Spotting a unique business opportunity in the Zimbabwe fashion industry and executing your plan effectively, could result in incredibly huge profits. There are various business models which can be used and different sectors of the fashion industry to target. Moreover, you don’t have to be a designer yourself to start a clothing company; although for a clothing line, designing could prove to be a vital skill. The fashion industry is brimming with opportunities despite the unfavorable conditions for operating a business in Zimbabwe. Below we look at some of the not-so-popular business ideas in the Zimbabwe fashion industry. 

Important terms to know

  • Ready to wear/ retail fashion – Apparel that a designer creates for the purposes of selling the clothes en masse in retail outlets.
  • Brick and mortar – The term for the physical shop
  • Brick and click – Retailers that integrate their brick and mortar store with their e-commerce site, allowing them to sell in physical shops and online, simultaneously.
  • Clothing line – A clothing line is a collection of garments on a theme, or for a particular season created by a designer who may be independent or working under a clothing company.

Viable fashion business ideas

1.      Sell clothes – The options

Retailing clothes is one of the most obvious  businesses in the fashion industry. This can be done by designing a clothing line, and selling to major retail outlets, or smaller ones. The clothing store will sell the designer/business owner’s brand in their stores. The business owner is expected to meet the demand of the retail store, and can outsource production and shipping in order to stay lean. As a business owner you can also take the role of buyer, purchasing designs and collections, then retailing them under a single brand name in your store. Clothing stores can be brick and mortar, brick and click or operating entirely online. Online stores are not yet popular in Zimbabwe, but one successful example is which sells electronic gadgets.

Often when you are the buyer, you can outsource production to a separate manufacturing company, to avoid manufacturing costs. This may be ideal when retailing on a large scale, perhaps with the intention of later expanding to include factories. It is possible to be the manufacturer and then sell garments directly to customers without using another company such as a retail chain, as the middleman. This is called a factory shop. Factory shops sell the manufacturer’s remaining inventory at a cheaper price than would do retail stores. Other options include opening a boutique and selling unique pieces of clothing, where there is only one of its kind for each piece of apparel, for picky consumers who prefer to dress uniquely.

2.      Showbiz and entertainment

Selling clothes is not the only way to monetize in the fashion industry. A large sector of that industry is powered by supporting activities. Fashion shows are events where designers showcase their new collections through models who walk the runway (a modeling platform); and attendees pay to watch the show. Fashion shows can be major events that draw in thousands of people when marketed and advertised effectively. A highly successful fashion show in Zimbabwe can feature performances by leading artists and performers to add variety to the show. The photographs taken could be great material for fashion magazines, that often pay for entry and the right to publish the pictures. The show could end with an after-party or cocktail where food and beverages, including alcohol, will be available. There lies another monetizing opportunity; requesting that the guests pay for entry inclusive of food and drinks, or merely for entrance, and the food/drinks are sold separately. Fashion shows can be held in different cities, possibly annually, or at the start of each new season.

Fashion magazines, print or online, are viable business options as well. Fashion magazines share content on everything fashion related depending on their area of focus. Content on trends, fashion brands, latest news, tips and tricks, glossy pictures of models, and a host of other content is published in these magazines. Advertisements in the print publication or the online magazine is usually the biggest source of income, followed by sales and/or subscriptions. Selling fashion magazines can be profitable in Zimbabwe, if the magazine content is made palatable to the young, hip, urban Zimbabwean.

3.      Mobile apps and fashion games

Mobile games are common as a form of entertainment among many Zimbabweans. Fun and interactive fashion games can pull in a huge crowd among young people in Zimbabwe, who have access to smartphones and the internet. They allow users to live vicariously through their avatars, and develop their sense of style. Fashion lovers could find such games incredibly appealing and addictive and could be willing to part with a small fee for advanced features of the game. Creating app that help users match outfits, or provide information on the best places to find certain clothing is another way of cashing in on the fashion industry.

Although ease of doing business is not very high in Zimbabwe, the industry is ripe with opportunities to create a sustainable business. Currently the market is flooded with second hand clothing, which means there is a vacuum; an opening for new clothing at cheaper prices than the existing stores. Fashion shows, fashion magazines, apps and games are not as numerous yet, meaning less competition and an easier plausibility of market dominance. Business opportunities are many in Zimbabwe, and only require the brave and resilient souls to undertake them.