This Tuesday night FIT’s International Trade and Marketing department hosted a panel as part of its guest lecture series, this time focusing on Africa. Africa: The Next Emerging Marketplace was a curation of pioneers in the fashion industry who have a strong hand in putting fashion on a pedestal to advocate sustainable development in the continent.
Among the panelists were EDUN CEO and FIT alumna Janice Sullivan; Chair of Government Liaison Committee of Fashion 4 Development, Roberta Annan; Founder and Director of Africa Fashion Week, Adiat Disu, and Founder of Nigeria Fashion Week Lexy Mojo Eyes. The panel was moderated by Tanya Cole, U.S. Commercial Officer for Trade at USAEC, who opened the discussion reminding the students that Africa consists of 54 nations. “With diversity comes opportunity, and with opportunity comes production," Cole said.
Nigeria Fashion Week was founded in 1997 by Lexy Rose Eyes off the success of a single fashion show. The yearly event in Lagos calls Nigerians to look inward for fabrics, materials, and production opportunities. “We must use fashion to unite the lives of women,” he said. “Women are the bedrock of Nigerian society.” Several women have come out of Nigerian Fashion Week discovered by key people who have connected them with funding to grow their business, like Luchi Esther of Luchi Gems.
Roberta Annan, who is responsible for developing the L’Uuomo Vogue’s Africa issue, skyped in from Ghana to educate FIT students on the necessities of investing in things like education, female empowerment, poverty reduction, and technology in Africa. “With good investment, Africa will employ a lot of people,” she said. “There is a rising middle class in Africa, and they are willing to spend on luxury brands.”
Speaking of luxury, Adiat Disu is redefining African fashion and luxuries to global consumers. On top of running her own PR firm, the 20-something Nigerian secured a proclamation from Michael Bloomberg that put Africa Fashion Week on the New York Fashion calendar.
Finally, how is EDUN pioneering the industry? “EDUN is not a cause brand,” CEO Janice Sullivan said. Rather “a lifestyle brand committed to a cause.” The whole idea behind trading in Africa, is to bring back sustainable trade to improve the lives of workers on the ground, by providing jobs/opportunity and expression in the fashion industry.”
It was a very inspiring night, and certainly two hours wasn’t enough to cover the incredible things the panelists are doing for Africa.
A slide from Lexy Rose Eye's presentation on Nigeria Fashion Week