The fashion scene in Nigeria has changed a lot in the last 5 years. There are now reputable fashion shows like the Lagos Fashion Week, GT Bank Fashion Weekend, Fashion Finest Africa. There are also notable fashion shows in other states like the Ibadan Urban Fashion Show, Arcade Fashion Show and others.
The industry has not only witnessed the rise of fashion shows, but it has also has seen the growth of Fashion Media brands like Bellanaija and Mauvelli. Despite these growths, Nigeria’s fashion industry is still far from attaining its $4.7 billion market worth.
While there is the school of thought that says the government needs to provide more support and promote the fashion industry, Mr Seun Oyebade posits that this is not the case. Mauvelli caught up with the reputable Show Organizer and fashion figure in an exclusive interview about the growth of early-stage fashion brands and the local fashion industry. He is the CEO of Fashions Finest Africa and Mahogany International. Popularly known as Mr Mahogany, he is also the Show Producer of the GTBank Fashion Weekend, the Convener of Fashions Finest Africa Epic Show and a number of other events.
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“A lot of people feel that it is the government that backs the fashion industry in other countries but it is not the government’s job to promote fashion. It is not their job to make sure that the fashion industry is successful.” He says. What they can do is to reduce loan rates for fashionpreneurs and give tax relief among other things.
In some countries like the US, the government gives tax relief to fashion brands and there are lots of institutions that teach fashion to entrepreneurs. Organizations like the Council of Fashion Designers of America, British Fashion Council constantly provide masterclasses, mentoring and funding opportunities for brands in the industry. All of these make it slightly easier for people who want to go into fashion.
But fashion entrepreneurs also have to put in the work. Brands can not just approach foundations or organizations and say they need funds without having a solid business plan.
Mr Mahogany cited examples of the LFW and GTBank Fashion Week that provide loan facilities for designers at very minimal interest rates. “There are also organizations like the Mastercard Foundation that are putting money into the fashion space if you can show your creativity and business mindedness and have your financial forecast and other relevant documents in place.” He added.
There is little investment in fashion brands as investors can’t immediately predict returns
Last year, Flutterwave completed the eyebrow-raising sum of $170 million at a unicorn valuation. This week, Kuda Bank raised $55 million and last Friday, Airtel announced it had secured $200 million funding for its mobile money business. A large chunk of the investor inflow into Nigeria goes into fintech, edtech, healthtech and other subsectors of the tech space.
Funding from the right investors helps startups to scale faster. One of the most consistent answers from fashionpreneurs to the question “what is your biggest challenge as a business owner?” is access to funds. Yet, there is little venture capital interest in the space unlike what the LVMH brand provides to international brands.
Comparing the tech and fashion industries, Mr Mahogany said, “People can see the potential returns in tech companies immediately. They can quickly work out the figures and see how much they will make if they get X amount of people to sign up to a particular service”. In fashion, investors cannot quickly make that projection so they can not put a specific finger on how they can make their money back very quickly.
Another disadvantage that the fashion designers in Nigeria have is that “we have not learnt how to mass-produce and that is where the money is”, he added. Brands like Fendi, Primark, H&M, Louis Vuitton produce their products in large quantities and are able to keep the quality consistent.
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“Until we start mass producing and are able to say that in a year, my turnover is XYZ amount, it is going to be difficult to attract investors into the space,” Oyebade submitted. The big brands today have stores all over the place where their wares are sold. They are able to multiply and tap into the potential of every single design.
If I go to a tailor, he will make a one-off design for me. He can only make so much per week because he is only 1 tailor. The chances are that if you tell him that you need 5 size 10s, the 5 will all be slightly different variations of a size 10Sola Oyebade
In addition to knowing how to produce en masse, fashion entrepreneurs need to create solid structures and systems that will keep the business running and positioned for growth.