Fashion designers as lead firms from below: Creative economy, state capitalism and internationalization in Lagos and Nairobi

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Abstract

African fashion reveals intersections between upgrading, manufacturing and internationalization alongside expanding cultural, political and social influence. Yet global value chain analyses of the industry reinforce a core-periphery dynamic with the location of lead firms in the Global North (GN) and actors lower down the value chain in the Global South (GS). This disappears GS actors in the creative economy, including fashion designers, who innovate, design and cultivate the brand followership associated with lead firms. This paper analyzes fashion designers in Lagos and Nairobi as economic, cultural and social value creators and therein lead firms from below (LFfB). It conceptualizes this dynamic, with a focus on lead firms within the global value chain framework that combines elements of conceptual interventions on state capitalism to offer the LFfB framework. The framework is deployed to analyse primary data from fashion design firms in two key hubs, Lagos and Nairobi. Findings demonstrate the significance of synergies between key areas of LFfB operation (research and development, inputs, distribution, sales and product design) and state capitalism’s support for production, trade and finance, as well as positive returns through international cultural recognition and national profile building. Nevertheless, the paper contends that challenges of state (in)action can undermine sustainable practices, competitiveness as well as multi-scalar internationalization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCOMPETITION AND CHANGE
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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