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African Fashion Education: Q&A with CIAFE’s executive director Frederica Brooksworth

By Andrea Byrne


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News |Interview

The Council for International African Fashion Education (CIAFE) is an organisation that is dedicated to improving the standards of fashion education in order to make it accessible to all people in hopes to create employability opportunities, launched in July 2021.

FashionUnited spoke with CIAFE’s executive director Frederica Brooksworth about the inspiration behind the organisation, the importance of the advancement of fashion education in Africa and its future plans.

Can you tell me a bit about CIAFE? How did it begin and where did the idea come from?

CIAFE is a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the advancement and innovation of fashion education in Africa. We are an education hub and research centre. Our aim is to also support the decolonisation of the fashion curriculum within fashion institutions in North America and Europe.

As an academic and researcher I’ve always been interested in bringing fashion education here.

Many years ago, I mean over a decade ago, I thought it would be great to establish an institution on the continent that was at an international standard. The reason for this is I always thought to myself, why do many people on the continent look to Europe and North America as the Mecca for studying fashion and not consider studying on the continent? Then through research, I noticed that there were barriers preventing people from doing so, lack of relevant resources, a lack of cross-collaboration opportunities, a lack of work experience opportunities, a curriculum that was outdated and design-focused amongst other things.

Over the years I continued my research and began conversations with both educators and industry professionals. This led to me pursuing my Doctorate in Education where I’m currently researching ‘How to Innovate the African Fashion Education System, Close the Knowledge and Skills Gap and Contribute to Economic Development’. So, a few months into my doctorate I decided to establish an organisation.

Where did you get the inspiration to support the development and innovation of fashion education in Africa?

A few things: the lack of relevant resources. I know schools that purchase fashion books that are European edition/American edition but they can only use about two chapters out of a 15 chapter book.

Seeing the growth and recognition of the African Fashion Industry, I knew it was important for the fashion education system in Africa to start receiving the same attention. Fashion Education is always seen as the gateway into the fashion industry.

I’m aware that unfortunately unemployment on the continent is high and a robust industry that has the potential to create many employability opportunities so this was also a reason why I wanted to commit to this.

Overall, working with institutions to build structure and create standards was essential.

What resources does CIAFE provide?

Each month we release reports and white papers on a variety of different topics from curriculum development to decolonising, data, educational technology and more.

We are working on publishing books focused on the African fashion market.

We have a variety of databases, one is a list of schools that provide undergraduate and postgraduate degrees across Africa. Another one is a list of fashion careers with over 100 different job roles shedding light on the opportunities out there and a database with terminology with keywords.

We are also working on creating teaching material for educators.

Who is the target audience for CIAFE?

Institutions, educators and researchers in Africa but globally. It’s important for us to also cater towards institutions around the world to ensure we are creating cross-collaboration opportunities and fulfilling our mission to decolonise the curriculum.

What are CIAFE’s long-term goals?

To ensure Africa’s fashion education industry is included in the global fashion education conversation.

To make Africa a preferred choice of study for fashion education.

To create employability opportunities and shift the conversation from predominantly fashion design to areas such as technology, e-commerce, law, sustainability and operations.

To have more schools internationally incorporating the African Fashion Industry within the classroom.

What have been your biggest learning curves since starting CIAFE?

Honestly so much, when you think about CIAFE as an organisation. Nothing like this in the fashion industry has been done before so there is no organisation that I can look to for a blueprint to see their results and how they’ve made things work. Everyday I’m learning and it’s been a very interesting journey.

What are your plans for the coming year?

This year is honestly going to be super exciting! We have amazing collaborations coming up with institutions in Africa, Europe and North America.

We will be releasing two books this year.

Each month we have book conversations where we invite authors to join us for live conversations to talk about their book and the writing process.

We have a sustainability seminar, a tech skills workshop and guest lectures with academics from universities around the world. All of these programmes take place once a month.

We will be running our volunteer programme and also our digital training skills programme where we select ten people on the continent to learn business and digital skills.

Photo credit: Frederica Brooksworth

African Fashion
Council for International African Fashion Education
Sustainable Fashion