Fashionomics online network set to help Africa's designers collaborate & grow

01 December 2016 - 18:25 By Roxanne Henderson

Fashion is big business and the African Development Bank (AfDB) wants economies on the continent to cash in on the billions to made.

For this to happen‚ however‚ Africa's fragmented fashion industry needs to be unified.

“There's a lot of beautiful crafty fabric that gets developed on the continent but having access to that means you're going to have to go on a fact-finding mission. You're going to spend a hell of a lot of money to get into those markets and meet the individuals that are producing them‚” says fashion entrepreneur and founder of luxury brand the Naked Ape‚ Shaldon Kopman.

Today 10 top countries in Africa rake in US$2.5 billion in apparel exports‚ representing only 0.55% of the global figure. In the next decade‚ the global fashion industry is expected to double‚ generating up to $5-trillion‚ the AfDB says.

Kopman and his designer colleagues say creating ease of intercontinental trade will go a long way to increasing Africa's piece of the pie.

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The launch of AfDB's online platform‚ is intended to do just that.

A prototype of the website is currently live and provides fashion industry players with access to research reports‚ details of design schools‚ access to funding models and financing sources and lists of jobs and business opportunities in the sector.

It also provides a forum where industry players can talk and online tutorials for upskilling people.

The free online initiative has been welcomed by designers like Kopman‚ who say their greatest challenges are financing and collaboration with others in the fashion value chain.

Fashion veteran Clive Rundle‚ who has shown his collections on the runways of New York and Italy‚ says access to funding and a lack of financial know-how are challenges for many designers.

“If the designer doesn't have the financial acumen‚ they are incapacitated. They literally have to rely on someone who has huge financial acumen and costs money. Then they have to bear the cost of making an application [for financing] that comes in too late for them to apply it to their current projects.”

Rundle says a platform like Fashionomics will share information that will arm those in the industry with the knowledge to keep up in a world of fashion just keeps moving.

For Kopman‚ the platform will cut down on the money he spends travelling to source materials by giving him access to a network of suppliers.

“It's all about the growth of fashion on the continent and to grow‚ you require networks.”