Have you ever tried to apply for a fashion BA program as an international student from Nigeria? It is a tedious process filled with back to back streams of mails, phone calls (international calls cost a lot these days), importune questions on application processes, portfolio requirements and standards, not to mention the tuition for international students cost almost double and in some cases triple of what domestic students are being charged, which when converted at the current exchange rate translates to
substantial payouts. What does this mean for an African kid with a dream to study fashion design; he’s got no voluptuous financial backing just an ardent desire to make clothes and contribute towards the fashion narrative.
How does this kid convert this dream to reality within the boundaries of Africa, Nigeria bearing in mind the present inadequacies of the African fashion industry. Typically, Nigerian fashion environment is dominated by semi-skilled tailors posing as fashion designers and incorporating ‘fashion schools’ out of their tailoring space.
These semi-trained tailors rent shop spaces, buy a few tailoring machines, then place a massive tag on the facade which reads ‘INSTITUTE OF FASHION DESIGN‘ with insufficient knowledge about the concept of fashion design.
The fashion environment is dynamic, constantly evolving and broadening its spectrum, designers need to evolve with these changes. A NEWAGE Nigerian fashion designer needs to be equipped with a catalogue of knowledge ranging from tailoring, business, science, technology, design, culture, politics and so on in order to compete effectively on both home and international turf.
Considering this, the fledging Nigerian fashion industry needs to propagate ways to educate itself in congruence with the aforementioned criteria in order to ensure a sense of professionalism across stages of its supply chain.
Ordinarily, some Nigerian designers have demonstrated through written work, portfolios, and personal brands that they have developed cognitive and technical skills through their life experience but in many cases, that can be accredited to their level of exposure and affluence. In reality, a greater percentage of nationals fall outside that social and economic strata and probably cannot attain that level of knowledge entirely through life experience.
Invariably, when talking about Nigerian fashion it is important that we understand our realities and actively consider it in shaping our aesthetics thereby harnessing it to suit our needs which subsequently translates to growth and development of the entire industry.
Now, there are various ways to educate ourselves one of which includes establishing fashion colleges with distinct educational philosophies suitable for our environment.
In setting up schools/colleges for this market, we should acknowledge our cultural differences and diversity as one nation. This creates room for Idea generation, innovation and contributes towards channeling an aesthetics as one nation. This cultural disparities and their elements can easily be fused together towards a unified fashion narrative.
This New Age is about being open to new ideas and pushing boundaries across all creative frontiers which is why I believe veteran Nigerian fashion designers should explore unprecedented techniques in educating this burgeoning industry.
We need to set up a conceptual fashion library providing accessible information and resources about our fashion environment; our growth, subcultural differences, cultural intersections and our future. We need incessant contributors to this catalogue of information in order to ensure continuity, this implies that we have to constantly keep documenting these changes we see going on in our fashion scene.
In a bid to augment the experience of this library, fashion houses should put out their archived collections for profound study. This somewhat creates opportunity for creative learning rather than just words and pictures, it is an opportunity for the house to expound on its aesthetics, practices, mission statements and how they are being portrayed through clothes. With this practical approach from an early stage, fashion students learn how to effective channel as well as communicate their aesthetics to their relative audience.
What values do we hope to instill with the creation of this institution?
For growth, It should all about layers and depth. It is certainly more than just clothes or stitching two ends of fabric together, it’s more than finding that niche market and boosting sales, it’s about adding value.
Building from Nigeria, our realities are quite different from the rest of the world, our structures are failing and fashion is poised as a tool to dismantle and restructure our economy.
Our systems are inherently flawed right from the footing. We need to reorient our minds and sensitize ourselves against these erroneous structural ideals. With fashion we can educate ourselves about this misguided precepts, speaking against them with the clothes. For this underlying principle to flourish, we need a stable and functional supply chain and for fashion industry to surmount numerous adversities in creating a seamless and sustainable supply chain, fashion students should be educated on the importance of collaboration. They need to understand that they cannot work alone in fashion as they constitute a piece of the puzzle and every other piece is as important in this revolution.
Body variation is a primal criteria to consider as clothes are made to fit in the body and their are different body sizes and shapes and structures.
We need to make clothes not only for people we consider good looking but also elderly people and those with disabilities, how can we improve their reality with the clothes, how can we make their lives better, amongst so many other things and situations we can affect with clothes and a sufficient fashion industry. By doing this, we maintain relevance across different economic and social strata because everyone matters and needs to be clothed.
Demand perfection. Craft building cannot be over emphasized. Students are expected to spend their time improving their skills, stitches done over and over again until it is completely mastered, this will go a long way in ensuring quality control. In addition, students should be assisted obtaining internship programs in relevant fashion platforms to ensure they are well plugged-in to fashion influencers and encourage creative freedom and self expression.