Investment Opportunities For Fabrics In Nigeria’s Fashion Industry

Investment Opportunities For Fabrics In Nigeria’s Fashion Industry

There are investment opportunities in Nigeria for international fabrics and textile makers, according to a Lagos-based fashion entrepreneur who’s struggling to compete with international brands, VenturesAfrica reports.

Ose Okpamen is creative director of Hollerose, a contemporary high-end, ready-to-wear fashion brand launched in June 2012. Hollerose has two collections; one, inspired by the classic European fashion era and the second inspired by a punk theme, VenturesAfrica reports.

But locals haven’t bought into the idea of buying local when it comes to high-end fashion, and a dearth of quality international fabrics on the market is part of the reason, the report said.

Customer trust is one of the challenges facing new brands in the local Nigerian fashion industry, Okpamen said. Customers seem to prefer foreign brands to local brands and there is price resistance on the part of the consumer. “Most buyers have a perception that the Nigerian designer is out to make ridiculous profit which in most cases just isn’t true.”

Okpamen said the average Nigerian is brand conscious “for reasons best attributed to snob appeal. They would rather buy a well-established or foreign brand than a start-up brand even if the quality is good, therefore as a newbie in the industry, your brand has to be welcomed and accepted by those the public generally accept as cool before you can win them over.”

There is also the issue of perception. “The average Nigerian still can’t imagine you (the designer) as a budding Stella McCartney or H&M,” Okpamen said. “You are still viewed as a ‘glorified tailor’ or at best an aso-ebi designer.”

Aso-ebi is defined as “cloth of the family,” according to AllAboutNaijaWeddings. It refers to outfits made from matching fabric and patterns worn by family members at weddings or social events to denote unity and support. Aso-ebi fabrics are typically of ankara or lace with occasional head ties (gele). The aso-ebi phenomenon is not strictly Nigerian — it applies to many tribes and countries in Africa.

There are not many retailers willing to stock local fashion brands or fabrics and those that do charge high prices for floor space and commissions, Okpamen said.

“I made a dress for my last collection using duchess satin and georgette, we did a local African ‘tinko’ embroidery on the bodice and a model wore it on the red carpet. However, it’s almost impossible to find that fabric in the market now because the merchant has finished selling his stock. But major wholesalers abroad have variety of these fabrics in large quantities.”

Okpamen calls for policies that encourage big quality fabric merchants abroad to come set up businesses in Nigeria. This is not a popular view, she said. “People always frown at this and say we are not helping our local textile industries but I disagree. We are well aware that there is a global acceptance of the ankara print right now, but it doesn’t have to be done only on cotton. If we have merchants here that sold luxury fabrics like worsted wool, silks, crepes, the ankara print can also be done on these fabrics.”

Policy makers pay marginal attention to rookie fashion entrepreneurs and there are limited resources and technical guidance for fast-tracking growth and sustained success, Okpamen said.

Okpamen plans to launch a bridal line soon.

“Our aim is to be a global luxury brand of choice from Africa,” she said.