African fashion: Transitioning from Traditional to Corporate Wear


By Hilda Aku ASIEDU

Fashion has always held a significant place in African culture, serving as a medium for expression, identity, and tradition. In recent years, African fashion has undergone a remarkable transformation, transitioning from traditional attire to modern corporate wear.

In the past, the mention of Holland or Printex fabrics would spark excitement among our mothers. These fabrics were highly coveted, with women eager to own a piece of Holland or GTP fabric. I vividly remember one of my favorite lines from the Printex advert on television: “Printex, Ma so me hye bi.” However, these fashions and lifestyles were accessible to only a select few and were confined to certain occasions and certain industries.

Traditionally, these fabrics were reserved for special events such as church services, weddings, naming ceremonies, and other highly deemed social functions. Our mothers treated these fabrics like treasures, often storing them carefully for future use. The cultural significance of these fabrics cannot be overstated, as they were symbols of status and pride within the community.

Fast forward to today, and fabrics have become an integral part of our everyday lifestyle. This transition has seen traditional fabrics gradually penetrating the corporate market. Many fashion and textile companies now promote corporate wear for their clients, marking a significant shift in our fashion trends. This evolution reflects a broader acceptance of African fashion in professional settings, where it was once deemed inappropriate.

Corporate fashion became a major trend in Ghana in 2019, when industry players launched Wear Ghana Month in Accra. Organized by the Wear Ghana project in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, this campaign encourages Ghanaians to wear made-in-Ghana clothes and use locally produced fashion accessories.

The Wear Ghana project runs year-round, but it reaches its peak in March with a series of activities, including seminars, symposia, exhibitions, fashion shows, and the production of a fashion magazine. This initiative has prompted many textile companies and fashion brands to evolve from traditional styles and focus on penetrating the corporate market, appealing to the growing interest in African fashion.

Corporate Fashion Today

Following this initiative, Ghanaian fashion wear has evolved. From Friday wears to everyday corporate attire, people now proudly wear Ghanaian-made corporate outfits to work and corporate events. Various industries such as oil and gas, civil services, private organizations, law firms, and even parliamentarians have embraced corporate fashion. This widespread acceptance signifies a cultural shift and a renewed sense of pride in African heritage.

The adaptation of traditional fabrics into corporate wear has profoundly impacted both the fashion industry and the economy. This transformation has resulted in a surge in demand for locally produced corporate wear, benefiting textile companies, fashion brands, and local artisans.

For instance, Ghana’s pioneering indigenous textile brand, GTP, responded to this trend by unveiling a stylish corporate Ready-To-Wear (RTW) clothing collection at its inaugural retail store in Osu in 2023. This strategic move was a direct response to months of invaluable customer feedback, showcasing GTP’s commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its discerning clientele which underscores GTP’s dedication to contributing to Ghana’s economy through value addition, creating jobs, and supporting local artisans.

Corporate fashion plays a crucial role in promoting African identity and heritage. By incorporating traditional fabrics into modern corporate wear, individuals can express their cultural pride in professional settings. This blend of tradition and modernity fosters a sense of unity and pride among Ghanaians.

However, the journey has not been without challenges. Social acceptance has varied, with some individuals and organizations initially resistant to change. Over time, the visibility and success of corporate fashion have helped overcome these barriers, paving the way for broader acceptance.

Future Prospects

The future of corporate fashion in Ghana looks promising. As more people embrace this trend, there are opportunities for innovation and further integration of traditional elements. Young designers and entrepreneurs have a significant role to play in this evolution, bringing fresh perspectives and creativity to the industry.

We take pride in our heritage, the progress we have made, and the promising future of corporate fashion in Ghana. Let us continue to embrace Ghanaian fashion and its evolution. Let your corporate wear make a statement.

The writer is the Administrative and Communication Assistant – GIZ Ghana

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