A “Tailored” approach to what Africa can Teach the World about Sustainable Fashion


In my recent post, “Identity construction, Consuming Passion & Fashion entrepreneurship in Africa,” I pointed out the ‘entrepreneurial emergence’ has gradually taken root at the bottom-of-the-pyramid in a war-ravaged context.


This article is a follow up to that observation and scholarly research. Here, the message is simply one of going back to the future as far as sustainable fashion is concerned. It is rather worrying that whenever that phrase is mentioned, the emphasis seems to be on recycling or green supply chains rather than on the much-needed repair culture at an affordable price!

While pondering over the lack of a repair culture especially in the Western world, I recently stumbled upon an interesting article, “The Complete Guide To Being A Nigerian Tailor,” by one NerdEfiko May 29, 2020.


While that article seemed to focus on the darksides of Nigerian tailors seeking to take advantage of clients, another article entitled “How Tailors Can Change Their Attitude And Make Millions,” highlighted some of the challenges highlighted about Nigerian tailors include shoddy work, poor finishing and missed promised targets.


Further trawling of the internet for related content, as not much scholarly exploration of the topic has been undertaken in this area, I stumbled upon a 2015 article entitled “PROFILE: Nigerian unions get creative and organize informal workers,” which clearly stated that:

With the collapse of many traditional industries, Nigeria has seen a rapid growth of workers in the informal sector. Statistics indicate that over 60 per cent of the Nigerian workforce is found in the informal economy.”

As I always do as a qualitative researcher, I stumbled upon a  September 2019 article by The Economist, “Natty Nigerians Why an “Uber for tailors” is gaining ground in Lagos,” explaining how “Tech may help the stylish avoid sartorial sorrow.”

Sartorial, was a phrase I had used in my exploratory scholarly article, “Consuming Passion for fashion, identity construction & entrepreneurial emergence at the bottom of the pyramid,” where I pointed out the need to leverage the “street cred” of the indie tailors.

Looking back at the article in The Economist, some interestingly insights about the mobile tailors in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, are worth retelling:

“So great is the appeal of a well-cut outfit in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial centre, that roadside stitchers rove the streets armed with their sewing machines and clicking their large scissors to drum up customers.”

Reading the article further, some interesting phrase appears “Natty” alongside “Sartorial” which I used in my article of the Two Congos in a previous post.

David Peterside, a local entrepreneur, hopes to capitalise on this sartorial obsession with a new app that is being dubbed an “Uber for tailors”. Fashion Map allows natty Nigerians to find a suitmaker at the press of a button. 

Yes, the last sentence makes sense, “find a suitmaker at the press of a button.” Is there an App for the roadside tailor? Are they affordable? What role can they play in the rhetoric of sustainable fashion and the circular economy? Loads, I dare say!

Guide prices for garment alterations in the UK start at £10 which is about N5000. Meanwhile one can get a replacement, brand new garment for the same price. Hence, it is not unusual for consumers and/ or shoppers to discard their clothing after one or two wears just because a zip has snapped.


Overall, this is a call to arms about what Africa can teach the rest of the world with a diminishing repair culture.

About the Author:

Dr Nnamdi Madichie is Professor (visiting) at the Unizik Business School, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria, as well as Professor at the Coal City University, Enugu, Nigeria. His research interests span broad areas of Marketing (arts, fashion, media & entertainment), and Entrepreneurship (creative industries, diaspora, ethnic minority & gender). He is also Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM), and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SfHEA) for England & Wales. He is former Editor-in-Chief of the African Journal of Business & Economic Research a flagship journal of the Adonis-Abbey Publishers portfolio.

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