A chat with some of Nigeria’s leading fashion designers

Lately, Nigerian trend designers have stood out, with quite a lot of them managing to interrupt into worldwide markets.

I used to be lately in Lagos and Abuja and was very impressed by the Nigerian tradition, Nollywood stars, Afrobeats music and movie star tradition that has richly influenced the style trade.

Ikpen Yvonne Akwitti

Designer Ikpen Yvonne Akwitti.

Designer Ikpen Yvonne Akwitti.

Picture credit score: Pool

I had a chat with one of many nation’s prime designers, Ikpen Yvonne Akwitti of the women-wear model IK-PEN, to know her inventive journey and success ideas that she will be able to share with Kenyan fashion-preneurs.

1. How did you develop your model to the extent that it has reached?

I all the time had a ardour for trend. I used to design and tailor my garments whereas in college. In my second yr, I had a variety of time to do that because the college all the time had frequent strikes.

I used to be finding out accounting however was all the time creating designs in my head and dreaming of how you can fashion individuals. After graduating from college, I moved to Paris to review Style Design and Merchandising on the Paris Style Institute. I graduated and moved again residence to affix the youth service. That’s after I ultimately established my model.

My dad and mom weren’t too eager on supporting my enterprise as they anticipated me to be an accountant. However I used to be enthusiastic about trend and decided to observe my dream. I began making bridal collections and particular occasions outfits for household and pals. That was 15 years in the past. So far, we’ve grown tremendously to a staff of over 40 individuals and a loyal consumer database of over 1,000 clients domestically and internationally.

2. What kind of girl wears IK-PEN trend?

The IK-PEN girl is subtle, clever. A lady who enjoys the best issues in life and could be very eager on high quality craftsmanship within the garments that she wears. She is trendy however is not going to compromise her advantage for trend. The IK-PEN girl is confident and has discovered herself. She is robust and has a powerful sense of identification, she leaves you with a long-lasting impression of your encounter along with her.

3. A majority of Nigerian girls are so aware about how they appear and eager on their private manufacturers. Why so?

If there’s something you could find out about Nigerian girls is that they like to look fabulous! In case you look again at our wealthy historical past, the monarchs of the previous dynasties, the Oyo and Benin kingdoms, they have been all the time lavishly wearing grand fashion, handmade apparel.

The normal apparel fashion and beauty of our girls have transcended ages and instances from the “Calabar” conventional “Onyonyo” to the Yoruba “Buba/Wrapper and Geles” and “Igbo’s” headgear referred to as Ichafu.

4. One of many challenges trend designers face is getting the fitting expertise. When hiring your manufacturing staff, what are the important thing abilities you search for?

I search for an individual with ardour, creativity, dedication and a great perspective. Somebody who derives pleasure within the work they do. It is past simply sporting garments, it’s gaining satisfaction when a consumer involves the shop for fittings and is so pleased with their costume that they dance round with pleasure.

Creativity is vital as we’re continually developing with innate concepts so the individual wants to have the ability to assume via the design course of from concepts to sketches and the ultimate product.

Dedication is essential to this enterprise as a variety of arduous work is required, somebody who isn’t devoted to their job will most certainly hand over as a result of it goes past the cash they’re incomes. Lastly, perspective and respect are all the pieces and with the ability to work with individuals.

I imagine most people who find themselves devoted to what they’re doing more often than not have the fitting perspective. If somebody has a detrimental perspective throughout the staff it spreads like most cancers and kills the spirit of different colleagues.

Loads of inventive individuals could not have an excellent perspective as a result of they know that they’re gifted, and everyone has to know. However actually, having respect for others and an awesome perspective is essential within the inventive house.

5. How is the enterprise setting for trend entrepreneurs in Nigeria? Does the federal government assist the inventive trade?

No setting is straightforward for enterprise anyplace. We’ve got our peculiar challenges. It’s difficult however is feasible to make and grow to be what you need to grow to be right here as a result of we’re gifted with a wealthy pool of gifted individuals.

The Nigerian trend market is large as a result of Nigerians love trend, particularly girls, even Nigerian males like trend and glamour. Nonetheless, a secure thriving economic system for the style enterprise is growing.

We’ve got to cope with manufacturing, manufacturing and delivery, industrial challenges and financial instabilities. It requires a variety of arduous work to do enterprise in Nigeria.

