The annual Lagos Fashion and Design Week (#LFDW) is on and designers, models, fashion bloggers, style enthusiast and fashion critics have come to play. However, I feel a very important class of persons are missing from this list….the tourist! Where are the tourists?
Why isn’t Lagos, Africa’s fashion capital, flocked with tourist from all over the world or at least Africa? Why aren’t hotels fully booked? Why aren’t restaurants selling out and finally, why are ubers still available? So many questions…
Truth is, when I think of Fashion Week, the “Big Four” cities, New York, Paris, London and Milan come to mind. The build up to Fashion Week in these top four global cities is insane and the planning is second to none. It kicks off with a media frenzy on both traditional and new media with people anticipating what top designers have in store for the season. The latest trends are also set during fashion week and for upcoming designers, it’s a great platform to showcase their work. Street style is also a major part of fashion week. It’s almost as huge as the runway show itself and gives fashionistas the opportunity to fully express themselves in any and every possible way. These cities understand that shopping is a major tourist activity and have not left the fashion tourists behind. There is a conscious effort to push Fashion Week to showcase the city’s fashion credibility. Shopping tourism is one of the most used tools to sell a destination and a fashionable city will attract tourists. Everyone, fashion conscious or not, would want to visit one of the world’s fashion capital someday.
As I am not a fashion person, I had to do serious research for this article and the facts I found about Fashion Week in the Big Four literally blew my mind away! New York City is the holy grail of fashion week for designers and the city itself. Here are some fun facts and figures about New York Fashion Week (NYFW):
NYFW Fashion Week generates an income of 513.5 million euros per event and this is more than the US Open and the NYC Marathon
- NYFW brings in about 150,000 unique visitors per season.
- The average visitor spends 2,226 euros during the event.
- New York city generates 92.5 million euros due to the influx of outside visitors.
- Sales and Tourist tax nets at 14 million euros.
- Local businesses financial gain from Fashion week is 456.2 million euros.*
Coming close to NYFW is London Fashion week with the following facts and figures:
- London Fashion Week attracts an average of 105,000 unique visitors per event.
- Visitors spend an average of 871.5 euros per fashion week dining out.
- The city benefits an income of 16 million euros from sales tax for food.
- Visitors spend an average of 719 euros in retail stores.
- Hotels and accommodation cost visitors on average of 634 euros per fashion week.
- The average visitor spends 2,225 euros during the event.*
These global fashion cities have recognized that shopping is one of the criteria travelers consider when choosing destination. Ironically, Nigerians are known for traveling to consume fashion. The average Nigerian traveler either travels for business or to shop the latest trends. Nigerians are generally very big on fashion and one will expect that the LFDW will be an opportunity to show the rest of the world our impeccable taste in fashion and creativity. Literally sell Nigeria to the world. However, we need to ask ourselves, are Nigerian designers appealing to foreigners? How can we get foreigners to consume more Nigerian fashion?
In response to getting foreigners to consume more fashion, fashion blogger Stephanie “Metrogypsie” Okafor stated thus;
The truth is less than 10% of designers based in Nigeria are known internationally. Thanks to the Maki Ohs, Jewel by Lisa, Ohimai Atafo, Tiffany Amber, Ejiro Amos Tafiri, Deola Sagoe, Duro Olowu, Zizi Cardow etc who have actually made a mark outside the shores of our continent. Even with these, how easily available are their pieces? Where are their ads? Do they sponsor international Fashion events/shows? To get an international fashion audience and customers, we should be strategic within ourselves. First of all, we need our government to take this industry seriously.We need structured training and apprenticeships to harness skills of the young ones.We need established designers to work creatively with fashion bloggers. I am a full Nigerian in England now (just for the past 6 years)..70% of my blog readers are in Nigeria yet 95% of the brands I collaborate with are either in the U.K, the US or retail stores in Asia. We (stakeholders) need to stop being selfish and grow together.Finally I think we need a bit more Ready To Wear brands in Nigeria. Thanks to stores like Grey Velvet, Zinkata, Zazaii, etc they stock lots of Nigerian designed pieces which would have been almost difficult to get. Grey Velvet is actually amazing as they also offer free shipping after you spend a certain amount.
She strongly believes Nigerian designers can appeal to foreigners if they give their brands some noise. On Fashion Tourism, she opined that it can work with adequate planning, packaging and good publicity. However, this will need forward-thinking people. Additionally, she stated that getting international media to cover the Fashion Week will definitely attract more visitors here. For foreigners looking to consume Nigerian Fashion which depicts our culture, she suggested pieces from Wanger Ayu, Nkwo, Greys, Orange Culture, Onalaja, Dyzn and Somoye’s Rayo.
