A few days ago the entire nation marked 63 years of nationhood with a colourful display of what makes us unique.
On social media, many companies with their presence online flooded timelines with images and designs of their products and services.
One thing that caught my attention was the shared wave of beauty on display.
For many years Ghana as a country continues to make waves in the fashion industry in the West African sub-region and the entire world. Our clothing and fashion sense has caught the world’s attention with references seen on international TV shows like ‘Blackish’, ‘American Gods’ and the likes.
There is a new breed of fashionistas perfecting craftsmanship, innovative design and duality in textile use. It’s no wonder that within the last decade, Accra has hosted various fashion shows which always featured the elegance of Ghanaian fabrics like Kente, smock and wax prints.
In Ghana specifically, there’s a huge sustainable fashion industry, where brands are opening up small production shops to make their goods. There is a growing demand and thirst for Ghanaian garments which is consequently creating jobs. The cherry on top is that a lot of these brands are using recyclables to ethically produce their apparel and accessories.
The future is hopeful but it can be better if we can all contribute to optimizing Ghana’s fashion industry. In as much as The country has some of the best talents on the continent and even the world but , there is a hugegap in the quality seen on the streets and what ends up on the runways.
As we celebrate our independence, I believe it is an ideal time for us to look into ways we can optimize the successes chalked. The next decade will be crucial for the industry as technology and climate change continue to impact the ways we live.
To ensure our readiness, the following can be looked into by all stakeholders in the fashion industry to ensure a smooth sail of the tide when the time comes.
Caption: New and Creative Designs Emerging everyday
Government Interest and Investment
Caption: Practical Class in session at Joyce Ababio College of Creative Designs
For the next wave of talented fashion designers to emerge from Ghana,There must be formidable interest and investment in the industry by government.
It is well documented that in countries where the fashion industry is a major contributor to the economy, the domestic intellectual property laws facilitate adequate protection of fashion designs. Countries like France and Italy have instituted laws that explicitly protect fashion creatives. In Ghana, there is the Industrial Designs Act, 2003 (Act 660) which is aimed at protecting individual rights and addresses grievances but it seems government now and before have shown little to no interest to ensure that the masses take advantage of the law or even test it.
Having more of such policies and laws pertaining to the fashion industry ensure that everyone in the fashion industry is protected. Having policies and laws such as patent protection will end the disagreements that sometimes emerge online and the trolls of who is stealing and copying from whom.
It is not all gloomy though, as there have been instances where the government has championed and galvanized citizens to patronize and wear Ghanaian fabric and designs.
A case study of government interest was seen recently duringthe third edition of the Wear Ghana Festival, aimed at promoting local textiles. This not withstanding, the industry needs more efforts from the government in order to thrive
Another area that may sound controversial but if addressed properly can go a long way to grow and improve the fashion industry is the second-hand clothing industry.
It is estimated that second-hand clothing contributes only 0.5 per cent of total trade globally, however, it forms one of the main components in textiles and clothing imports in Ghana.
The trade-in second-hand clothing offers many jobs to many citizens in Ghana but its negative impact on the local fashion industry cannot be overlooked. Second-hand clothing industry is reported to offer more employment than the formal sector of the textile industry in Ghana.
Revenue generated from the trade of second-hand clothing is around one billion dollars annually on the African continent and in the context of Ghana it is impacting negatively on the growth of the fashion industry in the country. To improve on the fortunes of the local fashion industry, the government of Ghana and other stakeholderscan develop policies that can better promote the industry. Example, the government can reduce the percentage and quantities of second hand clothing imported into the country which will go a long way to help fashion designers.
The Role of Fashion Schools/Institutes
Caption: JOYCE ABABIO COLLEGE OF CREATIVE DESIGN ACCRA CAMPUS
There are currently few reputable and recognized fashion schools in the country offering certifications, diploma and degree programs for students who want a career in the fashion industry in Ghana.
A research conducted by Ofori-Sarpong, in collaboration with the World Bank, revealed the need for change in curriculum, teaching at the tertiary level. Their research is part of many conducted over the years that have encouraged the need for more vocational and technical institutions.
Their study also revealed that there was an over-supply of graduates in the art and humanities. A part of this problem I believe ensue from the Senior High Schools (SHS). Students who studied technical programs like Visual Arts and Home Economics seem to find it difficult following their passion after SHS because there are not enough tertiary schools to help them while others don’t have enough information about schools and course available to them.
There are few fashion schools in the country doing their best to ensure the industry stays afloat and competitive on the global stage. Such schools like Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design offer programs from short course to degree programs for students. Globally recognized fashion designers that include Ophelia Crossland, Christie Brown, PISTIS, Samuel Owusu, Vannessa Teye – Bvnaj are proud alumni.
In optimizing the fashion industry in the country, tertiary institutions must review their curricula to enable graduates from fashion schools to remain competitive on the job market in the global world, thus making them more efficient and productive professionals.
Fashion schools will have to update their library resources
by including books on current trends and access to journals and other research
sites to better inform faculty and students. For this to be manifested such schools will
also need support from the government, private sector and individuals alike to
contribute financially towards the betterment of fashion schools in the
Branding and positioning
Caption: Lauren Hanson – Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design Alumni won emerging designer of the year at the 2019 Glitz Style Awards.
Branding and positioning are areas worth addressing in the fashion industry. Many fashion designers in the industry are yet to position their brand to have a stronghold on citizens.
There is a huge gap in information flow between current and upcoming fashion designers and ordinary Ghanaians. Few people know about the works of our trail-blazers and new sensations in the industry. And due to that many rely on a few designers.
There is a need for upcoming fashion designers to contact pace setters or legends in the industry to help them craft their image and brand. What we have seen over the years is a lack of collaboration between these groups of people.
Many upcoming designers do not know or have the needed techniques to get their brand working for them. This is the very reason it is important that anyone going into the fashion industry to start a career acquires relevant education. This could be in the form of short courses, diploma or degree where they will be taught practical skills needed as every industry has its dos and don’ts when it comes to branding and positioning. Schools like Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design offer course in entrepreneurship, branding and graphic design that that ensure students do not only enhance their creativity but also learn practical skills needed to grow a viable business.
In conclusion, all stake holders in the industry including government, schools, industries among others must work together to ensure the fashion industry in the country continues to grow and remain globally competitive and viable in the coming years.
By: Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design
Address: P.O Box CT1097
Location: 26 W Cantonments, Cantonments Ghana.