Where do Africans get their clothing from? Yes, I know we buy it in shops and open markets but where does it really come from?
Who makes them? The answers to these questions hold the key to fully understanding the huge size and scale of Africa‘s clothihg market.
Every piece of clothing worn by Africans, from simple shirts and dresses to more elaborate items, come from four main sources. Let’s look at each of these sources and the interesting opportunities that lie within them:
Non-designer and mass-produced apparels
This is the main source of clothing for millions of Africans. Most mass-produced garments are typically western-style clothing and range from casual wear (like shirts and jeans) to formal attire. These clothes are usually made in large-scale factories in Eastern Europe and Asia (especially China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Turkey and Thailand). Mass-produced clothing is typically Iow-priced and sold as non-designer brands in shops and markets throughout Africa. This segment of the market appeals to consumers who want new and decent ‘western-style’ clothing at an affordable price.’
Second-hand ‘used’ clothing
You may not like to hear this but second-hand ‘used’ clothing imported from Europe and America is a significant source of clothing to millions of Africans, especially the poor. However, contrary to common belief, this type of clothing is not entirely made up of rags. In fact, ‘highgrade’ second-hand clothing is often highly-priced and attracts a huge demand from middIe-income bargain hunters.
It’s also important to mention here that there is a rising trend of cheap imitations of designer clothing that are flooding Nigeria and the entire African markets from Asia. A lot of this clothing, though mass produced, is made of inferior material but imitates some of the top-selling international designer brands.
Across the continent, there is a renewed love for African inspired clothing styles, designs and colours. Using local fabrics, and sometimes merging western styles with indigenous flavours, the market for localIy-made African clothing is certainly on the rise and the potentials and opportunities in this trend are huge.
With a growing appreciation of African fashion, the continent’s large population will provide a huge market for this young but promising segment of the clothing industry. In addition to the local market, African inspired garments have an outstanding export potential outside the continent.
Malawi’s Lily Alfonso, Tanzanian’s; Kemi Kalikawe and Kenya’s Njema Helena are just a few of hundreds of entrepreneurs across Africa who are building their passion for fashion into successful businesses. These entrepreneurs, many of whom are already gaining attention in their own countries, are building a viable local clothing business that may dominate the continent’s market in the near future.
Knowing the segment of the market you want to serve in the clothing business is very important. In the mass-produced category, low prices are a huge motivator. For the luxury designer segment, it’s all about impressions of quality, class and style. Knowing the kind of customers you want to target will help you to make the right decisions, especially those that concern pricing and the location of your business.