Re-Examining the Liberian Fashion Industry in Wake of NYFW SS19
By: Desiree Dossen
It’s been two days since the completion of this seasons New York Fashion Week. Fashion buyers, critiques, journalists, and influencers will now take their pens and notepads, and cell phones overseas to London, England for the commencement of London Fashion Week. In retrospect, this New York Fashion Week has been the most meaningful in a while. What separates this Spring/Summer 2019 NYFW from the rest is the inclusive and diverse representation in the non-traditional fashion format, as it has unlocked many doors that were once taboo and sensitive topics of discussion.
Diversity and inclusivity were major factors in this season’s runway collections. Many designers are shifting their focus on building powerful overall presentations, rather than the traditional runway focused on looks alone. Creating an atmosphere that is interactive through a moving visual story was the highlight of many collections, and we want our Liberian designers to take note.
Now, here at The Koloqua Dialogues, our team considers how Liberia is involved in the conversation of “mainstream” fashion. That’s the thing; we are not mainstream in the sense that our industry is developing. We look at our neighbors in Lagos, Accra, Dakar, and even Johannesburg who are reclaiming African Fashion with representations in the US and Europe. Not only are these designers breaking through other markets with their innovation and creativity, they are also creating the same high-fashion/couture experiences in their own home-grown fashion weeks. So where does Liberia stand in this spike of African designers reclaiming our Fashion industry?
In comparison, the arts and culture industries in neighboring nations are thriving, but that of Liberia seems to lack direction and leadership. Liberians, both in the diaspora and at home have immeasurable talents that need the outlets and individuals to drive fashion forward. Are there designers hidden in Liberia or are there more seamstresses and tailors? What does it take to be named a designer, and what are the differences between a designer and seamstress?
It seems more people are settling for lives as seamstresses because it is less risky economically giving the consumer exactly what they want instead of pushing the boundaries and creating designs that might not appeal to everyone. If this is the case, we can understand why it is that way due to the economic situations in Liberia; however, this approach to the fashion world is limiting our potential in the overall fashion business.
A thriving fashion industry in Liberia can bring about great economic assistance. Fashion is a business and as a whole industry, can create jobs and bring hope to many young artists and designers back home. In America, Fashion is a competitive industry to get into because many want to become designers but not many understand the logistics and business of what it takes to operate a successful company. If Liberians can dive deeper into their creativity as fashion designers and not just great tailors or seamstresses, the Liberian fashion industry has a greater chance at attracting more growth and development, as we’ve seen with the growing successes of some few Liberian Designers pushing their creative boundaries.
In the traditional African, or Liberian household, fashion design isn’t seen as a “real” occupation or career. Yet indeed it is an industry that solidifies wealth and can be a strong foundation if introduced properly. As Liberia is evolving, we will start unraveling this conversation more.
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