Meet Jacqueline Shaw. She helps creative entrepreneurs start and build a sustainable fashion business in Africa. We had the chance to speak with her ahead of her talk on West Africa Connect to find out more about her story and the secret to building fashion businesses.
Can you tell us a little more about your company, Africa Fashion Guide?
“I have worked in the industry for nearly 20 years and around ten years ago, I was undertaking a master’s degree in ethical fashion and sustainability. At the same time, I was working as a fashion designer, for international brands like Puma and retailers like C&A. I was also intrigued with Africa and looking into my own heritage, from the United Kingdom, to the Caribbean, and back to Africa. Looking at all my interests and the opportunities I saw for the fashion industry, this evolved into a new career. I was blogging about African fashion, I was public speaking about it, and I’ve written a book about it (Fashion Africa), and I realized people actually wanted help doing better business in fashion. And that is why I started Africa Fashion Guide, a sourcing agency for brands who want to start and build a fashion business in Africa.”
Is working in the fashion industry something you always wanted to do?
“Yes, crazy enough, I remember making clothes for my toys from little pieces of fabric when I was a child. I was obsessed with that and even though, in school, I was good in mathematics and English writing, I followed a creative route to a fashion degree.”
What excites you most about what you do?
“My job excites me because I’m touching lives, creating an impact, and leaving a legacy. My clients are producing fashion items and doing trade and I like to do something with meaning and impact for them.”
Where do you think the opportunities will be in textile and garments in the next five years?
“I definitely feel that Africa is the final frontier for the fashion industry, among other industries. Many businesses are stepping into the continent and manufacturers are upscaling in what they do because of the growing interest. On the other hand, there is still a lot to do when it comes to the supply chain in Africa, for example. The current COVID situation caused a pause of course but life must go on and luckily, people have found new ways to do business during these challenging times.”
Are there specific textile and garment companies that inspire you?
“There are so many to be honest! There is a British lady, who started a manufacturing unit in Kenya called SOKO some years ago. Nowadays, they produce for ASOS, but she also created a local impact by setting up a sewing school to train people and by creating reusable sanitary towels for young women, so they don’t have to miss out on education. I love that. Another lady I’ve met is involved in textile making in Ivory Coast and she is doing business with several American retailers. She is bringing a traditional form of textile making from West Africa to big retailers and changing how people perceive African textiles. So, both these ladies are excellent examples in the business.”
Jacqueline Shaw is speaking on West Africa Connect about the future of the African textile sector. Keep an eye on our program to find out more soon!