In Abidjan the capital of Ivory Coast, a woman may choose between a “capable husband” or an “ungrateful husband” while monitoring the move of a rival.
These are the various nick names given to thousands of colourful fabrics of different patterns in the country.
Some of these names are often inspired by the characters of some main actors in a TV series or some societal facts.
“The poor can afford to pay for the made in China brands, some rich people also buy them depending on their means. There are also some fabrics that are Dutch, everyone can’t afford to pay for Hollandaise.”
“It is an ungrateful husband. I prefer this cloth here to the latter one. I don’t like that other one because it does not please me, I do not like the name even. Therefore, I love the capable husband here because it is capable, it does everything for me, so I love this cloth, its better than that one,” said a sales woman, Korotoum Ouattara.
Each month, dozens of new patterns appear on the markets. But a few years ago, the sector faced competition from Asian countries.
In Adjame and Abidjan market, there are many types of these most prestigious brands imported from China, Thailand and Nigeria.
For some less fortunate customers, the imitations, sold between 3 to 10 euros, are more affordable than the fabrics made by major brands, which often goes above 20 euros.
“The poor can afford to pay for the made-in-China brands, some rich people also buy them depending on their means. There are also some fabrics that are Dutch, everyone can’t afford to pay for Hollandaise,” said Awa Koné, another saleswoman.
Approximately 90% of the clothes sold in Ivory Coast markets now come from abroad.
After having suffered for long from Chinese competition, a company Uniwax, a subsidiary of the Dutch group Vlisco and leader of fabrics in Africa, decided to match-up with its competitors.
“There has been a strategy of creativity, marketing and distribution of production which allows us to effectively combat these phenomena. In Large, if you want to, we produce more quickly, the printing machine will not print a product of a high-quality ratio that would be appreciated by consumers,” Jean-Louis Menudier, CEO of Uniwax.
In 2015, Uniwax was very profitable, generating a net profit of 4 billion CFA (6 million euros) for a turnover of 36 billion CFA (55 million euros), representing a comfortable margin of 11% net.
The company, which employs 750 people, has been able to invest 15 million euros on the stock markets in September to finance an investment plan aimed at increasing production.
As the market plans full expansion, the company hopes to increase its production to 70% in the next five years.
It also hopes that with its beautiful colors, the fabrics, could one day compete favorably in Europe.