Next season, the Ethical Fashion Initiative is holding events during Paris Fashion Week. They seek to raise the profile of African designers around the world and attract new forms of investment.
African fashion has huge creative potential, thanks to its diverse and rich cultural background. However, the firms frequently lack access to high-quality production and financial backing. This means a huge undertaking to internationalise and tackle the global market. Since 2013, the EFI has been assisting in the promotion of African fashion design on a worldwide scale.
The programme is a flagship effort of the International Trade Centre, a Geneva-based joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. What began as a platform to connect global lifestyle brands with craftspeople around the world is evolving into an accelerator for African businesses.
The EFI Designer Accelerator focuses on the unique needs of African fashion brands. This helps the associated brands to seek further assistance to grow their enterprises in the global market. The programme takes a company development approach to ensure that its participants are ready to invest.
Founded in 2009, the EFI connects brands like Vivienne Westwood, Loewe, and Adidas with 10,000 artisans in Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, and parts of Central Asia. Its programme in Afghanistan is currently on hold due to the country’s political turmoil.
Now, programme leader Simon Cipriani is launching EFI to new heights. Cipriani is an officer of the United Nations. He also conceived and directs the International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Initiative, a joint initiative of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Additionally, he is the Chair of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion’s Steering Committee.
This new beginning starts with a Paris launch on Oct. 30 and 31. The event includes exhibitions, a concert, and round tables with designers Margaux Wong of Burundi and Lukhanyo Mdingi of South Africa; one of the joint winners of the Karl Lagerfeld Prize at this year’s LVMH Prize for Young Designers.
Cipriani tells WWD, “We are going to Paris because it’s a progression.”
“Paris is very open and very close to African fashion traditionally, and Paris has also a very active diaspora with a lot of good designers and with a lot of investors who can invest in these designers.”
The event is hosted at 360 Paris Music Factory in Paris’s Goutte d’Or neighbourhood. Home to a number of designers, there will be an array of hosting workshop internal events. Designers have previously been brought to events in Italy by the EFI, including Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, Pitti Uomo, and Altaroma.
Cipriani believes that investing in fashion design is an excellent approach to generate social capital in African countries, where creative industries like fashion, music, and modelling have large social media followings. His upcoming series of events during Paris Fashion Week will also showcase African firms as global rather than niche labels.
The participating brands are Laurenceairline, a men’s ready-to-wear brand designed by Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud; Kente Gentlemen, founded by Aristide Loua; Hamaji, a Kenya-based women’s RTW brand created by Louise Sommerlatte; Katush, another Kenya-based lifestyle brand founded by Katungulu Mwendwa, and Ohiri, a jewellery brand based between France and Ivory Coast, headed by creative director Akebehi Kpolo. Midingi may also join the group.
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