FADAN rolls out challenges facing fashion industry in Nigeria to visiting World Bank team - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Thursday, 29 December 2016

FADAN rolls out challenges facing fashion industry in Nigeria to visiting World Bank team

Recently, the body co-ordinating the fashion industry in Nigeria, received very special visitors. They came all the way from Washington DC, USA, and they were interested in how to support the fashion industry in Nigeria.

It was an occasion to share lots of ideas and at the end of the epoch making meeting at the National Arts Theatre in Lagos, FADAN had good news to share and to celebrate. FADAN now has a working partner in the World Bank.

Below is are the challenges that FADAN put forward to the visiting team.
Leading the FADAN team, Mrs Funmi Ajila-Ladipo shares important note with the visitors

As an emerging industry, Nigeria’s fashion industry should be a determining factor in our economy and for this to happen we need to clearly understand how it can work.

The structure of the fashion industry is centered around the designers, as there will be no fashion industry without them. Everything else like models, modelling agencies, tailors, fashion photographers, fashion schools, fashion retailers, fashion magazines are built around them.Fashion designers however make different categories of clothes, there are mainly three categories but it can be broken down into more parts, but the three main ones are Haute Couture, Prêt a Porter (ready- to -wear) and High Street fashion.


This is one of the biggest challenges faced by the fashion industry in Nigeria today.
It has become obvious that the government would rather fund other projects where they believe they can yield the most revenue, than the fashion industry which they do not believe is pertinent. Furthermore, private organizations and individuals are hesitant to sink money in business they too believe they cannot profit from. Therefore, the fashion industry is left funded by the few affluent individuals with the passion for designing, or those that can afford to give out to aspiring designers. The number of these people willing to give are few in comparison to what can be innovatively done in the fashion industry in Nigeria.

The government does give few grants to the industry, but these are poorly publicized. In all, the lack of fund leads to low productivity in all aspects of the fashion design industry in Nigeria. It is to be understood that the fashion industry is like a machinery, complete with little and big parts (such as fashion media, retail hubs, production, etc) that operate in synchronization and it just cannot work seamlessly without adequate funding.


This another problem of the fashion industry in Nigeria. It can be noted that there are over a hundred and one people who own a sewing machine in a store compartment and advertise their professionalism in a business that in real sense are terrible at doing. These people have ruined the concept of ‘fashion design’. There are series of relatable pictures which have broken the internet showing an outfit one gives a ‘tailor’ to make and a very poor result as the final turn out. It is safe to say that there are a lot of people flaunting their machines with magazines on styles they cannot reproduce. Fashion design, to be candid, is more than dubbing a style off a magazine. But, if you cannot dub a style perfectly off a magazine, what are the chances you can make up a captivating style of your own? 

The number of people offering service on fashion designing are unfortunately a lot more than those who have truly passionate and capable of offering these services. This leads to a situation where the industry is not taken as seriously as it should.


For a country with an estimated population of 155 million, the demand for fashion goods is not commensurate with the available supply and Nigerians spend a fortune trying to make up for it on the international fashion scene. This probably explains why the Lagos – London route is one of the most commercial routes for both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in the world. It also shows that the existence of so many street style, front retail stores/shops/boutiques does not equate to having an adequate and functioning retail environment. The fashion retail business is so much more than this and can function through many avenues such as the high street, department stores, boutiques, concession stores, e-commerce, pop up stores etc. What percentage of this do we have in Nigeria at the moment? As long as the diverse fashion needs of the people can not be met by what prevails in the retail industry, fashion retail as we know it, will have little or nothing to contribute to the economic growth of the nation and will always be relegated to the background as a sector with little or no importance.On the other hand, the fashion industry is not strong enough to do anything on its own so Nigeria as a nation must rise up and make a decision to establish a proper retail industry through the support of Nigerian designers, which can in turn encourage foreign direct investment in the fashion industry as long as there is stability in government and its policies.


On a basic level, Nigeria’s Textile and Clothing supply chain works in five straight forward methods. First, producers [agricultural] of raw materials, in this case cotton, grow cotton. Next, they gin the cotton. Third, they sell the cotton to the fabric designers. At this stage is where fabric production occurs as the designers spin yarns, weave, knit, dye, print and finish fabrics. In the Western fashion supply chain, at this stage, auxiliary services such as advertising and promotion are undertaken to actively promote the designed fabrics. Nigeria’s fabric designers have no such luxury. After fabric design/production, comes the fourth step which is fashion design/production. Here, Nigerian fashion designers purchase the designed fabrics which they then cut, trim and make into designs.

The fifth and final step in the supply chain is exporting and retailing of finished goods. In the West, once designs are produced, they are showcased in showrooms in major markets allowing fashion buyers the opportunity to check and purchase for their retail stores: department, chain, specialty or discount. In contrast, in Nigeria, 99% of fashion designers retail directly to their clientele. There are no retail giants, specialty, chain or discount stores. In the past five years, there has been an emergence of design boutiques. For the most part, however, these boutiques are designer owned. For instance, MOMO, Deola Sagoe and Tiffany Amber own their own boutiques. For boutiques that might be synonymous with Western ones i.e. non-designer owned, they stock primarily foreign designs from Europe, Italy being a favorite. Further, for the Nigerian designer, retailing to market women in Oshodi, for example, is not an option as the designs are simply unaffordable by the average Nigerian woman.


Power in Nigeria is a huge challenge for most industries including the fashion industry. The costs of fueling generators overweigh the retail prices of the piece of clothing or material to be sold. However due to this major challenge, fashion designers have to run generators for a long period of time thereby spending excess money on fuel and slows down the production hub. In cases like fuel scarcity  and erratic supply of electricity by the government a fashion designer doesn’t want to be found wanting in delivering his/her product. Power is one major aspect that should be looked intoas it has seriously limited the potential for growth in the fashion industry.


There is the need for government to support the fashion value chain through policy and legal framework to help create jobs.National Intellectual Property Offices should be continually strengthened in order to establish effective synergies with various ministries and government agencies, such as the Ministries of Trade and Industry and Culture and Tourism, in formulating national policies incorporating the fashion design industry. The lack of cross border cooperation between industry associations in the African countries should be addressed by establishing cross-border IP licensing platforms. Governments can be instrumental in facilitating and supporting these types of industry initiatives. Training seminars on the value-added benefits of in the fashion industry and on the filing and registration procedures of  rights that are of great relevance to fashion designs should be organized. Also, government incentives such as preferential credit schemes to women fashion designers can enable gender empowerment in the fashion trade by incentivizing the use of IP as a form of collateral.

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