6. The model infuses a variety of conventional materials and prints with trendy types. How can you do that so seamlessly?

I work with conventional materials not solely from Nigeria however from throughout Africa and from varied tribes. I am all the time intrigued by our conventional African prints and materials, particularly with the craftsmanship that goes into the manufacturing of those materials which makes it innate to us in Africa and likewise makes the outfit very distinctive.

There’s a story to each piece made as a result of many of the materials are handmade both hand drawn, embroidered, hand woven or tye-dyed. The materials are artwork kinds in themselves with a narrative that the world should see. The very first thing you discover on an outfit is the material. I practice my manufacturing staff on particular tye-dye strategies for our designs.

We’re continually creating new materials, it is an all-year-round course of. Concepts don’t wait, you could catch and harness them when they’re recent.

A textured velvet robe in strawberry purple with lace embellishment.

Picture credit score: Pool

7. Has Nollywood contributed to the expansion of the Nigerian trend trade?

The film trade has performed an important position in trend globally. It’s a platform the place designers use actors and actresses as muses to show their distinctive designs. Nigerian actors have been muses of Nigerian trend for a few years.

8. A part of the challenges that trend designers face is copy-cut tradition. Do Nigerian fashion-preneurs face the identical?

Most designers are centered on growing their manufacturers. For instance, we’ve designers who solely give attention to creating corsets and really flamboyant outfits. The native inhabitants is large, and we’ve totally different sorts of shoppers who’ve distinctive necessities and the way they need to categorical themselves.

There may be greater than sufficient work for all of the designers as every designer has their particular goal market that they work with. There are all the time circumstances of copy-and-paste designs however usually, designers are engaged on outdoing themselves somewhat than different designers.

9. How do you cope with conditions the place your designs have been copied?

We’ve got developed our model to a degree that our items have a definite fashion and identification and you may spot an IK-PEN piece anyplace. Loads of work goes into creativity, craftsmanship and manufacturing and never lots of people have the persistence.

11. What do you assume is the foremost distinction between Nigerian and Kenyan designers?

Simplicity. Nigerians are very flamboyant, vibrant, vibrant and experimental. The Nigerian girl is all the time prepared to strive one thing totally different, nevertheless, the Kenyan girl likes color, sure, however not in extra. Their focus is on timeless simplicity, consolation and magnificence.

B.Mai Atafo is the chief inventive director at Atafo

Designer Mai Atafo

Designer Mai Atafo.

Picture credit score: Pool

1. How did you be a part of the style trade?

I stumbled into trend due to my love for garments. I did not intend to be a dressmaker, I simply needed to make garments as a result of I couldn’t afford the garments I appreciated and I couldn’t get garments that match me nicely as a result of again then I used to be tall and really skinny.

I began taking trend critically as a enterprise after I began receiving requests to make vests, waistcoats, and shirts for grooms and groomsmen. At the moment the norm was sporting black marriage ceremony fits as a result of that’s what most individuals may afford and had of their wardrobes.

I creatively considered how you can fashion the essential swimsuit into a marriage look. I began making vests utilizing a Nigerian cloth referred to as Ashoke from the Yoruba group which is their most prestigious hand-woven material. It is available in a wide range of colors and it was simple to match the colors towards the brides’ outfits. For the shirts, I might make them out of silk or cotton and this added an additional glam contact to the grooms and groomsmen look.

At first, I didn’t cost for my providers as I used to be aiding my pals however ultimately, the enterprise took off. On the identical time, I used to be approached to be a fancy dress designer for a actuality present referred to as Celeb Takes 2 , a actuality present the place I used to be dressing the primary solid.

This was round 2006 and it was a giant deal as a result of it was on nationwide TV and the celebrities can be sporting my garments as they hosted the present and after they did their varied interviews and would all the time credit score me for my work and my title would all the time seem on the display as their stylist. And as they are saying, the remaining is historical past.

2. How good are you at stitching?

In all honesty, my stitching isn’t that good. If I made a swimsuit and my tailor made a swimsuit, who can be higher? In fact, my tailors as a result of my tailor works and develops his stitching abilities day by day and ultimately turns into a grasp tailor. I’m the inventive brains of the model and I give attention to growing that.

