Fashion for Charity (FFC) Synergy: Building the African Fashion Industry through Strong Ecosystems
Bridging the gap between potential and actualization of the value of the African fashion industry, is a task that needs all hands on deck. Of critical importance is the building of strong ecosystems within the industry, so as to realize meaningful gains from the work being done by the numerous fashion players involved. Fashion For Charity (FFC) Synergy is one of the companies that is shaking things up in the fashion industry, by helping fashion businesses create value, in the challenging settings that characterize developing economies. Having successfully established a fashion consultancy in Italy and Nigeria, the work of FFC Synergy is building African fashion businesses, which are benefiting from seasoned consultancy services, inspired by a mix of their Nigerian and Italian experience!
FFC Synergy is a fashion business consultancy based in Abuja, Nigeria and Milan, Italy. The company provides fashion business development solutions such as export strategy in the textile and apparel industry, African luxury brand management, garment standardization and creative direction, through capacity building and consultation. FFC Synergy prides itself in providing seamless quality solutions to fashion businesses seeking cutting-edge, brand advancement strategy and increased sales. Unsurprisingly, the brand’s statement and competitive advantage is “making a mark”. The consultancy was founded by Jeffrey Bent. He is the CEO of FFC Synergy Consulting and its subsidiaries -Benchmark and Fashion For Charity Africa founded in Milan, Italy. With the company’s headquarters currently located in Abuja, Nigeria, the emerging company is fast becoming Africa’s most sought-after fashion consultancy. The work done by FFC Synergy exudes its founder’s passion and commitment to growing people and fashion businesses. It aids organizations with insider secrets and strategies on how to successfully operate, and profit in the fashion industries in Africa, Western and Asian unique environments. Having experienced first-hand the challenges of setting up a fashion business in a developing economy such as Nigeria, FFC Synergy is determined to help other fashion businesses navigate the African fashion industry with ease.
Its founder, Jeffrey, established the brand from humble beginnings proving that it is possible to make your dreams a reality, in spite of tough circumstances. A graduate with a Fashion Degree from Milan, Jeffrey thrives in multicultural environments with creativity, communication and productivity skills for economic growth in today's society. The bold entrepreneur was brought up in a military family, and grew up in a challenging environment where pursuing fashion as a career was perceived as risky. Regardless of the situation, Jeffrey strived to acquire a sense of independence and productivity with a desire to create something from nothing. Jeffrey started designing at a tender age, while he was still in military school. In order to manage society’s expectations, Jeffrey studied architecture as it was an ‘acceptable’ career, and closest to what fashion represents. His passion for the field remained unquenched, and Jeffrey frequently got in trouble with his teachers because of designing fashion pieces for his classmates during classes. He became well known for his passion and creativity in fashion, a drive that he later used to teach himself fashion design. During that period, Jeffrey worked for companies and NGOs to raise money for his fashion collections, and in the process gained experience and skills in project management, marketing and business development.
In 2007, Jeffrey took a daring step to drop out from architecture to pursue fashion. At the time, his decision was problematic for his family, and he was disowned by his father. Nonetheless, he kept following his dreams and in 2009, it paid off as he got discovered by an agent who signed him up for an international fashion competition. Jeffrey competed and won 1st place in creative wear, against more experienced designers and against the odds. From there on, he got more opportunities in the fashion industry to showcase at events, and design for companies and celebrities. Jeffrey was sponsored to study fashion in South Africa, and during his studies, he got chosen to be part of The Branson Center of Entrepreneurship (a virgin unite group). Later on, he got a scholarship opportunity to complete his bachelor degree of Arts in Fashion Design in Milan, Italy where he also worked and founded a social enterprise that provides capacity building and human capital development.
FFC Synergy has been greatly privileged to have worked and to keep working with organizations such as TFO Canada, International Trade Centre (ITC) Geneva Switzerland, La Liga Spanish League, UK Aid, UN, British Council, MTV Base, Mercedes Benz, BBC to name a few. Through Jeffrey’s passion for empowerment and problem-solving skills, he has been able to overcome the challenge of fashion being undermined as a business in the international scene. He, alongside other fashion colleagues, have fought for years to bring Nigerian and African fashion voices, brands and skills to a global limelight. They have done this through various initiatives such as exposing fashion businesses to the possibilities of import and export trades by working with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Nigerian Export Council.
