The Misconceptions Our Ghanaian Designers Have About Succeeding Abroad

by Nana Tamakloe
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Recently, there is this a trend following across Ghanaian designers who continue to chase fashion shows abroad. Some will pay $2000 or more to showcase at events abroad. In many cases the hefty money they pay even excludes their travel and accommodation expenses.

 

Not only do they incur much costs, but its very bad management of resources as well as it yield little to no benefits. Yes, it does sound nice when one returns to their country and can brag about showcasing in Milan, London, Ney York or Paris with pictures on their social media, but designers really need to understand there is no success for them abroad without any success in Ghana and let’s analyse why.

Most of the main fashion capitals have their big great brands. They have their Tom Fords, their Versace, Their Viviene Westwoods, their Dolce And Gabana, and so forth. Each of them having top brands such as these that have conquered their markets. Then you have the next level of designers making headlines. They might not be international but they are just as big locally and setting trends enough for them to establish major fashion houses. Then you got the level of designers below them who are making a good living with their one to one style of clients with stores and advertising here and there, before you have the upcoming ones on their fashion weeks that people now see potential in and are just getting by ready to conquer.

All of which are participating in their fashion weeks, spending much on their branding, making connections, competing amongst themselves, having shops around the corners from main streets to high streets to small towns. TV adverts, magazines, blogs, fliers, posters, photo shoots, bilboards all sorts of promotion in cities that are heavily involved in supporting their own brands. When you really look at it like that, Ghanaian and many African designers need to ask themselves, how much effect do you believe the one time fashion show you executed in the said foreign country will have on your branding.




Ghanaian designer fashion is fairly new to the buyer culture and everytime there is a fashion show they constantly as the one question, are buyers going to be there. For one, I commend this improvement, that the fashion consciousness is rising and now our designers are more concerned about the buyers in attendance and not only the celebrities. But what our designers are not considering is buyers are also in their own leagues with their own questions, like “if they buy your clothes what is going to make people buy it from their shops?”.

Beautiful fashion by the late Kofi Ansah, Ghana's first international designer

Beautiful fashion by the late Kofi Ansah, Ghana’s first international designer

What branding are you doing to make your clothes that much more appealing to their clientele. When designer ‘Kweku Klodding’ is stocked, which of their Italian clients will walk in the next morning and ask….”do you sell Kweku Klodding?”

In order to achieve that effect one must have consistent promotion, advertising and branding in the said base or else one is just wasting their time showcasing. You can not assume a one off show in New York, Milan, London, or where ever else is going to get to insert you in their fashion trends and gain tremendous buyers there. This might only be possible if there is a stockist that specializing in African fashion, and to be more specific, African brands. Which falls back on your ability to brand here in Ghana.

The problem we have here is designers who have made a little name for themselves here (and I repeat little because the only people who know the top brand names here are actually those who are in the fashion circles), is that they are quick to try and disassociate themselves from the fashion scene as to imply a certain status.

At times, disassociation from certain factors, shows, events, can be helpful towards your brand, but with a very young industry one needs to be cautious, only real management should help decide that, because this is also partially a large reason why brands come and disappear given space to new talent to take their spots.

Designers making it the countries you admire to seek sales and buyers in are selling. Their growth is proportional with their sales and clientele. It’s a harmonious growth where they are based, their disassociation is a natural one, one which eventually they are forced to subdue to due to their business levels, financial plans, associations and network circles. Ghanaian designers fighting to be exclusive even before the time permist. Yes they have a serious battle of not finding themselves in boutiques and no buyer culture in Ghana as of yet however, to attempt to grow outside of the country is like a tree growing without roots.

The only alternative is unless one is ready to relocate, and then ask yourself this question, what are your chances of beating the competition there with institutions and associations that are catered to support their own so much so that our malls are filled with their foreign brands, compared to establishing monopoly in Ghana as a top brand. If you ask me, a fresh base in such a new market for our own brands is much easier and definitely much cheaper. The $2000 plus dollars one spends for a simple showcase can dominate internet promotion, local promotion, pre production, or distribution if well planned.

A similar story was when we began with our FashionGHANA.com blog. And looked over the photoshoots, the top models in the country, and some of the disorganized fashion shows. Our first question was can we, and should we be blogging this? But at the end of the day FashionGHANA.com wouldn’t have been FashionGHANA.com if we refused to have embraced the growth of our Fashion industry here.

Yes it is true in this internet age one can tickle the interests of foreigners with online promotion and sales, but Designers need to understand they are part of the Ghanaian fashion industry. Despite their woes, competitors, let downs and enemies, it’s the Ghanaian people that gave them the name they have.

Showcasing abroad when invited is definitely beautiful for branding, networking and getting your name in the water, but it is best to reconsider when one spends much money to execute this. To assume they can undercut and achieve success abroad automatically whilst not having a strong economical base in their country or where they are based is ludicrous. And this has been done by no designer ever. Make your economic mark here, and then hit the runways abroad.

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