The African Opportunity: Sourcing and Trading on the Continent with Jacqueline Shaw
Jacqueline Shaw is the founder of Africa Fashion Guide, a consultancy, business coaching academy and sourcing agency promoting the African fashion and textile industry to the greater global textile industry. Here she shares with us her journey working with African artisans and factories, and the opportunities that trading on the continent can bring for all.
1. Tell us a little about your background in the fashion industry and what motivated you to start African Fashion Guide.
I’ve spent nearly 20 years working in the general fashion industry as an industry professional designer for high street retailers and sports brands. It was during my time at Puma where I began my journey officially with Africa Fashion Guide. Whilst there, they sponsored my master's degree in Ethical Fashion and gave me an opportunity to work with their sustainable business teams. I became a sustainability ambassador at both Puma and C&A.
But it was my personal experiences that led me to further explore my heritage linking back to Africa. Being of Jamaican heritage with links to the Maroons and after the passing of my grandfather, I travelled to Africa and was introduced in person to the amazing craft and textiles the continent has to offer. When I returned, I decided to start my own clothing line and share stories of the textile industry I had found.
2. What are the aims of African Fashion Guide and how do you work with retailers, and businesses here in the UK to source from the continent?
Ultimately, our aim is to bring trade to Africa via the industry of fashion. In order to build the continent trade is key. I know fashion and use my industry knowledge through our African fashion consultancy, the business coaching academy, and our sourcing agency.
3. What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about the fashion industry in Africa?
The biggest misconception is that Africa is not capable of doing fashion, when in fact Africa is a trend setter. From an industry perspective more investment is needed to build the technologies and skills within the industry, but I have visited factories and manufacturing units that are doing large scale international productions and exports. It is possible!
4. You studied for a Masters in Ethical Fashion and are passionate about sustainability in the industry. What can you tell us about sustainable and ethical fashion production in Africa?
Firstly, that producing or making something in Africa does not alone make it ethical. However, for many in Africa sustainability is a norm and it is often the ways of the West that bring in bad practices within Africa, affecting the ecosystem of the land and more.
Sustainability is about the people, the planet, and the profit. And now I would add circularity and transparency.
5. Do you have any exciting projects you are working on, or that we can look forward to in the coming year?
Yes, we are looking to bring back our sourcing trips QUICKLY! And most excitedly our B2B sourcing platform where businesses can connect with African makers, artisans, vendors suppliers and manufacturers. It has been a five-year vision and I am so excited to bring it to fruition.
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