Cameroon has become an attraction at the opening ceremony of the recent Olympic Games with its colorful traditional attire, reinforcing a growing trend among Cameroonians at home and abroad. They see fashion as the ultimate representation of culture.
The most popular fabrics remain the embroidered ones from the western parts of the country. Cameroon’s 250 ethnic groups provide different variations and unique perspectives of what is considered the traditional dress. The Cameroonian diaspora, a vast and culturally attached bunch, is the biggest target for exports leaving the country. Cameroonians out of the country tend to organize themselves into groups that meet at least once every year at conventions. These conventions can bring together people from the same village, district, or school where the traditional dress is the de facto attire. Many conventions have a designated day dedicated to the traditional dress, which opens up a steady market for dressmakers and designers back at home.
Apart from strong cultural affiliations, Cameroonian fashion designers are playing a defining role in the export of the traditional dress. They bring the cool factor to old designs and massive exposure when they make clothes for films, music videos, and events. Fashion designer Kibonen Nfi brought such exposure when she made a dress for actor Lupita Nyong’o. The export market as a whole also benefits from mainstream designers like Daniel Mofor, who has dressed Bishop T.D Jakes and Tyra Banks.
It’s hard to estimate the size of the traditional costume market, which is dominated by artisans operating independently. Still, the interest generated on pages like Instagram and Pinterest gives a good idea of the growing demand. Sales have also been boosted by tourism and travel.
Growth is expected but can be accelerated with proper organization and education in the field of exports and eCommerce. Artisans will need to learn about digital marketing, the benefits of search, and take advantage of online marketing tools. Artisans should also explore online platforms like Export Portal to connect with potential clients and explore new markets.
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