Africa Fashion Guide is the brainchild of Jacqueline Shaw, eco-entrepreneur, professional fashion designer, visionary with a big heart for Africa, its Fashion and International Development; she speaks to us about her coffee table book “Fashion Africa” and more….
Diana Opoti : You have built Africa Fashion Guide as a successful online source for information on African fashion, why this continent?
Jacqueline Shaw : I wanted to create a platform that looked to African fashion and the continent’s textile industry to the greater global textile industry. Africa Fashion Guide became a one-stop shop for fashion professionals, students, retailers, magazines, bloggers and consumers. This would be a great way to promote this industry and bring links between African designers, craftspeople, manufacturers and textile designers with UK and EU fashion design companies and consumer markets, as well as with retailers worldwide.
Diana: You recently published, Fashion Africa, a coffee table book on designers, what makes this book stand out?
Jacqueline: Fashion Africa is a visual overview of contemporary African fashion with an ethical perspective.
Diana: What inspired you to document your conversations?
Jacqueline I felt there wasn’t anything at the time on bookshelves, which showcased contemporary African Fashion. All existing material highlighted the traditional view of Africa and its textile industry. What what I wanted to show was the fun buzzing, contemporary, fresh and exciting African fashion industry that was emerging and blossoming.
Diana: Let’s talk about that, the growth of African Fashion? We keep hearing about the potential of Africa, what does it really mean?
Jacqueline:First thing – economic development. This growth will see more investment in fashion and design especially on the continent, amd not just retailers opening up in major cities in Africa but them stocking African designers. I see more fashion companies collaborating and producing in Africa. Even as I say this we need to acknowledge that challenges of sourcing and logistics in some countries still need to be overcome…yet there is huge potential.
Diana: hmmm…yet we still affect global fashion trends, right?
Jacqueline: Every summer you see Safari collections by top fashion houses and brands – it’s the beauty of Africa, its resources, traditions, and culture; the way traditional clothing impacts designer’s collections and fashion editorials.
More importantly – textile stands out. There’s a move to recognizable “African print” on the catwalk by mainstream designers - perhaps this could be a nod in appreciation of the impact the continent has made.
Diana: Speaking of African designers on the continent, what do they need to take their work to global retail?
Jacqueline: I’d say more business acumen over design. Consider trends,
markets, line architecture, price points and above all investment for production.
Diana: Jacqueline, you have a natural inclination towards sustainable fashion, is this practical for designers on the continent? I
Jacqueline: For a designer is starting up it is probably easier to consider sustainability but all designers can do so by simply firstly considering fair trade as a business practice, its principles and looking to managing their cut-offs and waste, where they source the materials they work with and their production process. Issues such as fair wages for workers and favorable working environments –sustainable fashion is very much about being considerate and responsible in sourcing and producing.
Diana: Will Africa offer the world the next luxury brand?
Jacqueline: You know what, THIS, is the ultimate question if this is Africa’s way forward. Only time and hard work from the bottom up through the supply chain will we be able to see.
Diana: Three fashion brands from Africa that we should look out for?
Jacqueline: At the minute, we love Madam Wokie from Sierra Leone, Maki Oh from Nigeria and for footwear are brands to watch in 2013
Diana: African inspired vs. Made in Africa, what’s your take?
Jacqueline: I am 100% FOR MADE IN AFRICA.
Diana: (not letting up) If so, which brands fit the tag, Luxury?
Jacqueline: DEOLA SAGOE, LANRE DA SILVA AJAYI, JEWEL BY LISA, ANITA QUANSAH, TO START WITH
Diana: For brands aspiring for this category, how can they achieve this? Jacqueline: Quality control is of most importance having great manufacturers who are reliable and believe in the vision is the only way - training people up to the quality they need is also an option
Diana: Let’s talk about African Textile, what do you perceive its development and production on the continent?
Jacqueline: This is something I am particularly keen on, I’d say loss of the value chain, and not much is sourced and produced and processed in Africa and the importation of textile goods from other markets such as Asia. This as well as secondhand clothing industry is totally crippling Africa’s own textile industry.
Diana: Writing about fashion and different designers is tough, being impartial and telling stories for equal representation, still, can you say you are especially drawn to any fashion brands?
Jacqueline: mainstream labels would be from Vienne Westwood Gold to Alexander Wang to Junya Watanabe…this list is endless
Diana: Despite living in the UK, you travel the African Continent for your research and fashion weeks, what’s your favourite African Fashion Destination?
Jacqueline: I absolutely love Ghana. Its botanical gardens are amazing as well as the history of the Cape Coast. In 2012 I fell in love with Ethiopia - the history there for the continent is outstanding, such culture and promising opportunities…
Diana: What has African Fashion Guide been up to lately?
Jacqueline: We just launched our first conference on the continent through the ‘Fashion Africa’ conference in Nairobi. A forum that discussed ethical fashion, African fashion and the manufacturing industry. We also plan to we take a travelling workshop to schools in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria to launch a fashion design competition with partners in Italy.
We also have a few fashion shows that we partner with for media support such as Ghana Fashion & Design week and Africa Fashion Week LA, as well as Miami Fashion Week Africa, and Africa fashion week Berlin on top of two AFRICA FASHION GUIDE programs we will reveal in later 2013.