The energy and the different cultures the various cities embrace through fashion is very attractive. I particularly love London Fashion Week for their authentic British flair. Paris I admire because the French women are extremely chic. They take street style to a different level of stylish. – Fashion enthusiast and Editor-in-chic of Schick magazine, Simisola Esiri
On Nigerian designers appealing to fashion lovers all over the world, her response was positive and the issue with foreign consumption is accessibility.
Our garments have embellishment, structured silhouettes, prints-most aesthetics you can find anywhere in the world. The issue with foreign consumption is accessibility and not being exposed to the great designers we have here, although the likes of New York Fashion week is changing that by giving designers such as Lisa Folawiyo a platform to showcase their work.
She concluded with stating how fashion week can boost tourism in an economy and gave an example of Singapore which includes fashion week as one of the high-profile components for enhancing the city as a tourist destination.
Fashion week has a several advantages and can advance a country’s local and regional economy. Fashion should be seen as a new anchor for its countries tourism industry. Singapore for instance has fashion week and the Singapore tourism board includes fashion as one of the high-profile components for enhancing the city as a tourist destination. Another example is Seoul who has two fashion weeks a year, and because of these events, a huge amount of complex shopping malls and wholesale retailers have attracted more than two million visitors in a year and have created jobs and opportunities for business. I think fashion week can boost tourism by increasingly using its countries cultural industries to boost their economic fortune and place the country to a global market. People traveling/visiting a country for business, leisure, study or simply to shop during fashion week promotes the country on a public stage.
We also caught up with the founder of stylemeafrica.com, Dedun Olobayo, and she gave a candid opinion on why Nigerian fashion isn’t being consumed at an international scale. She stated,
I commend the growth of the fashion industry in Nigeria and applaud designers for their creativity. However, Nigerian designers need to perfect their craft to compete at an international scale. Clothing items from a high fashion brand should not have lopsided stitches or zips out-of-place. Those are the little details that make you different from a regular tailor on the streets of Lagos. They should not put out items with defects for sale. International buyers look out for these hitches. Additionally, most designers lack the capacity to produce at a large-scale and can not meet up with the demands of an international distributors.
On LFDW driving Fashion Tourism, she stated that with better organization, the show will attract international visitors.
The reason people flock the streets of New York, Paris, Milan or London during Fashion Week is partly because they love fashion and partly because these shows are perfectly organized! There will definitely be a lot of behind the scenes madness but this is not obvious. We should abandon the tardy culture of African time and stick to the schedule. A show scheduled to start at 5.00pm should start at 5.00pm. When we set little things like that in place, international visitors will come.
Fashion Tourism, like every other type of Tourism in Nigeria, has great potential and one can only hope we take advantage of the uniqueness we can offer the world. We will end with excerpt from a Thesis titled “THE EMERGING ROLE OF FASHION TOURISM AND THE NEED FOR A DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY IN LAGOS, NIGERIA” – Olubukola Bada.
Lagos State is in the peak of economic growth and development in Nigeria and is aiming on becoming one of the top mega cities in the world. Lagos State is presently executing programmes aimed at alleviating poverty, developing infrastructure and growing the economy. By 2015, the goal is that Lagos State will be a totally urbanized State. The National Vision 20:2020 is a programme welcomed and embraced by the Lagos State Government. The Vision 20:2020 due to this ongoing development, which has not yet reached its target destination, fashion tourism is not as big as it should as the underdeveloped nature of the city is hindering the event to rub shoulders with the likes of Paris, London and New York fashion week.
The fashion industry may look like a glitzy and glamorous industry that rewards but rewards to majority of designers have remained very low, thus the need to build a real economy, is one of the challenges in the sector. Fashion and Design Week in Lagos state is getting bigger by the year and a lot has been done to improve the image of the city to the world. Most local government 29 chairmen in Lagos state were not doing enough to develop the vast tourism potentials in their localities. Majority of the council chairmen do not know how to package tourism in their localities. Lack of awareness is a major challenge facing the sector. The major challenges in tourism are not in Lagos State alone, but the entire nation lacks adequate awareness about tourism. When people are aware of the tourism potentials, then the tendencies to develop are there.
*Statistics were obtained from fashionunited.com
Featured Image: Onalaja Official
Street style images:
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