where business should be created by owners of the fashion week brand goes as follows.
1/ Provide a basic financial and skilled criteria for designer applications. Then 2/ Communicate with fashion houses, fashion show organizers, designers, and so forth to appoint a perfect week where all can come and put their events exhibitions and shows together. Then 3/ Take responsibility for developing the final schedule of designers and design activities and promote heavily to your targeted visitors, buyers, fashionistas and out of town tourists.

Then after 5/ utilize your financial sponsorship to enhance the international presence of the fashion week. Alternatively sponsorship such as venue, transport, accommodation, food, beverages, can be provided to the benefits of some designers.

Now picture in Africa, designers, press, visitors, buyers, fashionistas and more, all flying in from different countries for a fashion week in an Africa country, based on the strength of various organizations. WOW! Right?

This way, you bring the country together, you give everyone a fair chance, and you actually make a difference as opposed to just aiming for the spotlight for yourself in a regressive situation. I’m not in objection to what is already going on, and have actually been impressed by some fashion weeks. But let’s aim higher. FashionGHANA.com will continue to support all efforts to push African fashion, but still reserve the right to long for such a development and blog it.

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