This week, Candice reflects on her experience at the Fashion Going Global panel discussion hosted by The Fashion Clinic, as well as the rapidly growing fashion industry in Nigeria.
On the 2nd of May, I was lucky enough to attend the Fashion Going Global event hosted by The Fashion Clinic at the London College of Fashion. Founded by the school’s MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, The Fashion Clinic is a community for fashion enthusiasts and entrepreneurs of all statuses and levels. Whether you’re a new, emerging, or already established business, their regular panel discussions can offer you advice, networking and collaboration opportunities.
Topics including, but not limited to, the global fashion industry and the effects of e-commerce were explored with fashion professionals Stephen Bardle, Andy Jefferies, Serge Carreira, and Angela Quaintrell.
On behalf of the UK government, Stephen Bardle, the founder of a jewellery e-commerce business, has advised numerous companies on international ecommerce. Andy Jefferies is the co-owner of Dock and Bay, a fast-growing travel lifestyle brand selling in 12 markets across the world. Lecturer at The Paris Institute of Political Studies, columnist for M le Magazine du Monde, and chief operating officer for London-based designer Mary Katrantzou, Serge Carreira shared his plethora of experiences and knowledge with us. With over 30 years of experience in high fashion retail, Angela Quaintrell was the head buyer at luxury department store Liberty and was one of the first to buy McQueen’s designs. She is currently a mentor to young emerging designers from the Vauxhall Fashion Scout programme and MA students at the London College of Fashion, and she also advises on the British Fashion Council showcasing fund. This impressive line-up of panellists gave us their tips and tricks and shared their thoughts on where fashion could be headed in the near future with the ever-developing digital world.
It’s hard to condense all of the topics discussed during the 2-hour long discussion into a smaller space, but here are some key pointers that I took away.
To build a relationship with buyers, Serge’s biggest advice was to be yourself. He said, “You’re also selling yourself and your values as a designer, making people committed to you and believe in your view, vision, and creativity. Don’t try to be someone else.” Angela and Andy also advised on directly and consistently calling your buyers and trying to connect with them personally. Sliding into their DMs is also a less daunting option if calling just isn’t your forte, but establishing that trust and friendship will take your relationship from that of just a simple seller and buyer level to a more collaborative and inclusive exchange.
Legalizing and claiming the rights to every aspect of your brand and business was also a key factor that Serge stressed to start- ups and new entrepreneurs. One needs to register everything when they first start. If another competitor decides to claim it first, attempting to reclaim your name, which is basically the face of your brand, will be very difficult and time-consuming. This can lead to more loss with the need to hire lawyers, months of court sessions, and so on. The paperwork and documentation may seem daunting in the beginning, but once your branding is secured, you have more freedom to develop your own ideas and designs.
In the tradition of a panel discussion, the curious audience interacted with the panellists enthusiastically asking questions and sharing their thoughts and concerns over their businesses or future businesses. Attendees to the event included current students, graduates and alumni of the school as well as designers, entrepreneurs, and aspiring hopefuls.
Uzoamaka Ukegbu, a fashion consultant, entrepreneur, founder of the fashion company ANKA, and aspiring hopeful was one of the audience members who came across the session by chance during her vacation from Nigeria and decided to attend. Coming from Nigeria, she told me how she never even thought of starting a fashion business there because of the huge differences in the fashion industry and economy itself.
Although skilled and talented designers are not scarce, the lack of power and infrastructure make working conditions really tough, causing a huge obstacle for the industry. There is limited access to major machinery and materials to help simplify tasks. Time is also often spent training and retraining workers as there aren’t a lot of institutions to train pattern makers, tailors, and so on. Young designers, in particular, have policies placed upon them making it even harder.
But, with the rapidly growing industry, more governments and corporations are making their investments to help with development, and fashion is being accepted more as a respectable art form of self-expression.
As part of the Commonwealth of Nations, the UK is one of Nigeria’s biggest trading partners, and trade relations will only continue to improve as a result of Brexit. Nigeria’s local currency, the naira, will be added to the UK’s roster of “preapproved currencies,” which provides financing for transactions with Nigerian businesses denominated in the local currency increasing trade and support between the two countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat expected trade between the United Kingdom and Nigeria to increase from $ 3.7 billion to $4.5 billion post-Brexit.
Brexit is not ideal for everyone, but this could be good support and a boost for Uzoamaka and other Nigerian entrepreneurs looking to start their own brand. She told me that Nigerians don’t really have a passive income to spend on clothes, and it was only until recently that local brands and ready to wear businesses were introduced into Nigeria with shopping usually done abroad.
After listening to the panellists and discovering the possibilities, she is more inspired to develop her brand where she aims to produce ready to wear clothing at a high street to premium level. “I don’t think Nigeria is ready for me to start and house my brand there. The workshop basically helped me see how I can design as a Nigerian, sell to Nigerians but also distribute to other parts of the world as well.”
If you want to keep updated on her journey and just everyday style tips, follow her company on Instagram @theankaofficial! If you’re looking for more free workshops and talk sessions with industry professionals, check out more of Fashion Clinic’s events on their social media pages below. Networking sessions fueled by complimentary snacks and drinks are at the end of every panel discussion. They’re also free, so I definitely recommend signing up for a future event!
Social Media: Instagram: the_fashion_clinic
You can read and view more of Candice’s work on Instagram by following @candice_x9
All images by Candice Wu