Challenges that shaped the brand
“The challenges peculiar to Nigeria and Africa as a whole, are very different from our foreign counterparts and as such many companies fail due to this reason alone. We equally encountered that. After establishing our brand well in Italy, we were approached by Nigerian investors who promised to help us set up shop in Nigeria in 2015. The move was coinciding with elections, but we decided to take a leap hoping the investors would live up to their word. Unfortunately, they disappeared upon our arrival in Nigeria.” explains Jeffrey
Nigeria is one of the most dynamic economic markets in the African continent and has many successful industries that have successfully introduced a distinct fashion industry. For FFC Synergy however, it proved to be different in terms of culture, systems and operation, contrary to the environment in Italy. Unfortunately, this is a critical fact that most people don’t tell businesses aspiring to venture in the African fashion industry. FFC Synergy therefore had to come up with a new business model for Nigeria, which would not involve operations being subsidized from the Italy arm of the business. Having adopted the necessary strategies, FFC Synergy was on an upward trajectory and was transformed from having losses to providing employment opportunities, revenue generations and growth in 6 months.
Dealing with COVID-19
FFC Synergy had to change its strategy by going fully digital and helping other businesses it works with, to embrace this change too. Some of the entrepreneurs that FFC Synergy works with were either reluctant to digitize, or found it absurd to rely on digitization. To address the challenge, FFC Synergy is working on two platforms that focus on three core values: providing capacity building, education and empowerment to fashion entrepreneurs, as well as connecting them to opportunities, investors and fashion media experts and leaders in the sector. An example is the Cynthia Abila brand with whom FFC Synergy maximized the technological advantage of digital fashion runway shows, digital pop-up collections, 3D designs amongst other advancements in fashion technology. The brand has now been featured on British Vogue, Vogue Italia, has been chosen as 2021 WGSN Future Designer and selected as one of the black-owned businesses to be supported by Beyonce on her personal website. All of this was achieved during the peak COVID periods and post-COVID as well.
At the moment, FFC Synergy is also running several bespoke fashion business trainings in Abuja and Lagos, after observing that one of the missing links in the African fashion industry is fashion schools. According to the consultancy, most African fashion schools only cater to the basic skill sets of tailoring, pattern cutting and designing, but lack the main ingredient for a fashion designer to survive and grow in an African environment and stand out in the international market.
Perceptions on the African fashion industry
Jeffrey believes that the African fashion industry is beginning to realize its importance in the economic growth and realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As such, FFC Synergy together with other stakeholders are working together to build the necessary structures for the development of the African fashion industry. He also noted that for this to be done effectively, there is a need for fashion experts that understand both African and foreign markets. In that way, players in the African industry can better act to provide home-grown solutions for their fashion industry. Jeffrey also encouraged entrepreneurs to see themselves as trend setters, operating in a leading sector with the potential to spur economic growth that can yield hundreds of billions in dollars annually, as proven by the American, Asian and European countries.
Jeffrey noted that it is up to entrepreneurs to revive the fashion industry (as well as other dying or struggling sectors) to their glory. He further notes that such a revival takes every player in the fashion industry. Therefore, it is important for stakeholders in the African industry to use models like collaborations, not competition, capacity building versus hoarding of information. The entrepreneur reiterates that if players in the fashion industry can sustain craftsmanship, resources and creativity, there is no telling what African Fashion Industry can achieve and surpass.
FFC Synergy’s Upcoming Projects
- The 4-Way Productivity Design E-book and training course by Jeffrey Bent
- So What If It’s A Live Show; an Instagram Fashion, Entertainment and Lifestyle Show with fast-rising Nollywood actor Daniel Etim Effiong
- FATA Edu-Tech Platform and Bendtmark E-market Platform
- The Fashion Business Class Tour Nigeria in collaboration with @vivyesefashionacademy and @thejeffreybent
- The Empower, Employ and Export Initiative Project; a training and sensitization program on Garment Standardization for garment manufacturers to meet international standards and quality
- Go To Market Fashion Show
For more of FFC Synergy’s work, visit:
Fashion For Charity website is currently under maintenance.