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IN PICTURES| The Business Of African Fashion: Nigeria Takes A Slice Of The Pie

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For the fashion-conscious Nigerian elite, Lagos has a new design paradigm that could rival some of the world’s best brands.


The Lagos Fashion & Design Week (LFDW) in October 2018 saw more than 50 top designers congregate to create everything from intricate wedding gowns with stunning fabric, woven with traditional techniques from across the country to high-end and trendy ready-to-wear pieces for the upwardly-mobile millennial consumer.

The annual LFDW has a vision to create a fashion platform that merges the Nigerian and African fashion industry together as well as providing a marketplace for buyers, consumers and the media to view the current collections of designers at a four-day event filled with glitz and glamour.

According to a report by McKinsey, the global fashion industry is projected to reach a staggering $2.4 trillion in 2016.

Nigeria’s fashion retail market itself accounts for about $4.7 billion according to data from Euromonitor. However, Nigerian fashion brands need to warm up to the emergence of a new connected consumer, well-synced with the latest in global apparel and fashion trends, if they are to capture a due share of this growth.

This is certainly one aspect Folake Akindele, founder of fashion brand, Tiffany Amber and one of the most revered designers in Nigeria, is hoping to address with her new collection, ‘Made in Africa, Made for Now’.

“Tiffany Amber was the first ready-to-wear brand in Nigeria. I remember when I launched, I said I wanted to bring African women in line with fashion trends around the world. Because I was the first in this industry, I had to make my own rules because there was nobody out there to look up to,” says Akindele, who studied in the cool climes of Switzerland. Her mission is to change the perception of Nigerian fashion but that was not always her calling.

“The real flair for fashion came when I went to law school in Abuja. I made clothes for myself and everyday, people would stop me and ask ‘where did you buy these clothes from’? So one day, I decided to make two suitcases of clothes to make a little side business and I sold them in two hours and that is when I decided to toy with the idea of fashion as a business,” she says.

Nigeria’s fashion designers have found their way into the global market in many ways over the past couple of years. For instance, Akindele was recently short-listed to showcase her line at the fashion week in Paris; Maki Oh’s outfit was worn by pop sensation Beyoncé in her Lemonade video and Deola Sagoe has featured at the New York Fashion Week.

But a new breed of designers and entrepreneurs passionate about securing Nigeria’s place in the global fashion scene is rising and Akindele is leading that charge.

But today’s consumers are pushing for fast fashion where brands are being forced to create new collections faster if they want to stay competitive.

“We are in what I call the new design paradigm where consumers want great products that are trendy and unique at great value and at even greater speed. This puts pressure on new designers who invariably now fixate on curation over creation,” says Akindele.

This year marks her 20th year as a designer and 15 years since she launched Tiffany Amber. It is now time to take her brand global.

“I wanted the foundation of the brand to be so strong in Africa that it becomes a heritage brand before I can grow globally. For about 10 years, I was uninterested in the global market. I wanted to focus on Africa because I found it interesting that you travel to so many parts of Africa and you cannot go shopping because there are not many African brands. It was my first show at the New York Fashion Week that made me fall in love with the idea of the global scene because the brand was so very well-accepted and we got invited for the second and third time.”

With the emergence of e-commerce as a popular channel for fashion buying, the onus is now increasingly on brands to be collaborative and innovative. This is difficult in an industry that according to Akindele has traditionally struggled to raise capital.

“Years ago, the fashion industry was seen as what bored housewives do. There was no structure to the industry. The funding to grow and be an industry that attracts money is nowhere to be found here. When you look at Europe, eight of the richest men are all in the fashion industry. As Africans, we love to look good and nobody can dress an African the way we can dress ourselves. So there has to be capital injection in this sector to encourage more young people to see this as a sector worth going into.”

There is also a lack of skilled labor as well as access to quality raw materials to produce designs that meet international standards in Nigeria. More importantly, Nigeria’s fashion industry needs to recognize that the modern Nigerian consumer is no different from her counterparts in the west. Brands need to demonstrate savviness in embracing social media marketing as well as spotting the latest trends that appeal to the African consumer in order to create a lucrative business.

