Balenciaga,Oscar De la Renta, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Ferragamo, Gucci, Galliano, YSL and the list goes on. Most of the fashion-forward would not think twice about spending the money on such high end brands. The reason is pretty simple. Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, for example, who is now deceased, was known as a designer’s designer having mentored greats like Givenchy and delivering flawless designs not only on the runway but in retails boutiques across the globe. But, what about an African designer who is famed in his/her own country, would you pay top dollar for such designer if his/her brand becomes easily accessible in the West. I’ll give you an example. Heard of Tiffany Amber? Huh? The brand is owned by Folake Coker an attorney turned fashion designer with no formal fashion training but who is now coveted within Nigeria.
I had an opportunity to visit with Folake when I was in Nigeria last year, after a close model friend of mine promised me her line fit my personality and would be the perfect choice for the red carpet event I was attending. My friend was right! I chose a beautiful dress and enjoyed wearing it but boy did I forget what hot weather Nigeria has! Anyway, I subsequently visited the much hyped up $40million shopping and entertainment mall, The Palms Shopping Center. While strolling through the mall, I ran into the Tiffany Amber boutique.
Walking in, it was clear Folake had me in her mind and made some fashion illustrations of me before I even met her. Her designs had my name written all over them. The clothes were also well made. Some of the prices were reasonable but others got me exclaiming, to my buddy who went with me, that I would not pay such high amount! My reasoning, the clothes are not being manufactured outside of Nigeria, they are manufactured with cheap labor so why am I having to pay such high price[s]?
I have subsequently noticed lots of fashion-forward Africans in the West and those in the continent share similar sentiments towards African Fashion designer labels. But, isn’t it fair that if we can spend thousands for an Italian or American high-end brand, without blinking, that the same should hold for high end African designers? After all, even high-end western brands are, these days, outsourcing to India, China and Indonesia where the clothes are mass produced at really cheap costs, and then reshipped back to the West with the high-end label sewn into them. What say you?