(Sarah Diouf)

Africa: fashion designers’ challenges

Fashion designers say creativity is not enough, an innovative spirit is necessary as well. Some tips from an insider
di Sandra Hawi

Fashion design is one of the most creative and innovative jobs in the world and can be a lucrative career for top designers.

Starting your own clothing line or fashion brand can be very exciting, the prestige of selling your collections in renowned stores and the fascination of seeing your favorite celebrity crush wearing your clothes, is very enticing and a dream coming true.

The fashion industry from the outside seems to be characterized by beautiful clothes, fashion shows, product launches and the new trends.

Everything seems perfect, glamorous and running smoothly but we forget to look at the people who give the industry the beautiful face; fashion designers.

Fashion designers go through many issues in the industry that we fail to know of or acknowledge, from long working hours to pressures that they are subjected to by the clients and a lot more that we know not of.

These challenges are grouped into two, which are; challenges faced by upcoming and the already established ones.

There is a big gap that exists between established and the upcoming fashion designers and so this makes the challenges that they face to be on different levels.

What are the challenges that upcoming fashion designers face?

As an upcoming designer, there is no denying that the industry can be a tough place to navigate through. Today’s market is flooded with several designs and the consumers are confused on what to choose. This means that you need to come up with products that make you stand out. Show strengths in your work that sets you apart from the rest.

Identifying the target market and niche

Many upcoming designers have a challenge in identifying their niche and sticking to it.

They end up diversifying in too many product lines, hence losing focus.

As many upcoming designers point out, they diversify with an aim of assessing which product would work best or sell more.

This is a very risky idea to work with because not only do you miss out on being innovative and creative - the core of fashion - in one line, but also confuse the consumers on your brand identity.

Starting up a business in fashion can be one of the hardest things to do, but once you identify your market and the needs that your products offer then you are on the right track.

Is your product aimed at consumers who appreciate fast fashion, the mid or the luxury sectors?

Identifying people who understand the efforts and the work behind the final product is very important as this goes a long way in establishing long term consumers of your products, which in this case, price is no object.


You all have to agree with me that setting a price on a product is one of the hardest things to do, especially if you have not had any experiences in selling your products, you are torn in between attracting many clients by charging less, making sales and having your brand out there. In the fashion industry, higher prices equals quality and so, even if you sell the products at a lower price no matter how good they are, you stand a chance of losing potential clients if at all you are targeting the luxury sectors.

Production cost

With the current rise in the living standards, the prices of all commodities have gone up, not exempting materials in the textile industry.

The rising price of raw materials is one of the biggest challenges that designers face today, making the total production cost sky-high which in turn affects the final price of the products.

Lack of business acumen

Fashion industry is no longer limited to creativity, designing, styling and artistic skills.

It is taking up entrepreneurial and management skills.

These skills affect decisions, future plans, marketing and the right methods of promoting the business. Possessing business savviness is a paramount in launching a new brand; before launching, indeed, one needs a certain amount of finance to develop the product and manage it. This is a challenge that sets back a number of upcoming designers.

Competition with fast fashion

Fast fashion has taken up the industry with a great magnitude. It comprises cheaply and rapidly mass-produced clothes that aim to keep up with the ever-changing trends on the streets.

This poses a challenge to the upcoming designers, as consumers prefer going to cheaper trendy fashion than to go for designer’s work, which is quite costly.

Mass Production

Upcoming designers have a problem in producing large numbers of garments when there is a high demand. This occurs as a result of lack of the equipment and raw materials needed in order to do mass production.

The fashion industry is evolving and growing more rapidly than ever before.

It has reached a point where if you are using the same tactics that you applied in the past, then the business has no chances of survival.

There is a constant need to adapt to the new technologies, new trends and new insights to stay ahead of the game. This is one of the greatest challenges that established designers are facing.

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