A country known for exporting raw cotton, Benin is increasingly gaining notoriety in the local and international fashion industry. The increasing demand for handcrafted African fashion is also positively affecting the country as a whole. Several international campaigns have joined efforts to further empower the Beninese people while sharing the beauty of their culture and fashion with the world. Infrastructure improvements are crucial for the exportation of Beninese styles. Villages that previously had little access to electricity and other modern amenities are now enjoying the benefit of modernization.
Perhaps Benin’s most famous fashion designer is Salmata Yémi Akobi, the creative mind behind the brand Olowou Print. Sourcing local goods and utilizing local artisans, Ms Akobi has rapidly grown her brand into an international sensation. Melding traditional prints and styles with a modern twist, Olowou Print has expanded to create accessories, children’s clothing, and menswear. The designer is committed to preserving the beauty and traditional culture of her home country. A quote from her mission statement reads: “Each person has to be concerned with the preservation of nature and above all, not play a part to the degradation of the environment in which we live and with our children’s future in mind. For that reason, I use a lot of recycled materials that have been recovered and processed from discarded objects in nature.”
Handcrafted fashions are making a difference in the lives of many Beninese people who previously made a living subsistence farming. Several cooperative movements are currently working simultaneously to organize independent cotton refiners and local fashion designers. Many previously poor independent farmers and refiners are currently expanding their operations to include several apprentices. The growing international interest in both modern and traditional Beninese fashion equates to a higher standard of living for many citizens of the African country.