CIAFE: Putting African Fashion Education on the World Map

CIAFE: Putting African Fashion Education on the World Map

As the African fashion industry continues growing, the effort directed towards training young professionals in Africa through formal fashion education needs to be stepped up. 

Due to the limited number of educational institutions that are dedicated to fashion training, many prospective students have found themselves leaving the continent and travelling overseas to pursue their studies. In response to this challenge, Ghanaian-British, Frederica Brooksworth established the Council for International African Fashion Education (CIAFE), as a move to promote quality African fashion education. Through its virtual platform, CIAFE provides Africans access to fashion education without the need to leave the continent. In this week’s article, we share the journey of CIAFE, and the work it has been doing in building the future of African-based fashion industries. 

Who is Frederica Brooksworth?

Frederica Brooksworth is an academic who studied fashion at Bachelor's and Master’s levels. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in fashion, specifically focusing on exploring strategies to innovate within the realm of fashion education in African countries. Frederica is also a lecturer with over 10 years of experience working in the fields of fashion management, research methods, and career development. Her illustrious career includes being a lecturer at the London College of Fashion, the British School of Fashion, and the Conde Nast College of Fashion.

With so much experience in fashion education, Frederica was keen on starting a fashion school in Africa.

“Whenever you think of fashion education and whenever we have these conversations, a lot of names such as Central Saint Martins, Parsons School of Design, or London College of Fashion are always popping up. But you rarely hear about institutions in Africa”, says Frederica.

However, she realised she wanted to give her students the full experience she lived at school —cross-collaborative opportunities, resources, industry work experience, international student exchanges, and field trips. Unfortunately, the infrastructure to put these systems in place was not available across the continent, on a wide scale. 

“If I had a school, I would want to allow my students to study in other parts of Africa such as Mozambique, Namibia, Ethiopia, Senegal, or South Africa. However not many schools have cross-collaborative opportunities where schools are integrating to give students opportunities to study elsewhere”, says Frederica.

In light of resource constraints, COVID-19 and its associated restrictions, she realised the timing to establish a school just was not right. Therefore, she had to forget the idea of establishing a school and find another way of innovating in the African fashion education field. It was at this point when Frederica launched CIAFE and decided to create a virtual hub that provided key educational resources for improving the standards of fashion education in Africa.

What is CIAFE?

CIAFE is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2021, to support the development and advancement of fashion education in Africa, and to also work on the decolonisation of the fashion curriculum within European and North American academic institutions.  Its overall aim is to address the gap in the fashion education landscape in Africa.  In addition to tackling challenges associated with accessing formal fashion education, Frederica views the establishment of CIAFE as a way of retaining talent in Africa —an investment that has the potential to yield dividends in the continent’s textile, apparel & accessories (TA&A) industries.

CIAFE improves fashion education in Africa by working closely with academics, researchers, educators, and practitioners who work directly, and also indirectly, in the African fashion industry, to offer high-quality curricula for African-based students. The audience includes students at all levels; from diploma to postgraduate levels and individuals who have a strong interest in studying fashion. An interesting fact about CIAFE's work is that it is not limited to institutions and partners from Africa only, but it collaborates with partners from Europe, North America, the Middle East, and many other parts of the world too.  Such an approach is key in encouraging the cross-pollination of ideas among various institutions working in the fashion industry.

The institution’s work also includes addressing the scarcity of data by sharing knowledge and research on the African fashion industry and fashion education. It does so through the production of various publications such as monthly reports and books which are available on their website. In terms of capacity building, CIAFE meets the needs of students and fashion education practitioners through seminars, masterclasses, training, and language classes. Its topics are varied, including sustainability, technology and digital skills, training in fashion. It also supports young professionals with soft skills such as email management, social media management, and public relations.

For an organisation that is barely a year old, CIAFE has recorded many achievements and is quickly being recognised by many organisations within the global fashion industry. It is already running a program with its partner Conde Nast College of Fashion and in 2021, CIAFE successfully hosted its first summit. Behind CIAFE’s incredible work, there is a team of hard-working and competent staff members, who are also supported by wonderful and dedicated volunteers. CIAFE is also privileged to have on its advisory board, members such as Vanessa Bannerman of Christie Brown, Adebayo Oke Lawal of Orange Culture, and Professor Natashsca Radclyffe Thomas of the British School of Fashion. When asked about the secret to establishing a remarkable institution like CIAFE, this is what Frederica has to say: 

“The main thing is structure. When you have structure in place, it’s a lot easier to get things done, especially if you know what you’re doing, what you need money for, and if you have a good network and support other people.”

As an emerging institution, CIAFE appreciates the support it has been receiving and welcomes more support from academics and people who have an interest in the fashion education sector. It also believes that investments in the African industry need to happen through accelerator programs, buying African products, internships, and events. 

CIAFE is therefore looking forward to partnering with more institutions around the globe and creating more opportunities for fashion schools to connect and mobilise resources for advancing fashion education in Africa. Through such partnerships, CIAFE plans to get fashion students scholarships, and financial aid, and to engage the industry to provide professional experience opportunities for students. 

Views on the African fashion Industry

Frederica is confident that the African fashion industry is doing an amazing job, given that it is being noticed in the global fashion industry. She is convinced that if people in the African industry make bigger efforts and invest in the industry, it will continue to grow. 

“What we need to do is to keep doing what we are doing right now. We need more consumers in Africa and from the diaspora, to buy from brands of Africa or brands of African heritage”, says Frederica.

New or upcoming projects

CIAFE is collaborating with the African Fashion Foundation and the Conde Nast College of Fashion to provide a program for fashion creators in Sub-Saharan Africa. The modules will include courses on the business of luxury, digital content creation and contemporary marketing strategies. In addition, the institution is also going to launch a skills academy, language classes, and coding classes to contribute to the development of soft skills of people aiming to work in the fashion industry.

To learn more about CIAFE’s work and upcoming events, visit their website.

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CIAFE: Putting African Fashion Education on the World Map

Apr 07, 2022
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