Paris, Milan, London and New York are the "Big Four" of global fashion. Everything that happens in the world of fashion, from the disruption of old fashion styles to the setting of new trends, often begins or at least take shape in these cities. Of course, there are other major players, of which Berlin, Barcelona, Tokyo, São Paulo and Los Angeles quickly come to mind. However, one thing that is glaring within the global fashion space, is the total absence of any African city in the top echelon of fashion destinations. Lagos can change this narrative.
Lagos has just as much characteristics to be a global fashion city as any in Europe or the Americas. There is hardly any nationality or culture across the world that does not have some form of representation in the city of over 20 million residents. Richly diverse in culture and taste, Lagos also has the economic wherewithal to drive the emergence of a global fashion power. The city accounts for over 60% of the industrial and commercial activity in Africa’s largest economy. With a GDP of over $90 billion, its economy is actually the 7th largest in Africa, bigger than that of Ghana and Kenya combined.
In spite of the enthralling prospects highlighted above, Lagos has thus far been unable to fulfill its potential to become a global fashion city. To understand the reason for this, one only needs to look at what the established fashion cities have done that the former is yet to do.
Globally, the estimated net worth of the fashion industry is $1.2 trillion, more than a quarter of that sum is contributed by New York, Paris, Milan and London. Apart from having very strong economies and a large cosmopolitan populations, these cities also share the common trait of having strong corporate involvement which has powered their fashion industries.
Mercedes, Audi and Cadillac are some of the global brands that have deeply invested in making the big four of fashion what they are today. For eight years, New York Fashion Week was known officially as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week; the luxury car maker remains the title sponsor of fashion weeks in Moscow, Berlin, Sydney and Istanbul, as well as one of the leading sponsors of London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks. Mercedes-Benz and Lexus are not the only brands involved: Cadillac threw its weight behind the menswear scene in New York while Singapore’s biannual fashion week was known officially as Audi Fashion Festival.
Although Lagos has come a long way in improving its fashion standing, it is obviously in great need of the kind of corporate touch that made the big four flourish. This is why the recent announcement of GTBank to host a fashion and design fair is such a welcome development for Lagos. According to the Bank, the event will bring together the most promising, talented and recognised fashion designers, brands and retail enterprises from across Nigeria and abroad to showcase latest fashion trends and products to a large and diverse audience of consumers, fashion aficionados and industry professionals.
The GTBank Fashion Weekend will be headlined by some of the world’s top fashion personalities, globally recognised brand owners and trend setters as well as locally renowned designers and style authorities. Attendees will be treated to a series of fashion events such as Entrepreneurial and Fashion MasterClasses, glamorous Runway Shows and Retail Exhibitions of cool and cutting-edge designs, all of which are geared towards driving the growth and productivity of Nigeria’s fashion industry.
The event is part of the Bank’s initiative to strengthen small businesses in key economic sectors through non-profit consumer focused fairs and capacity building initiatives that serve to boost their expertise, exposure and business growth.
Perhaps, while the government searches for an elixir to the current economic woes being faced by the country, the fashion industry might just be one of the palliatives we need to revive an ailing economy as seen in Paris, London, New York and Milan. In UK, the industry provides over 797,000 jobs and host some of the biggest fashion brands in the world such as Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Next, Marks & Spenser to mention a few, making it the largest employer of all the UK's creative industries. New York City on the other hand is home to over 900 world renowned fashion companies in the US and provides approximately 180,000 employees with $11 billion in annual wages, generating nearly $2 billion in tax revenue each year. Given these impressive economic figures from the big fashion cities, it can be easily imagined what the impact of turning Lagos into a global fashion city will be on the Nigerian economy.