Why are there not more black African editors sitting at the top of leading African fashion publications?
Now that’s a loaded question. Let me make some important clarifications here:
1)When I say sitting at the top, I mean: Editor in Chiefs and Senior Editors.
2) The sector of Africa I am focusing on is Nigeria.
3) In this context, leading African fashion publications refers to magazines whose pages reflect high international fashion (of both African based and internationally based African designers). I am also referring to magazines that sell internationally and whose content, circulation and printing standards sit comfortably next to high circulation international magazines like Glamour, Elle, iD, Nylon and the like.
So my fellow Nigerians this cuts out magazines like Genevieve, Style Mania, FAB and the like. That being said, props to them.
4) My opinions are strictly based on what I have seen and experienced in my ten year career working across the African and international fashion editorial scene. If you have the facts and figures to contradict what I have to say below. I am more than interested to read them and learn.
5) I am specifically referring to the African/Nigerian fashion editorial sector.
So why do I ask this question? It’s a question, I’ve wanted to ask for years actually, but what triggered me to put this topic on blast, was my experience when travelling to Port Harcourt using Arik airlines (a leading Nigerian flight brand, that flies internationally). Arik airlines have an ‘award-winning’ inflight magazine called, ‘Wings’. As well as flight related content, Wings also reports on music, lifestyle, social events and fashion (unsurprisingly, the focus here is African fashion). Fabulous. On one of my previous trips, I noticed the editor of the fashion section was the same lady who was the Oga Kpata Kpata editor of ARISE. She’s based in London, she is Caucasian. I smiled when I saw this, as I could understand Arik’s Content Marketing strategy.
Due to her years heading ARISE’s (arguably, the best independent high fashion magazine to come out of Nigeria/Africa) editorial department, this lady became one of the leading ambassadors of African fashion. Consequently, it gives Arik credibility and relevance if she writes for Arik. But by my fourth trip and fourth time of picking up four different editions of Wings and seeing this lady’s name attached to the fashion editorial sections, I began to get confused and irritated. At this point, I must say that: if someone does the research, it may come to pass that this lady has not written all the fashion articles in Wings. However, like I said, I am basing this article on my experiences and it so happens that with the sporadic Arik flights I have taken: hers is the name I’ve seen.
Are you telling me that Wings cannot source professional and successful black African/Nigerian fashion editors for its predominantly black African/Nigerian customers/readers? In general, is it not possible to rotate the fashion editors more regularly? In fact, here is a thought, why can’t Wings open the doors for aspiring Nigerian/African fashion editors and hold a fashion writing competition and the winner gets to write X amount of times for Wings? Wouldn’t that be a great way to support and promote our L-O-C-A-L editorial talent?
By the way, all these questions I extend to Mr Nduka (man behind ARISE) as well regarding his choice of Senior Editor. Oh that and, ‘Hey Mr Nduka, your defunct ARISE still owes me Editorial Fees!!!’
At this point, I would like to make clear that I’m not a ‘hater’ of the lady who writes for Wings. She writes perfectly well and is clearly an expert within the African fashion field. Kudos. My issue is not with her but with ‘us’ (Nigerians). Why? Well for many reasons, one of them being: the African/Nigerian fashion market-as growing as it may be- is seriously lacking behind the more established fashion capitals of the world. This means that there are much fewer opportunities for African fashion creatives who want to work in the African fashion market, let alone the Nigerian market. Don’t believe me? Well, does Nigeria have its own Fashionmonitor.com (a leading digital provider of media, PR, brand contacts, news& events)yet? Exactly. So what this means is, as there are much fewer editorial job opportunities for us within the African/Nigerian Fashion market, it does matter A GREAT DEAL: who these few editorial positions go out to.
Maybe I can answer my own question here, I head the Marketing Comms department in a Nigerian-based international school and I was recently told that the lady who supplies the cooked snacks for the children for its ‘Tuck Shop’, is an expat. Why? Majority of the Nigerian parents (and their children) believe this will make the food tastier/better. In my opinion, for the most part, we (Nigerians) have this colonial mentality that (to put it crudely) ‘White Is Right’, and it goes far beyond the fashion industry and nestles quite comfortable in the education sector too.
I believe, I have said enough for now on this matter. Now I would like to hear from you on the topic…