The emerging role of fashion tourism in Africa

Africa fashion tourismAfrica fashion tourismAfrica fashion tourism
Africa fashion tourismAfrica fashion tourismAfrica fashion tourism

The emerging role of fashion tourism in Africa

Fashion is an integral part of the African culture, with each country on the vast continent having their own style and materials making them unique. Fashion has long since been an expression of identity, and for African designers and models this has become especially true with the rise in popularity of African fabrics and design. With fashion tourism on the rise, we look at how what role this plays to change African art in the eyes of the world.


What is fashion tourism?

Fashion tourism can be thought of as the phenomenon of people travelling to different locations across the world to enjoy and learn about the fashion and trends of the area. It is a niche market borne out of a combination of both cultural tourism and shopping tourism.

The fashion tourism industry is a multibillion-dollar industry globally, and is growing in popularity all over the world, including in African countries such as Nigeria. Fashion tourism is a viable option for countries looking to increase economic gain and also allows local designers to showcase their talent and attract international investors and fashion houses.


Economic growth is increased

Shopping festivals and fashion shows are being created by designers and tourist developers in order to encourage and increase economic growth. There has been an evolution of a ‘new tourist’, one who requires more than just the ‘sun, sea and fun’ tourism package.

Tourism packages are being altered to meet these needs, which is resulting in an economic growth increase due to these higher-paying tourists. The fashion shows in African countries are geared towards these tourists, and so they showcase only the highest quality products that represent the culture of the country.


African textiles are given exposure

For many years, African textiles have been seen as primitive and ‘touristy’ but thanks to the influx of fashion tourists to the continent during the various fashion weeks across Africa, these textiles and designs are now being taken seriously in the fashion industry.

African textiles and fabrics are now being used on catwalks across the world, from Paris to New York, which in turn is increasing the amount of fashion tourism to Africa itself. International designers are now interested in travelling to the textile creators in the countries of origin to purchase materials for their next line, which is also encouraging economic growth.


Job creation

While fashion tourism focuses on one industry, the opportunity for job creation in other non-related industries still remains. Fashion tourists will still visit local restaurants, hotels and shops while in the country, which calls for employees and workers.   

Fashion tourists often call for the finer things in life, which means that the quality of service needs to be extremely high. This can benefit a restaurant or hotel in the long run, as they will need to appeal to other high-paying tourists if their standards remain high throughout the year. These tourists often enjoy sampling local cuisine and culture, which allows artisans to increase their income during the fashion weeks.


Local demand will grow

One of the problems facing African fashion designers is the fact that not many local design houses and buyers are interested in their offerings. This could be due to the fact that large brands do not trust local designers to be on par with their international counterparts.

Fashion tourism from international names will increase the trust in local brands and so the local demand for locally-produced clothing will grow in strength. In order to further encourage this demand, some designers have taken to branding their clothing as being “proudly South African”, Nigerian and so on. International fashionistas enjoy taking home souvenirs of their travels and such brands are ideal. Seeing the popularity on other continents will inspire local buyers to choose these designers over others.


Artisans can continue their work

African textiles such as Isishweshwe are still produced in the traditional method of rolling the cloth through copper rollers with patterns etched on the surface. Without the new-found popularity of these materials both locally and internationally, these artisans would soon be out of work.

Traditional fabric producers need the fashion tourism industry to continue growing, as the designers are their market. Artisans in the textile industry are in desperate competition with mass-produced fabrics, but with the new focus on African materials in the fashion industry, these artisans are able to continue their work and have an increasing market to provide for.


African creativity on show

The fashion industry is one that is inherently creative, requiring designers to produce new ideas on a highly regular basis. African artists, musicians and designers are known for meeting and exceeding this bill, drawing on their personal experiences for inspiration. Often the societal issues of their country are interwoven in their pieces, showing the world that Africa is a continent that, despite its issues, is flourishing.

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