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THE RUNWAY AND BEYOND: THE STATE OF LIBERIA’S FASHION INDUSTRY

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Everyday is a fashion show, and the world is a runway. Looking at a country like Liberia that is reaching a milestone in the fashion industry is tremendously breathtaking. A country rich with culture and diversity is set to have a lot of dress codes: from cultural to traditional, to casual, and business casual etc. the same goes to our fabrics: our original kente, african printed lappa and tie & dye.

Tie & Dye Fabric
Tie & Die Fabrics

 

 

 

 

 

Over the years these beautiful fabrics have been anonymous or perhaps they have cycled around the Liberian community or worn by Liberians in the Liberian diaspora. But a few years ago few Liberians adjourned to fill in the void or the fashion gaps. Now, in Liberia we have a lot of designers, Models, model agencies and fashionistas. Let’s take a dive into the runway arena: Liberia runway, Models and Model agencies

Picture Source: Africano Designs

Over the years with the blistering improvements in the Liberian fashion industry, models have started appearing on the runway showcasing designs by our very own designers. Now, there has been a tremendous increase in designers and models in the Liberian fashion industry: as we dive deeper, we will uncover some of some of the ways we think the Fashion sector in Liberia can grow, also some of Liberia’s best designers that light up the runway with their elegance and creativity.

Picture Source: Rosies’ Tie & Dye
Patmole Cole & Dearest Dolo

Rather than focus on market size, Liberia would be better-served trying to address challenges across the value chain, from farmers and textile mills that provide raw materials, to manufacturing, and even to marketing and logistics.

Presently, each part of the value chain has severe flaws. For example, cotton farming in Liberia is currently at its lowest despite rhetoric that suggests otherwise, textile manufacturing in the country remains minimal. Beyond raw materials and manufacturing, the fashion industry also suffers from a shortage of capital and quality of Human Resources. 

Furthermore, the small size of the market cannot be attributed to Liberians’ taste for foreign fashion. A survey found that only few people considered international brands to be more fashionable than local brands. While research like this presents a case for a thriving local industry, there is still an apparent disparity with reality: roughly 99% of the clothing sold down Waterside one of Liberia’s major marketplace, are imported.

Picture Source: Afric Fashion

Moving forward, we think Liberia can take advantage of global economic dynamics. Many businesses have shut down in recent years, buckling under the pressure of high infrastructure costs, low consumer demand, and an unstable currency especially with the fact that Liberia spends two currencies, the Liberian Dollar and the United States Dollar. China has been one of the leading global exporters of clothing and textiles since the 90s, holding 40% of the global market share, but rising costs of production and changing economic dynamics (from investment-led manufacturing to services-led consumption) have encouraged some manufacturers to look abroad. The best example of this is Ethiopia, which China is looking to as a manufacturing hub, pouring billion dollars’ worth of investments and expertise into the East African nation. In the same vein, if Liberia is able to address some of its infrastructural and governance challenges, it has a low-cost environment and labour force to accommodate a similar economic experiment. If the Liberian  government takes the initiative by providing a more suitable environment for fashion and textile businesses to thrive, it could be a way to build the thriving industry on a national scale.

The sector has an incredible chance at growth if managed strategically. Furthermore, if the industry is invested in purposefully and sustainably, it has incredible potential to empower many young individuals and in the long run, vastly improve the Liberian economy.

Picture Source: Afric Fashion

 

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