African Fashion Education: The role of the African fashion education industry

The Council for International African Fashion Education (CIAFE) is an organization that is dedicated to improving the standards of fashion education in order to make it accessible to all people in hopes to create employability opportunities, launched in July 2021.

Fashion United spoke with CIAFE’s executive director Frederica Brooksworth about the importance of the African fashion industry, the opportunities that exist by enhancing innovation in the African fashion education industry and how education institutions can advance their presence in the current fashion industry.

What is the role of the African fashion education industry?

To provide opportunities for emerging talent to shape the future of the fashion industry. To support the innovation of the African fashion industry and to support economic growth. It is also pivotal for the African fashion education industry to be involved in the global fashion conversation to ensure that there are no conscious biases when it comes to the African fashion industry.

Why is the African fashion industry important to the fashion industry as a whole?

We talk about fashion being a global industry? However, the African fashion industry is often left out and Africa is the second-largest continent. The United Nations reported that Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30.

Now if you understand the business then you’ll know that this is a big deal. It’s also important to note that the African fashion industry is not bound to the country alone but consists of those within the diaspora. We’re not looking at it from just a designer's perspective and focusing on people buying just African brands, but also considering manufacturing and production.

The continent is an amazing hub for this, with access to raw materials, craftsmanship and so much more. Sustainability is a conversation that is being had in the west, however, on the continent for the majority of people living sustainably has always been a lifestyle and I believe that Africa’s fashion industry can teach the west how to be sustainable.

What challenges does the African fashion education industry face?

The main thing I would say is a lack of funding, then structure. If there is more funding in place it would be easier to have the best resources, provide teacher training and up-skill educators, produce more researchers to support development, and create opportunities. This then also helps to lead into the structure, if there are policies in place we will begin to have a uniform approach when it comes to education on the continent.

What opportunities exist by enhancing innovation and creativity in the African fashion education industry?

So much and I would like to focus on employment here. There are many great potential opportunities to create jobs in many sectors from retail, to technology, research, production, sustainability, fashion law, you name it. However, this requires consistency and dedication.

What can education institutions do to advance their presence in the current fashion industry?

Invest in reshaping their curriculum, working with industry specialists, collaborating with other institutions to provide new experiences for students, listening to their students and using data to inform their decisions.

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