Sunday, November 11, 2012

Behind the Seams: Zimbabwe Clothing Indaba



The Zimbabwe Clothing Indaba is coming up next weekend and I am somewhat excited for the industry. I say somewhat excited because while there is a website and Facebook page, it is still under construction and there isn't much information about the speakers and what the Indaba will cover one week out.

I worry about things like this because they are often lost opportunities to illicit real feedback from the industry for proper planning and full industry engagement. Last year's ill-fated Mali fashion week was organized outside the country, which in itself was not the problem, the problem was the lack of engagement with those people that were in the industry locally and the lack of information about the event.

I hope that the Clothing Indaba is more than a discussion about trends and designers exhibiting their clothes. It should also have some substantive discussions that address some of the real challenges that affect local designers and manufacturers.

So what am I hoping and wishing for:

I hope there are break out sessions on building the local fashion infrastructure. I hope they are discussions on trade law and protecting the garment industry from imported second-hand clothing and dumping of cheap Chinese clothing. I hope that there are discussions on supporting manufacturers. As the daughter of a former garment manufacturer, my mother ran G &D Fashions for over 20 years, I grew up around the industry and feel strongly about Zimbabwe manufacturing. I hope they address the issues of sourcing fabric and trim, access to finance and investing in Zimbabwe's textile and cotton sectors. I hope they talk about fashion education, nurturing designers and training opportunities for garment workers. I hope there is a discussion on advocacy for Zimbabwe's eligibility to export clothing duty free to the US under AGOA. I hope local retailers are involved and discuss their initiatives for supporting local design. I hope we engage Zimbabwe's very skilled craft sector. Lastly, I am excited to see that Zimtrade and the EU are involved and hope that they will sponsor designers participating in international trade and fashion shows.

I understand that I am hoping for a lot of things, but as an emerging Zimbabwean designer, though not currently in Zim, I believe that I also have a role to play in shaping the direction of the clothing industry. I do applaud ZCMA for making the first step, here is  to hoping that there is an open discussion with all those interested in advancing Zimbabwe fashion. I hope that the outcomes of the indaba are shared and built on.

bissus,
Shingayi Elle

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