The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global value chains with factories closing doors, borders closing and travel restrictions causing a negative impact on African businesses and leaving workers feeling the worst effects. A panel composed of industry experts at the Fashionomics Africa initiative on 3 September discussed building more resilient value chains through innovative business models to keep garments in use longer, using renewable materials and recycling old clothes into new products.
The panel was made up of experts from the Parsons School of Design, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based charity, and creative minds behind Orange Culture, Mariama Fashion Production and Qaaldesigns, sustainable African fashion brands. The Fashionomics Africa initiative, by the African Development Bank and United Nations Environment Programme, aims to contribute to the African textile, apparel and accessories industry by increasing entrepreneurs accessing markets through e-commerce capabilities, boosting their access to finance, technical and business skills and forging partnerships with key contributors.
Adebayo Oke-Lawal, designer and founder of Orange Culture, says his dream is to develop a healthy fashion industry in Africa and there is so much that needs to be done, but it can't be done alone. Brendan McCarthy, director of the Fashion Design Program for Systems and Materiality at the Parsons School of Design, says COVID-19 forced the world to rethink our system and it’s a question of interconnection and understanding that one person’s waste could be someone else's resources.
He says what is needed is collaboration and breaking down typical silos that fashionpreneurs face in the industry. Digital tools have become a phenomenon that have revolutionised the way the fashion industry works and Parsons School of Design is working closely with the African Development Bank to leverage digital tools to support the African textile and fashion industry.
Bintou Sadio Diallo, spokesperson for the African Development Bank, says with the pandemic and acceleration of digital tools, African fashion entrepreneurs have an opportunity to reconceptualise and better educate designers and consumers. The bank is also analysing the impact of the textile sector on climate change and the environment to deploy climate-friendly solutions in Africa through the Fashionomics Africa digital marketplace and mobile app.