African Kids Wear, The Next Big Thing in the Fashion Industry —...

African Kids Wear, The Next Big Thing in the Fashion Industry — Ajibola Akande

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The African Kids and Teens Fashion Week is a platform that showcases and promotes African fashion for kids and teenagers. It is an avenue where creativity and sales mingle as all fashion stakeholders (designers, textile manufacturers and brands with products that concerns children) meet to discuss possibilities.

According to Ajibola, the founder of the event, the African fashion industry for kids and teenagers in Africa has been widely underestimated and thus underutilized in spite of its ability in boosting economic activities and also creating jobs.

He tells us more about why he started this event and what to expect from the fashion industry at large.

Why did you start African Kids and Teens Fashion Week?

Our vision is to use fashion as a tool to improve the Nigerian economy. We want to see fashion brands at home and overseas with African clothes for our children in their stores. My hope personally is to one day walk into stores in other continents and see African clothes for kids and teens on display.

When was the first edition of the event held?

The first edition was held in the year 2014. At first I never believed I will see any designer that will specialise in African fashion for kids and teens. What I was planning to do was to convince designers who are into adult wear to sow for kids and come display it on the run way. But I was surprised when I went to visit a friend to discussed the project and he introduced me to my first designer that specialises on African fashion for kids and teens. I knew then that I was meant to stage that event.The first and second edition were held in the city of Ibadan?African Kids and Teens Fashion Week 2016 02

What made you decide to focus on fashion for children?

Unlike adults, children are very impressionable. Catch them young they say and if we can imbibe the younger generation with the mentality of wearing African fashion now, hopefully they’ll grow up appreciating it as adults and passing it down to their own children. This I believe will transform the African fashion industry totally. Just consider the population of children between 2 to 10 years, if 70% of them grow up to wear African design, do you know how many clothes will be demanded when they grow up to adulthood? This is the future of fashion in Africa.

What problems did you encounter at the beginning?

Like most start-ups in Nigeria, funding was and remains one of our biggest obstacles. Most organizations would rather support a business with roots than one in its maiden edition and the case was more or less the same with us. It was quite difficult in the beginning as the matter of fact, we didn’t get any sponsor, but we still went ahead and hosted the first edition. With the result of the first edition, bank of Industry supported us with the hosting of the second edition. Generally, I will say we are getting there.

What is your relationship with the Bank of Industry?

The fashion industry presently contributes roughly 0.47% to our GDP. We believe the sector can do more only if we take the right steps. Like I said earlier if our kids at the moment grow up wearing African designs, I can assure you that fashion will be one of the major earning power in the African economy especially in Nigeria.The bank of  industry thinks this analysis is true about the future of fashion in Africa especially in Nigeria. With the support of the federal government, the bank of industry has a 1 billion naira fashion fund it is giving to those in the fashion industry. The bank is also doing all it can to educate the public on how to access the fund thus the support we got from them.

Was it difficult recruiting fashion designers?

Not as difficult as one may think. For our last event, we had so many fashion designers who wanted to showcase their designs for kids and teens. I never believed they were that much. Most of them tell me that have been having difficulty staging a fashion show for their designs, but African Kids and Teens Fashion Week came in as an answered prayers to most of them.

Do you think the average Nigeria parent will be able to afford the clothes you showcase?

Absolutely! We make sure these clothes are made in an elegant way but not in an overly sophisticated manner. An average dress for a kid will cost around N2,000 which is cheaper than what you find in most children boutiques of today.

So are you of the opinion that the kids and teens fashion industry can contribute to our economy?

Absolutely? The kids wear industry is the only sector in fashion that can not be affected by recession. Till today,. Countries like England are heavily reliant on their kids wear fashion industry to generate cash inflow for their economy. I see no reason why we cannot as a country adopt the same approach. In my opinion, African fashion for kids and teens will become one of our biggest sources of revenue if given the opportunity.

Don’t you think the Nigerian mentality of ‘Homemade products are inferior to imported ones’ won’t affect such aspirations?

That will change pretty soon. Our designers have stepped up their game and that is why we have this platform to showcase what Africa has brought to the table. The media also have her role to play in helping the industry grow. All the industry need is just exposure, the rest will take care of itself.

Do you think Nigeria designers are well equipped for such projects?

Yes I do. The drawback remains to increase our productivity. The market possibilities for this are endless and when this actually comes through, the designer will have to be able to meet up with the demand. While I hope the designers will be able to meet the demand when the time comes, I believe that the quality of work will meet up with the demand required.

How do they you intend to make these wears available commercially?

Technology has made things easier these days. The different e-commence platforms we have around will solve that problem. There are also independent stores that are interested in getting on board. In addition to that, we are speaking to the Nigeria Export Promotion Council in order to facilitate exportation.

The Nigerian fashion industry has made progress on the international scene lately but what else do you think the industry needs?

What we need to do when it comes to our industry is standardization.  The Chinese, Europeans and Americans all have different measurements that works for their children’s body structure. Same way we also need such standardization of fittings for our children

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