(ORGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE AFRICAN TRENDZINE)
Rumour in Africa celebrates a gathering place for those who share a common incentive to enter in an open dialogue to intellectualise fashion in the African context. At Stories of Near, we founded this event as part of a new approach to transparency and unification of an often dispersed fashion realm in the continent. Herein, the trailblazers of tomorrow form a community through collective values and beliefs, sharing stories and patterns of thought. The talks circles around a direct agenda on how fashion can promote growth, sustainability and allow for inclusive business models that will benefit creative talent in the Pan-African fashion industry. The purpose is to allow the story-tellers of this vast growing environment to be heard.
I organized and hosted the second Rumour in Africa summit in Accra, Ghana, in March. In the setting of concept store Elle Lokko, featuring Stefania Manfreda of Elle Lokko, Lee Dekel who is the managing director of Osei Duro a global brand that produces in Ghana, Nana Kwame Adusei who is the brand designer of emerging ready-towear brand Charlotte Privé and Nana Osei who works for the Radford University Fashion and Design department, giving shape to the educational aspect of fashion in Ghana. “Fashion in Ghana is changing and people are rediscovering what local means and incorporating culture in new ways”, said Stefania Manfreda. One of the brands she supports is Osei Duro, who is known for using traditional textiles and techniques. “What inspired us in Ghana is that a lot of people have a connection with the technical side of clothing, made by tailors which you can find everywhere in the streets”, states Lee Dekel. “Everyone we work with we met through someone; it is always through word of mouth. It feels more like a human connected industry, which is innovative for Osei Duro”. Even though young entrepreneurs are dealing with a flawed system, they are taking it to their advantage in making it their own proving how social innovation works in Africa. Nana Kwame Adusei experienced a lot of difficulties starting up his label Charlotte Privé.
Setting up self-owned factory was one of the few options left in a time where there was a lack of platforms supporting each other. “Now we are trying to put together a very strong fashion association in Ghana which ensures manufacturers are funded”, he manifests when we asked him how young talents can enter the fashion market in Ghana in the current environment. There is a pro-active energy in Ghana’s fashion wave of new talents looking to do things together. However, not all the solutions can be found within the fashion community itself. “If we want to see a beautiful collaborative environment, we will need investment from the governments; stability is key,” noted Lee Dekel. The dialogue circled around how business can be done better in a highly creative environment that is present in Ghana.”We need institutions; more things should be done in-house such as the fabric industry,” mentioned Stefania. While the traditional market in Ghana is a booming landscape, the new emerging designers depend on importing textiles from outside. Despite these challenges, which can seem overwhelming for the outside world, the future of fashion in Ghana according these Ghanaians insiders seems very hopeful. “You know you are better as a team.” said Nana Osei, from Radford University. Which for me was a sign of a great inspiring dialogue revealing the mindset of a new generation that is ready to be heard.
Pictures by Ben bond photography in Accra.