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Noëlla Coursaris Musunka The Trailblazer In The Congo

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The story of love, loss and triumph. The story of humanitarian, model and mother, Noëlla Coursaris Musunka.


This is a tale of generational loss. A tale about how, at the tender age of five, a child lost everything she held dear. She lost her mother, her father, familiar surroundings and was relocated from the country she’d come to know as her home. However, in losing so much, she seemed to have gained everything and insists on sharing it with others.

After the death of her father, when Noëlla Coursaris Musunka was five years old, her mother could not afford to keep her and was forced to give her only child (at the time) away in hopes that she would get better opportunities.

Musunka moved to Belgium, and later Switzerland, and was away for 13 years with very little communication with her mother back home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

READ MORE |Ravaged by Ebola and War, Congo Named Most Neglected Crisis of 2018

“It was a tough time… I received two or three letters from my mom and spoke to her only twice on the phone,” says Musunka. On her return, at 18 years, she was so struck by the abject poverty that she vowed to contribute to the education of her brothers and sisters, and would give back to her country.

And she has done so in spectacular fashion.

Musunka has since had a flourishing career as a model and has graced the pages of fashion magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire and Elle. The exposure propelled her to pursue her passion for humanitarian and philanthropic work.

When asked about what accolades, such as the one she received from the Nelson Mandela Foundation (in November 2018) and the Enhle Cares Foundation, mean to her, Musunka beams and says: “It’s very special. I’m a pan-Africanist. I love Patrick Lumumba, I love Mandela, I love Sankara. I love all these revolutionary people… who want the best for Africa… The spirit of Mandela is [his] legacy. When people remember Noëlla, I want them to remember my legacy. And my legacy and my message is to give back.”

The Malaika school. Picture: Supplied

“I’m very happy that the Mandela family contacted me and said ‘this is what our dad would want. You are a young woman investing in education and that’s the reason we want to honor you’. It’s very touching and I’m not into awards, but this one is very special.”

Since founding the non-profit organization Malaika in 2007, it has grown from a one-room school house to a world-class school that accommodates 314 students of all ages. As the school continues to operate, it plans on adding approximately 30 girls each year.

The Malaika Foundation, which is in the village of Kalebuka, in the southeastern region of the DRC, has also established a community learning center, recreational facilities, 17 water wells and farm land.

This is due to the tenacity and collaborative efforts of 31 Congolese staff members working on the ground in the DRC, and support from a team of 30 volunteers working in the US, Europe, the DRC and other locations.
In Kalebuka, the community plays an integral role in the daily running of the school.

“We have 30 parents a day who come to maintain the school. The whole community is driven. The village takes care of the program and protects it. The community center is good because it’s also important to teach the parents. We have the youth and the parents who come to the community center to learn to read, write, sew, and we have key messages. We also distribute malaria nets.

“So, we have 5,000 people who go there and all programs are free. The school is for free. The staff [members] give of their time, their skills and their money. We have a pro-bono lawyer, pro-bono auditing … [and] we teach the mothers to make the uniforms. We give the girls underwear, socks and shoes.”

The colloquail term ‘say it with your chest’, means to say something with determination, self-assurance and without fear. During her interview with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA at the Da Vinci Hotel in Sandton in Johannesburg in November, Musunka was wearing a t-shirt with the word ‘Revolution’ across it. The education revolution has swept the village of Kalebuka, in the form for Musunka and her team.

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WATCH | The Making Of The New Wealth Creators Cover

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The New Wealth Creators is the first of its kind list by FORBES WOMAN AFRICA. Herein is a collection of female entrepreneurs on the African continent running businesses and social enterprises that are new, offbeat and radical.

These 20 women have been selected because they have created significant impact in their respective sectors by transforming a market or company, or innovating a product or service, and are pioneering their organization(s) in generating new untapped streams of income.

