Not too long ago, Nigerians regarded foreign-made clothing as the best kind of attire one could wear. Brand new ‘ready-made’ clothes from overseas were a status symbol, and everyone wanted to associate with that. Gone are the days when wearing new t-shirts and jeans set you aside as an affluent person, except of course they are made by reputable designers such as Levi’s, Prada and the likes. These days, Nigerians are now proudly rocking our homemade Ankara fabrics, which have proven to be versatile enough to create just about any style that can be achieved with western-made fabrics.
It is no wonder then that many people are now going into the Ankara business in droves because it is lucrative and seemingly inexhaustible when it comes to design options.
Although the industry seems saturated already, many people are still toeing the line of Ankara-made goods because, as they say, “The sky is big enough for every bird to fly.”
Considering the possibility of starting an Ankara business in Nigeria, here are five key things to know that could lead to success in that venture.
5 Important things to know before starting Ankara business
- Be Creative: As stated earlier, the Ankara business in Nigeria is already saturated, but that does not mean you too cannot join the industry and shine. What you need is creativity. Thankfully, the Ankara fabric is so versatile that you can fashion just about anything with it. We have seen Ankara clothing, Ankara shoes, Ankara bags, and even jewelry made with Ankara. Now it’s up to you to figure out what has not been made with this flexible fabric and start doing that. You can as well make clothes and accessories using Ankara, but be sure to add your signature touch to them to set them aside from other brands that are already in the market. Your uniqueness is what will attract customers to you, so be different.
- Start Small: Even if you have the means to open a boutique, you still need to start with a little merchandise to enable you to test the market and see what works. Start your business with a variety of designs but in small quantities and see what your target buyers prefer. Once you have that figured out, you can now create more products based on your customers’ demands. That is way better than having a store full of items that nobody wants to buy. Let your customers’ preferences be your guide.
- Invest in quality: By now, you should know that Ankara fabrics come in different grades and quality. There are cheap and common ones, while there are expensive and uniquely designed ones. You cannot buy low-quality Ankara and embellish it lavishly and then expect people to buy it at a high price, because the fact remains that it is low grade. At the end of the day, quality trumps quantity and if you want to make a name for yourself in the Ankara fashion industry, you need to be ready to invest in top quality materials to attract the right caliber of customers.
- Have a niche: Another essential thing you need to consider before going into the Ankara business is having a niche – a focus area that you can quickly excel in. Yes, there are people who do all sorts of things at the same time: bags, shoes, clothing, hats, and accessories. But as a newcomer in the business, it is in your best interest to start with one aspect first and grow with that before adding other branches to the business. If you are already passionate about dressmaking, then start with that. It is easier to do well in something you are skilled in than to try to be the jack of trades and fail in the end. Start with your area of strength and then branch out to other categories as your business grows.
- Be unique: Now, this one might seem tough because there are already thousands of people in the Ankara business in Nigeria. But guess what, you can still set yourself apart from the multitude – all it takes is your own level of creativity. As we mentioned earlier, creativity is one of the things that guarantee your success in this business. Nobody wants to wear a knock off. We all want to look good and feel special. Your customers should be able to tell the difference between an Ankara outfit made by your brand and the ones made by another brand. You need to dig deep and think of something that is exclusive to you that you can use as your signature for all your creations. It could be a logo, a kind of embellishment, or an assortment of other fabrics mixed in with your Ankara, but done in a way that is entirely different from all the one million and one styles that are already in the market.
Where to buy quality Ankara fabrics
Ankara fabrics are easy to come by because they are available in just about any local market in Nigeria. However, if you want to purchase top quality Ankara, especially in Lagos, there are some specific markets you need to visit for that.
The most famous market to buy original Ankara is the Balogun Market in Lagos Island, Nigeria. This is the ideal place to get Ankara in bulk as there are varieties of designs and textures to choose from.
This is the market where you can connect with major distributors who ship the fabrics directly from the textile manufacturers. In fact, if you want to make your own unique designs, this is where you will meet with the right people that can make that possible.
Another major market where you can get original Ankara is “Brown Street” in Oshodi. Although not as expansive as Balogun Market, this market also offers shoppers varieties in terms of designs and quantities, particularly if you’re interested in wholesale shopping. Some of the distributors here also have direct contact with textile manufacturers. So if you don’t feel up to the bustle of the large Balogun Market, then this is your next best option. For people who wish to purchase Ankara fabrics from outside of Nigeria or Africa, can do so online at websites like https://www.ankara.com.ng one of the biggest marketplaces offering local fabrics in Africa
How to differentiate between original and fake Ankara
In Nigeria, we all already know that everything that has an original version has a copy/fake. After all, not everyone can afford the original stuff, so the knock offs are usually more appealing to the masses who want to look good too but cannot afford to shell out loads on cash for such luxury.
If you’re looking to go into the Ankara business, you must be able to identify the original and fake because your potential customers are likely to be able to tell the difference. Original Ankara fabrics are soft, flexible with neat edges. They feel like soft cotton and are easily pliable.
On the other hand, low quality or fake Ankara fabrics are gritty to the touch. They wrinkle easily and, most times, have frayed or rough edges. Folding fake Ankara material is like folding paper, so no matter how pretty it may look, the tough texture is a significant indicator that the fabric is a fake.
Price range of Ankara fabrics
There is no fixed price for Ankara materials even for the original ones because pricing largely depends on the brand and the time of year you are purchasing them. Fabrics are usually more expensive during festive periods, so be sure to have that in mind when you decide to go Ankara shopping.
However, on average, good quality Ankara retails between 5,000 – 7,000 Naira for 6 yards, and there are some that sell as high as 15,000 Naira for the same quantity. Original Ankara usually comes in 6 yards but you can split them to 3 yards if you want to mix and match or if you cannot afford the full bundle.
The knock offs usually sell from as low as 1,500 to 3,000 Naira because even the fakes come in different grades. Some are nearly similar to the originals but they still lack the smoothness and top-notch finishings of the authentic ones, yet they are priced higher than the obvious fakes.
Even though the original Ankara materials are costly, you can get some really good discounts if you’re purchasing in bulk, especially in large bundles of 15 yards. So rather than buying several rolls of 6 yards Ankara, go for the bigger bundles and save yourself some cash. If you are buying to resell, big bundles are your best bet because you stand a better chance of making more profit than when you buy in rolls.