The demand for foreign fashion items will continue to grow in Nigeria, despite the growing popularity of the country’s local fashion industry, said the Chief Executive Officer of Melisakim Clothing Limited, Lisa Ogunrobo.
Melisakim is one of Nigeria’s most successful women-focused fashion outlets based out of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
According to Ogunrobo, although the Nigerian fashion industry continues to grow in popularity across Africa and beyond, it is still faced with immense challenges which continues to drive demand for foreign fashion.
She said: “You cannot take away the ingenuity of Nigerian fashion entrepreneurs. The world respects the work they do. Unfortunately, their successes haven’t diminished the influence of foreign fashion on Nigerian women.
“The reason is not far-fetched. The business environment is tough in Nigeria. Successful mass-market fashion thrives on a monumental scale, which the Nigerian environment doesn’t yet support because of its lack of the necessary infrastructure such as electricity, capital and skilled manpower.”
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy with over 180 million people, once boasted a thriving textile industry but was abandoned as the government shifted its attention to the crude oil in the early ‘80s. Presently, more than 90% of the textile factories in the country are comatose, leaving the giant of Africa dependent on textile and fashion import.
Last month, the Central Bank of Nigeria imposed a foreign exchange access ban on importers of textile materials, saying it needed to protect the almost non-existent local textile industry.
But according to Ogunrobo whose fashion outlet has sold over a million foreign-sourced fashion items since launch in 2015, “for the industry to become competitive and meet the needs of the country, there has to be a deliberate and creative strategy by both the private and public sector to support the entrepreneurs that work in the fashion industry”.
She explained that Melisakim has focused on affordable luxury fashion items, providing fine, quality fashion wears and accessories “that ensures that our customers have the best value for their money” in the absence of local alternatives.
“When we started, we set out to cater to women of several classes all over the world. And we have remained true to that vision by going the extra mile to source our items wherever we may find them.
“It has nothing to do with patriotism or lack of it. It is our way of making an effort to support Nigerian women’s fashion aspirations.”
Over the past four years, the retail outlet has also leveraged Instagram, through its handle @pretiwomannn, to drive its distribution, growing its followership to over 26,000. Ogunrobo said “a platform like Instagram has become the new brick and mortar”.
“For us, with over 26,000 followers, it has provided us with a global marketplace, proving that Instagram has become the holy grail of fashion retail in Nigeria.”