How circularity can help African fashion survive Covid

10 September 2020

African fashion businesses can survive the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and thrive in the future by building innovative and sustainable business models, a webinar was told.

The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Fashionomics Africa webinar looked at how the continent’s fashion businesses could keep garments in use longer, use renewable materials and recycle old clothes into new products.

The AfDB said the closure of factories, borders and travel restrictions due to the pandemic and associated lockdowns had interrupted supply chains and led to many workers losing jobs.

Representatives of New York’s Parsons School of Design, UK-based charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and sustainable African fashion brands Orange Culture, Mariama Fashion Production and Qaaldesigns took part.

Fashionomics aims to enable African entrepreneurs operating in the textile, apparel and accessories industries to create and grow their businesses and places a special focus on women and young people.

It hopes to increase the number of entrepreneurs accessing markets through e-commerce platforms, improve access to finance, technical and business skills, and  help them forge strategic partnerships.

The Fashionomics digital marketplace app promotes climate-friendly designs and solutions by analysing the impact of the textile sector on climate change and environment.

Adebayo Oke-Lawal, founder of Orange Culture, said: “My dream is to develop a healthy fashion industry in Africa. We need to be able to rely and build ourselves from our own system. At the end of the day, we have so much that needs to be done and we can't do it alone.”

Brendan McCarthy, director of the undergraduate fashion design programme for systems and materiality at the Parsons School of Design, said: “Covid-19 forced our world to rethink our system. We can absolutely do this in an excellent way.

“What is needed is collaboration and breaking down the typical silos fashionpreneurs face in the industry.”

McCarthy said the Parsons School of Design was working closely with the AfDB to find out how digital tools could support the African textile and fashion industry.

Bintou Sadio Diallo, of the AfDb, said: “African fashion entrepreneurs see in the pandemic and the acceleration of digital tools an opportunity to reconceptualize and better educate designers, but also consumers.”

Sub-Saharan Africa’s combined apparel and footwear market is estimated to be worth $31bn, according to Euromonitor International.

A Fashionomics Africa report said Mauritius, with $761.3m in apparel exports, is the leading African nation manufacturing and selling apparel abroad.

The Ethiopian textile and apparel industry has grown by an average of 51% over the last five to six years, the report said.

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