Indigenous fashion industry can lift Nigerian economy – Experts

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By Victor Nze

The Nigerian fashion industry has enormous capacity to create wealth and employment opportunities in the country’s economy even as Nigerians need to rethink their clothing preferences away from the Western oriented cultures while also evolving their own unique dress sense in a highly globalized world.

This was submission of keynote speakers at the just-concluded  two-day Annual Symposium organized by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) which held at the Archbishop Soremilekun all, Broad street, Lagos, Wednesday, under the theme; African Dress code.

The speakers, including; Prof Ayo Yusuf, Dr Obi Iwuagwu and Dr Augustine Agugua, all lecturers at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, posited that the craving for Western clothing while stunting the growth and development of the indigenous fashion industry, has also negatively impacted on the mindset of the African to the extent of discrediting the traditional attires and locally-made fabrics.

According to DrIwuagwu, in his paper titled; Making money from what we wear- The Economics of African Dress Code, the economic potential of the African fashion for Nigeria remanis enormous, pointing out that; ‘we are literarily sitting on goldmine’.

“There are three things we can do with this potential; create wealth, create employment, diversify the economy. The market for Africa and Nigerian dresses can create wealth for a lot of people and by extension help in cleaning up our image as a dumping ground for second-hand Western clothing, in addition to helping the country save on foreign exchange expended on buying some of these clothing.

There’s also a market for Nigerian fashion abroad with the Diaspora; these people will serve to expand the market for our products overseas.

“However, there are imperatives. We need to rethink our strategies; we need to restructure our industry policies at the government level. It’s time we mechanized production processes and evolved proper legislations to protect emerging players in the industry by way of providing a conducive and enabling environment so that what they eventually produce will be competitive in the market at home or abroad. We also need to embrace industry’s global best practices in terms of standard and security.”

Agugua, in his presentation titled; Globalization and Cultural Dressing Pattern of Africans, expounded that in the face of an ever-expanding global culture which incorporates aspects of smaller civilizations, the way forward would be the local fashion industry to embrace other style while retaining the African identity.

“This is what I call the hybridization of the world; the homogenization of the world’s cultures has stripped distinct civilizations of their unique traits, even our dress code has been overtaken by contemporary trends and styles, thus, to go any further, our dress culture has to blend with other ideas and styles from foreign cultures while still retaining our unique identity,” he stressed.

For Prof. Yusuf, in his paper titled; African Dress as an Instrument of Power, the African-Yoruba dress sense has always been informed by the ‘dress as you wish to be addressed’ culture, hence, the clothing connoted power, status, creed and occupation.

Earlier, in his address, Director General of CBAAC, Dr Ferdinand Anikwe, described as ‘worrisome’ the penchant for second-hand Western clothing by Nigerians, saying the trend has to be checked if the economy is to grow.

“The beauty, unique designs and vitality of our traditional attires were such that led to massive demand for indigenous fabrics by the Europeans to the extent that African attires became highly competitive in Europe. At a point, European textiles industries began to copy African designs but still could not compete favourably with African fabrics.

“Ironically, today, the reverse is the case as most Africans prefer Western attires to that which make us unique. The insatiable appetite for second-hand Western clothing has assumed a very worrisome dimension that all hands must be on deck to address this ugly trend. If the amount expended on buying Western dresses is channeled into the purchase of African attires, the African fashion industry would receive a great boost.

According to Anikwe, the Annual Symposium has been carefully designed to address an important aspect of the African rich cultural heritage that has remained largely unexplored, that is, the African Dress Code, adding further that the two-day symposium ‘offers us an opportunity to interrogate the place of African fashion in contemporary times.’

On her part, Chairperson of the occasion, the Erelu of Lagos, Princess AbiolaDosunmu, described the choice of theme for the event as ‘apt,’ just as she urged participants to ‘take pride in what makes us Africans, that is, our culture. If we do not appreciate who we are obviously it would be very difficult for us to appreciate what we have, then appreciating who we are and what we have is synonymous to development.’

Continuing, Princess Dosunmu said: “When we patronize our locally made or indigenous fabrics, the resultant effect is that there will be more money in the economy, the fashion industry will grow and unemployment will be drastically reduced.”

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