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Vlisco Fashion Fund invites young African designers to a training course in Amsterdam

By Sharon Camara

Jun 24, 2022


Vlisco Fashion Fund website

For over 100 years, the Dutch group Vlisco has positioned itself as a benchmark for fashion and luxury in Africa. Well established in the west and centre of the continent with its four brands, Vlisco, Woodin, Uniwax and GTP, the company has a large part of its customers but also its employees there.

In addition to the marketing of loincloths, the group is illustrated by its commitments as sponsors with experienced designers. “At Vlisco, we produce fabrics, but we don't make clothes. When a consumer buys a loincloth from us, they then go to a designer who will be able to sew it together. It is a compulsory passage to be able to consume our products. In our jargon, we call them “POI” (Point Of Interest). These are people who can influence consumer choice by advocating certain brands. It is therefore quite normal that we collaborate with this activity,” explained Sékou Sangaré, marketing manager at Vlisco Côte d'Ivoire, to FashionUnited. In 2017, Vlisco decided to support young emerging couturiers and launched the Vlisco Fashion Fund, the 2022 edition launched last May. This project takes place in all the countries where the group has subsidiaries in Africa, in particular Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and the DRC.

After passing the various stages, the winner receives funding worth 3,500,000 FCFA (i.e. more than 5,000 euros) as well as technical training in the field of sewing, followed in the Netherlands. In the year of his mandate, the winner becomes an ambassador of the Vlisco brand and participates in the activities and events of the group. “The reward does not stop at the financing since there is a follow-up. We collaborate with the winner until the next edition. It's also a way to show that sewing is a passion and not a profession by default.”

Hundreds of applications received

For this 2022 edition, Côte d'Ivoire received 250 applications. Applicants are between 18 and 35; they reside in the country where the competition occurs. “We rely on age and experience. They must have between eight and nine years of seniority. We believe that in this field, it is difficult to start on your own and even after so many years, those who work for other people are still considered novices. We also aim to have those who come from sewing schools or are at the end of their cycle. Generally, we have candidates who are already active.

These candidates must also provide a business plan and professional photos of their creations. The presence and activity on social networks are also taken into account. At the end of this first phase, 15 candidates are selected. The latter then pass the test interviews and the sewing test. The three finalists are then chosen, and each receives the sum of 350,000 FCFA (i.e. more than 500 euros) and five Vlisco loincloths. They then have one month to design a collection of five outfits based on a brief. Unpublished pieces are analysed and rated by the jury. They are then presented on the occasion of the final to be held in Abidjan. The overall winner's name will be announced at the end of the parade.

Vlisco Fashion Fund website

Another look at fashion in Africa

In recent years, initiatives favouring young creators have multiplied. According to Sékou Sangaré, this is not a trend but an awareness: “You have to realise that sewing is a profession like any other that needs support. For a long time, the majority of creators were neglected. Some enthusiasts managed to emerge, which was the iceberg's visible phase. The lesser-known had more difficulty growing their business. For those who know the Abidjan environment, there is always this talented couturier or this neighbourhood that is not famous but renowned for harbouring talents where well-to-do women, with their big cars, parked to have their outfits sewn.”

Beyond the ever-present interest, the marketing manager recognises that the professionalisation of the sector, with particular emphasis on communication, will contribute to its development and expansion beyond local borders.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.fr and translated into English by Andrea Byrne.