Monday, October 25, 2010

FAFA Workshops: Building the Kenyan fashion industry from within. By Musimbi King

As international designers and buyers look for the next big thing in the ever-revolving door of trends that is the fashion industry, they increasingly turn to Africa and its cultures for inspiration. Africa, quite simply, is in vogue. Max&Co recently renewed its commitment to responsible sourcing in Kenya following the success of two previous lines in its Max&Co&Africa&You project, while earlier this month Louis Vuitton announced a collaboration with ethical line Edun to produce certain components for their bags, again in Kenya, at the Africa Rising Art Exhibition in Paris.

On the catwalk, particularly strong references were seen in Japan’s Junya Watanabe’s SS09 collection, with further influences in SS10 and AW10 designs by Diane von Furstenberg, Marca de la Renta and Dries van Noten to name but a few. Indeed British designer Paul Smith was so taken by the distinctive looks of a group of a fashion-obsessed men in Congo, that he based several outfits in his SS10 collection on these self-professed gentlemen of style.

Of course this is not the first time that designers have looked to Africa for ideas. Ever since Picasso’s cubist reworking of Dogon ceremonial masks, Africa has provided a source of inspiration for creative circles in the West. However despite playing a significant role in the development of modern art, and references on the catwalk dating back to Yves Saint Laurent’s 1967 ‘African’ dresses collection, designers from the continent itself rarely seem to break into international markets. There can be no doubt over the global interest in the African aesthetic, but the dialogue so far has been largely eurocentric.
When it comes to taking African fashion to the world however, the onus cannot rest entirely on the shoulders of its designers. We live in an age of increasing interconnectivity, and for them to establish a hold in the international arena it is vital they are supported by a strong local industry. A key component to building this base lies in the ability to access up to date market intelligence. Without an in-depth understanding of the ever-changing dynamic of fashion, in particular what the market needs and demands, our fledgling industries will not be able to keep abreast of current trends, let alone predict them.
This year FAFA seeks to address the area of knowledge acquisition through a series of hands-on workshops delivered by top industry specialists from around the world. Intended for highly experienced Kenyans working in fashion, the workshops will lay heavy importance on practical participation, including collaborative work with other seminars running simultaneously.

The concept behind the initiative is to not only to impart crucial knowledge that will see our industry gain the competitive edge necessary to hold its own on the global scene, but also equip participants will the skills to go on to facilitate their own workshops. This will create an ongoing dialogue between industry specialists and those rising through the ranks, feeding creative vision and strengthening the Kenyan industry from within.
Details matter when integrating into global markets, as does the ability to ancipiate where they are going. These workshops will provide insight into a fast moving world, and this will in turn will enable us to understand our place in it. What does Kenya have that is unique, that the market needs and others cannot provide? It is imperative that through current market intelligence we recognise the power of local branding in the context of a global industry.
IPeace patch by KikoRomeo

Fashion should form an integral part of our national identity. Furthermore, it is a dynamic art form that lies at the centre of critical issues relating to trade and socio-economic growth.  We cannot afford to sideline such an important industry, nor relegate it the bottom rung of social and political news.  
Peace patch by KikoRomeo

No comments:

Post a Comment