Fashionomics Africa Masterclass: Ivorian designers say Yes
After Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, it was Côte d'Ivoire's turn to host the Fashionomics Africa masterclass. The African Development Bank team in charge of the project has worked hard to give two wonderful days to the different participants, partners and guests. The event that took place on October 16-17 2019 in the offices of the i-Hub incubator in Abidjan was attended by representatives of the AfDB, the representative of Afreximbank, representatives of the British Embassy in Côte d'Ivoire , the representative of Google Digital Skills Africa, the representative of the Ministry of Culture and Francophonie of Côte d'Ivoire, representatives of the international Fashion School Michèle Yakice, federation representatives, and of course, over 100 designers.
Provide the tools and knowledge needed to create a fashion brand
Among the 5 pilot countries that benefit from the Fashionomics Africa project implemented by the AfDB, through its Gender, Women and Civil Society Department (AHGC), Côte d'Ivoire has talented designers, but unfortunately, they don’t often receive adequate training. For the founder of "Dress Me by Nat's", Natou Fofana, who didn’t go to a fashion school, this masterclass is an excellent opportunity. "There are a lot of things you don’t think about when you get into this field. And we had a lot of answers today. Two days is not really enough. I would have liked the masterclass to last two weeks, or even a month”. The Ivorian designer Stéphane Mambo, initiator of the Festival International de la Mode d’Abidjan (FIMDA) was also of this view. "We can express needs, concerns, problems hoping to find attentive ears to listen and help us find solutions. Without sharing ideas, there are no solutions. And even when millions come, it will not help because there isn’t a good base. It's really a very nice initiative”. So this meeting was an opportunity for the designers that were there to acquire tools and deepen their knowledge in the sector they chose to embrace.
Undertaking in fashion requires a lot of skills. It's not just about making drawings or having an innate talent for creating models. As the participants were able to learn during the Fashionomics Africa masterclass, you have to be at the same time creator, manager, accountant, photographer and even commercial agent. Vanessa Mbamarahs, the representative of Google Digital Skills for Africa has also drawn everyone's attention to the fact that it is now possible to learn at any time via internet. For the one who is also at the head of the digital agency Ztallion, designers don’t have to wait for everything to come to them. Elie Kuame, one of the designers who have attended the masterclass also shares the same opinion as Vanessa, especially with regard to young people at the end of training. For him, these young people want to start working with big salaries as soon as they leave a training school. "I earned less than 1500 € in 4 years of work. But what I learned worth millions”. Elie Kuame said that it’s a situation that does not make it easy to find manpower. "People want to become stars immediately. They forget that it is a process.”
"We have to create an industry and make it live by thousands of people"
During the event, several topics were discussed, including the presentation of the Fashionomics Africa platform, business development, branding, marketing, networking, etc. In addition, the famous Pathé'O and Loza Maléombho were present to share their experiences with the fashionpreneur. These two generations of entrepreneurs enjoyed talking to participants about their vision of the African fashion industry and the challenges they faced during their career. When a participant asks Loza Maléombho for her secret of success, she answers that we must always adapt and avoid dwelling on obstacles. "Because it is important to move forward". Another subject addressed by Loza concerned social networks. According to the young designer, these networks should not be neglected by designers who can even privilege them to fashion show. She then gave herself as an example, explaining that it was thanks to her publications on social networks that she was put in contact with the staff of Beyonce or other celebrities.
Dean Pathé'O did not forget, among other things, to give his opinion on the issue of sales in the fashion sector in Africa. He faced this situation at one time before experiencing international success thanks to President Nelson Mandela. "As long as the African is not interested in the development of Africa we will go nowhere. No country in this world has been developed without fashion. You go to India, when you see the Indians, you know they are Indian. You go to Korea, it's the same thing, in China the same. But we have just refused to consume what we do. So it is useless to want one thing and its opposite. Today it's true that people are starting to wear locally made outfits occasionally. When there is a funeral, a meeting or a political event, we wear local loincloths. But that's not what we ask. It is an industry that must be created and supported by thousands of people.
The Ivorian designers will probably remember a lot of things from these two days of masterclass Fashionomics Africa. However, they will need to apply this knowledge to measure their impact on their activities. One of the important points that has been stressed many times is that to have more impact on government policies, designers must learn to work together. And of course, they have to leave the informal, work a lot and stop complaining, because there are difficulties in all sectors.