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African Fashion Education: What should be taught in African fashion institutions?

By Andrea Byrne


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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 to discuss the subject gaps in African fashion education institutions and what subjects should be taught in schools to benefit the African fashion industry.

What subjects are predominantly taught in African fashion institutions?

Fashion design is the most popular course taught in schools and with regards to subjects, it is typically pattern cutting, garment construction, sewing and fashion drawing.

What subjects should be taught in fashion schools in Africa?

We published a report on this very topic in December 2021, during our research six core areas were identified: Fashion History and Heritage, Quality Control, Fashion Law, Fashion Technology, Professional Development and Business and Entrepreneurship.

I don’t think it’s everyone’s responsibility to be a master of all of these topics, however, we should provide students with a basic understanding and strong foundation.

Another topic that should also be considered which is essential is sustainability. I believe once we integrate the core topics, by implementing sustainability we can teach across a variety of programmes. We could teach about the laws and ethics, marketing could explore greenwashing laws etc. So I think it is important to imbed these core topics and sustainability could then be integrated into the majority of the topics.

Why are there gaps in African fashion institutions?

It comes down to a lot of things. A lack of resources is one, when you look at fashion books they are focused predominantly on the North American and European Markets. This is down to a historical issue of a lack of opportunities for African fashion scholars to publish.

The African fashion industry as a whole is still developing.

Financial investment is needed to support institutions in order to invest in quality teaching staff, equipment and resources.

There is still a disconnect between institutions in the west so a lack of collaborative opportunities, scholarship opportunities and press coverage.

Additionally, a lack of data. There aren’t many opportunities to access data or many reports on fashion education in Africa for institutions to implement recommendations within their organisations.

Are there any initiatives planned to create a more balanced curriculum in African fashion institutions?

We have been working with various institutions. Firstly, our reports have been working. We have CEO’s, deans and course leaders telling us that they read our reports and share them within their institutions. This data is informing their decisions.

We are working on publishing books to help with decolonising the curriculum and to ensure we can cater for the African fashion industry.

How would a balanced curriculum in African fashion institutions benefit the African fashion industry?

This would be great because it would help to establish the industry, this would significantly help the area of investment into the African fashion industry. Another core area is employment as people will be exposed to a variety of different areas such as buying, e-commerce, tech and law which will encourage people to develop more skills. This will also attract more international attention.

Photo credit: Unsplash

Council for International African Fashion Education
Frederica Brooksworth
Sustainable Fashion