Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 December 2022:
Last week, 14 companies from Sierra Leone’s fashion and textiles industry took part in an introductory workshop on international marketing. Some of the topics covered included – the creation of lookbooks, pricing strategies for export, as well as harnessing their collective purchasing power to reduce export costs. (Photo above: In September 2022 – Freetown’s Mayor hosted an event to promote fashion collaboration links between Freetown designers and markets in Milan and London).
Last week’s workshop was organised by Invest Salone, a UK government-funded initiative to support private sector development. The workshop was led by Jacqueline Brown – a business coach and author, specialising in the African fashion industry.
Ms Brown said that the visibility of fabrics and designers from Africa had increased significantly, and that behind the continent’s contemporary fashion boom, there was a sustainable fashion story and cultural diversity. “It’s a cottage industry and many items are handmade in small quantities. It is not a fast fashion environment and that is an advantage,” she explained.
Challenges to the sector included the impact of the second-hand clothing market, weak technical capacity and low productivity. However, developing a sustainable fashion and textiles industry in Africa has the power to transform economies and improve livelihoods – especially for women. “In sub-Saharan Africa, 70–80% of the workers in the clothing industry are women, and when women earn, the whole economy benefits,” she said.
The workshop then looked at how to attract international buyers. This included looking at online tools for developing lookbooks, and a discussion on the harsh realities of pricing fashion and textiles for export.
Branding and how to position the product also emerged as a key theme. “It’s important to educate the consumer so they understand that they’re buying something unique and special,” Ms Brown said.
She concluded by telling participants that they had the power to put Sierra Leone on the international fashion and textiles map. “But we must recognise that there is work to do and Sierra Leone’s textiles and fashion entrepreneurs can take the first step by building and sharing a brand story which will strategically position their business towards international growth and global marketing.”