This is not the same situation in other countries. The United States, the largest apparel market in the world, raked in approximately $359,906.12 billion in revenue.
According to Statista, the revenue of the global fashion market in 2020 was approximately $1.46 trillion U.S. dollars; it is anticipated to increase to about $2.25 trillion by 2025.
Africa’s share of the global apparel market is less than one percent. According to Euromonitor, the Sub-Saharan African fashion market is valued at $31 billion, Nigeria’s share in that is 15 percent, a mere $4.7 billion.
Why is this so? To tackle this, we have to start from the root of all clothing production – textiles and fabrics.
Nigeria still imports most of its fabrics from China, even though Cotton is found in 26 of Nigeria’s 36 states and Nigeria is the fifth-largest cotton-producing country in West Africa. As of 2019, Nigeria spent $312,464.56 million to import textiles from China.
Although the CBN has attempted to revive textile production in the country by banning the importation of finished textiles and offering loan services to cotton farmers. These textile materials are smuggled into Nigeria through neighbouring countries’ borders.
This is because the government needs to oversee the entire process from production to distribution, and create a effective industry and market regulation. However, with textile companies lying fallow this does not seem possible.
According to Manufacturing Agency of Nigeria (MAN), in the 1970s and early 1960s, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos and Aba had over 100 functional textile factories but this is not the story today.
In 2010, these textile industries were less than 25. Before the untimely demise of these industries, they contributed about N6 billion naira yearly to Nigeria’s GDP.
With inflation and devaluation of the Nigerian currency, the cost of running businesses is at an all-time high.
Business owners have to provide their own water, buy raw materials and machines, pay for electricity, rent and staff salaries. Staying profitable might be more important than contributing massively to the GDP.
Nigeria’s Bank of the Industry has loans for the fashion industry with an interest rate of nine percent to alleviate some of the hardships fashion designers face. But is this enough? What designers need is foreign direct investment like we see in Tech.
The fashion industry is divided into design and production on one side and then sales and distribution on the other hand.
Nigerian fashion designers need to have a better distribution model. Few fashion designers have stores in other states apart from Lagos and Abuja. When it comes to distribution, reliance is placed on unreliable courier services with high delivery fees.
All is not gloom. Events like Lagos Fashion Week, GTB Fashion Weekend and Arise Fashion week put Nigeria’s fashion industry in the limelight and showcase many Nigerian designers.
Certainly, many Nigerian designers have gained international recognition. Kenneth Ize, a Lagos Based but Austria born fashion designer was an LVMH 2019 Prize finalist.
He recently collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld to release a capsule collection. Interestingly, Ize uses Aso-Oke fabrics locally made in Nigeria.
Other notable Nigerian designers with global impact are Lisa Folawiyo, Deola Sagoe, David Wej and Andrea Iyamah but their outfits are high end. Andrea wants to make clothes of international standard and not for the average Nigerian.
The market for haute couture designs is not the average Nigerian and, not even most Nigerian celebrities.
Nigerian celebrities have Lagos based fashion designers like Xtrabrides Lagos, Chic by Veekee James, Tubo, and 2207 by Tbally churning beautiful but similar outfits for them.
But where does that leave the average Nigerian who finds some of these Nigerian designers outrageously expensive?
Affordable ready-to-wear fashion that cater to average Nigerian are rare. Nigerians are still heavily importing ready-to-wear clothes from China and buying thrift or used clothes or relying on our brothers in Abia.