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Updated 14 Jul 2020

Here’s why you should be importing Malawian fashion

There are plenty of international eyes on the growing African fashion industry. You can take advantage of this market by importing continental styles. 

Nicole Crampton, 30 August 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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You need to stock what your customers are looking for, and a large portion of your clientele (these days) want something unique. They want something one of a kind, that’s made in Africa. African fashion is gaining in popularity, especially amongst global audiences, and if you have a large foreign customer base like tourists, this could be an opportunity for you.

“African fashion is going far. Every time you wear something African in European countries, people look around and come and ask you about it,” says Malawian designer Lilly Alfonso. Why not tap into this market and see if you can increase your revenue by having Malawian fashion in your inventory?

Related: You can find investment opportunities at Malawi’s Mzuzu Fashion Week


“The Africa fashion industry is proving to the world that its voice is literally unstoppable, fresh and highly profitable. The world is taking notice,” says Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Nigerian Designer.

Here’s what you need to know about selling Malawian fashion in South Africa:

1. There’s a growing market for it 

There is growing demand for unique and vibrant African fashion. “First and foremost a flow of high-quality ideas is coming from African designers that are then creating incredible finished products which is exciting people inside the continent and around the world. After all, fashion is about presenting something new, fresh and dynamic, and that’s what is driving this demand in Africa,” says Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, founder of soleRebels, Africa’s fastest growing footwear company. 

Considering the fact that South Africa’s attracts a high number of European tourists each year, you can offer them something truly unique and African to take back home to show off to their friends and family.

2. Reduce your cost of clothing 

African -fashion -fabric

Although this is still high fashion and will come with a higher price tag, items made and manufactured in Africa can be more cost-effective to hold in inventory than American or European goods. Alfonso uses Malawian fabrics from the country’s cotton farmers. She says that both textile production and the fashion industry are developing and showing great promise for the future. 

Consider what it means for your business working in Malawian Kwacha, which sits at 1 to 54. You could buy significantly more fashion in comparison to buying in USD, GBP or Euro depending on which designers or brands you strike a deal with in Africa. 

Related: 3 'Covers’ that should be in place when starting a factory

3. But there is an increase in the cost of logistics 

Africa is notorious for infrastructure shortages, which is something you will need to factor into your stock acquisition strategy. Alfonso says that despite all the advancements made in supply chain thanks to technology, she still struggles with the cost of exporting her designs.

“The cost of transporting goods can be higher than the cost of the outfit sometimes,” says Alfonso. Although it might still be more cost-effective than buying from anywhere else, you will need to weigh up the cost and management of logistics.


  • There is a growing global market for unique and vibrant African fashion.
  • Africa is notorious for lacklustre infrastructure, which is something you will need to factor in on the logistics side when importing.
  • By supporting African entrepreneurs, you are also aiding the communities they come from.
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About the author

Nicole Crampton

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