Jacqueline Shaw is the Founding Director of Africa Fashion Guide (AFG), a social enterprise and fashion sourcing agency. She has worked and designed for various fashion companies around the world. Companies such as PUMA, Russell Athletic, Ocean Pacific, Fila and Chilli Pepper to name a few. AFG is a unique platform that promotes and supports the supply chain of Africa’s fashion and textile industry. AFG supports SME’s by offering online courses providing them with relevant skills, knowledge, understanding and opportunities to network in the African market.
Jacqueline is also a published author. She wrote, curated, produced and self-published the coffee table book “FASHION AFRICA- The Visual Overview Of Contemporary African Fashion”. The book launched at The Fashion Africa Conference, which brought together key industry leaders from African fashion and ethical fashion. Since the conference’s launch, there’s been an array of high-street brands and retailers such as ASOS, H&M, NEW ERA as well as press including Financial Times, Guardian and more attending this conference.
SLA contributor Neo Cheda recently met up with Jacqueline and here’s what Jacqueline had to say.
What inspired you to get involved in this industry?
I have always loved textiles and as a child, I used to sew and make clothes for my toys from scraps of fabric. I believe I was inspired by the possibility of creating something out of something else.
Getting close up to hand-made textiles for me was a dream. I feel some textiles should not be cut or passed down but celebrated with stories for generations to keep their craft alive.
What would you say is the innovative idea behind Africa Fashion Guide?
We are a team of disruptive innovators. As a recent CNN Africa report said, “A disruptive innovation is an innovation that shakes up an existing market”. I have worked in a market dominated by Asia and am presenting a new market to this industry, one that has been overlooked and considered “dark”, “poor”, “bad in quality”, and “unable to perform”.
I believe that Africa is a continent of future leaders. Hence at Africa Fashion Guide, we have pioneered a movement for “fashion made in Africa” and not just that but ethically, sustainably and responsibly.
What challenges have you faced in the fashion industry?
Fashion in itself is an industry that takes a lot more than it gives. One really has to prove themselves and that can take years. But above all, you have to maintain the belief in yourself to do well as you can face a lot of rejections too.
There are also general challenges of systems and finance invested to support the industry. I found that working out of the continent, I am challenged to persuade the general industry of the African opportunity and to get them to invest in that.Fashion in itself is an industry that takes a lot more than it gives - Jacqueline Shaw Click To Tweet
How have you managed to stay the champions within Africa’s fashion supply chain?
We do not do fashion shows but we are here to talk business and to get the message across that Africa is, has been and will always be open for the fashion business. We have also focused on sustainability. I personally made it my effort to research, investigate and network with this community. I am even called to talk about this internationally.
With a Masters in Ethical Fashion and then completing an MSc in Social Research, I understand the importance of understanding the market and sustaining that market through responsible sourcing. Lastly, because we are consistent in what we do, we have gathered a strong following and a lot of respect too. We are not newbies to the field but have spent time digging deep to build the right foundation for building up our company.@jacquelineMshaw here to talk business & let people know that Africa is open for fashion Click To Tweet
Advice to young women looking to venture into the fashion world:
- Network: Build a strong community of people, supporters, mentors and those with skills you don’t have.
- Always be willing to learn, be humble and know that real wisdom comes from acknowledging that you don’t know everything.
- Grow a steel spine because there’s a lot you will have to overlook and ignore. Many opinions could make or break you but the key is to believe in yourself.
- Read up on everything to do with your craft whilst perfecting it because as a mentor once told me, “The best leaders are the biggest readers”.
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