VIEW THE FULL LIST|Businesses Of The Future: 20 New Wealth Creators On The African Continent

These women come from across the continent, from the villages and the suburbs, and are in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. They have all adopted sustainable development initiatives in one way or another to help solve Africa’s problems.

They may be wealth creators but their businesses, ironically, did not stem from a need to make money,  but rather from the need to solve Africa’s persisting socio-economic challenges.

 Economically empowering women has shown to boost productivity. It increases economic diversification and income equality, in addition to other positive developmental outcomes.

Simply put, when more women work, economies are likely to grow.

FORBES WOMAN AFRICA put in months of rigorous research, searching near and far for these inspirational entrepreneurs.

We took into account their business model, new ideas, potential, struggles, social impact, growth, influence, resilience and most importantly, their innovation.

Speaking to FORBES WOMAN AFRICA last year at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said: “Innovation [is] becoming the cornerstone for our economy going forward.”

As Africa’s population is reported to increase by 53% by 2100, according to the United Nations, new solutions must be created in order for us to keep up.

READ MORE | Naomi Campbell: Africa Is One Of The Leading Continents In The World

One question remains: can Africa translate its significant population growth into economic development, and invest this wealth to improve the quality of life?

Entrepreneurship could very well be the answer, or at least, one of the answers.

Last year, the Founder and Chair of the Alibaba Group Jack Ma paid Africa a visit to discuss tangible investment and technology development.

He encouraged African entrepreneurs to take giant leaps in solving the challenges facing the continent and to take advantage of the digital economy.

From left to right: Rachel Sibande, Arlene Mulder, Miishe Addy, Sarah Collins, Dineo Lioma, Jessica Anuna. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla
Assistant Photographer: Gypseenia Lion

He said that opportunities lie where people complain.

And these women, through their businesses, have identified just that.

Vijay Tirathrai, director of the Techstars Dubai Accelerator, shared the same sentiments with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

“The new wealth creators, for me, are entrepreneurs who are very conscious about finding solutions in the market place, but from a lens of having social impact or having impacted the environment,” he says.

Tirathrai believes that while servicing consumers, new wealth creators are also “making a safer and a greener planet in the process, eliminating diseases, improving health conditions and advocating for equality for women”.

Women on the African continent have been making headway as drivers of change, and in many ways, they embody new wealth.

They are the true wealth.

As FORBES WOMAN AFRICA, we seek to celebrate such women.

Through this list, money is no longer the central indicator of new wealth creation.

It is about job creation, contributing to healthy societies, recycling waste, giving agency to those who are financially excluded and developing solutions for some of the socio-economic problems we grapple with.

IN PICTURES | Leading Women Summit 2019

These women may all come from different places but they are bound together by one common thread, and that is the thread of new wealth creation.

This compilation is innovative, exciting, inspiring and shows what businesses of the future may look like.

Meet the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA New Wealth Creators of 2019.

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IN PICTURES | Leading Women Summit 2019

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The FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit which was hosted the by KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government took place on International Women’s Day (Friday, 08 March) at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.

Full list of winners | Leading Women Summit award winners

READ MORE about the New Wealth Creators | Businesses Of The Future: 20 New Wealth Creators On The African Continent

The 2019 Leading Women Summit was a full-day event, with an audience of over 500 women.

The goal was to bring together leading, influential women to share their ideas that are idea-focused, and on a wide range of subjects, to foster learning, inspiration and wonder – and provoke conversations that matter. The 2019 theme for the event was the “New Wealth Creators”.

The New Wealth Creators list, which is the first of its kind, was unveiled at the Summit. It is collection of female entrepreneurs on the African continent running businesses and social enterprises that are new, offbeat and radical.

READ MORE | Naomi Campbell: Africa Is One Of The Leading Continents In The World

READ MORE | Naomi Campbell Announced As Headline Speaker For The 2019 Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit

The Summit celebrated a host of female trailblazers, game-changers and pioneers in African business and society.

Supermodel, philanthropist and cultural innovator, Naomi Campbell was the headline speaker among other global influencers in business, sport, science, entertainment and leadership.

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