3. You’ve gotten gained quite a few awards within the final 10 years, do they modify you?

I don’t know if I need to win any extra awards that can make me really feel like I’ve achieved one thing. Those that I have already got I’m grateful for however they don’t outline me, my journey or my story. These are awards given to me as a result of individuals understand that I’ve carried out nicely. Actually what is going to make me proud is after I open Atafo shops in each African metropolis, that to me now will really feel like a satisfying award.

I nonetheless really feel we’ve a protracted method to go within the trend trade. Are we constructing trend manufacturers for the love of the craft? I need to be recognised for the lives I’ve modified and the generations of creatives that I’ve impacted.

4. Has your tradition influenced your model’s inventive route?

Sure, tradition has influenced my inventive fashion. I’m from Edo State which is without doubt one of the smaller states. I’m an ethnic minority inside my state which has a variety of very proud individuals.

My buyer’s nuances have additionally helped me develop my fashion to suit the Nigerian buyer. My model Atafo is sort of broad in what we do. We can’t be outlined by one factor. We make fits just like the Europeans, and we additionally make our garments utilizing the standard native fashion which is impressed by European materials. We mix these two various types, we create Kaftans and different distinctive types which have European and African tribeless affect.

Now much more than ever I’m creating collections which have cultural relevance and the materials inform a narrative.

5. The place do you supply your materials from?

In every single place. Some come from India. If you analysis and discover different individuals which are skillful in inventive design manufacturing around the globe you incorporate them into your trend manufacturing course of.

7. What are the totally different ranges of trend companies in Nigeria?

The design ecosystem can also be very fascinating. We’ve got designers who’re expert and create authentic designs. However some designers are completely satisfied to repeat designs, precisely like yours. Nigerians are completely satisfied to go to these designers who copy designs as a result of they’re cheaper and produce the gadgets at half the worth.

A younger designer right now might be essentially the most acclaimed designer internationally. Some designers have been within the enterprise for 20 or 30 years, however when you take a look at their income numbers, they’re fairly low in comparison with these younger designers.

One other huge marketplace for designers is movie star styling. These designers give attention to outfits for particular events. There’s a clothes fashion referred to as “Asoebi” the place for instance a bride’s family and friends put on the identical uniform materials created in several types for a marriage. More often than not you put on these outfits solely as soon as. This can be a very enormous market as a result of each weekend in Nigeria there may be all the time a operate occurring.

Lastly, we’ve designers that produce ready-to-wear items. That is quick trend and sells rapidly and there’s a enormous clientele prepared to purchase these items.

8. Because the launch of your bridal line in 2011 up to now has the style of the bridal designer advanced?

It has modified drastically to the purpose that I don’t even take into account myself a bridal designer anymore. I can’t match the aesthetics of what the fashionable bride is sporting now, which is tremendous closely beaded clothes and that it isn’t my fashion aesthetic, and it doesn’t excite me. I’m nonetheless the lover of a easy but elegant bride that I nonetheless need to design for.

10. Have the style weeks in Nigeria helped in offering a platform for African designers to entry worldwide markets?

The style reveals are nice for worldwide media and publicity, however extra work must be carried out in connecting the designers to the worldwide market. Usually for worldwide reveals, as soon as a designer has showcased their work, showroom consumers place their orders for the following season’s collections for his or her shops.

We at present wouldn’t have any showroom conversations or any showrooms in Africa, moreover, do we’ve showroom consumers in Africa? As a designer which shops would you like to inventory in Africa or Internationally and the way do you entry these consumers? At the moment, the infrastructure isn’t obtainable for designers to begin having conversations with consumers and thus most consumers are based mostly in worldwide markets. Nonetheless, the Style Weeks are an awesome place to begin these conversations.

One other key query to ask is a designer: are you able to decide to worldwide orders? If a purchaser desires to present an order of three,000 items, are you prepared to provide the identical constant high quality of clothes for all 3000 items? In case you are prepared for consumers to advertise your product within the worldwide market you then should be prepared along with your narrative, manufacturing and delivery processes.

11. Many designers dream of stocking in worldwide shops like Saks Fifth Avenue. Is that this what you are aiming for?

My goal ultimately is to have the ability to promote my model merchandise from any a part of the world, that’s promoting on-line. If I’m ultimately in a position to inventory in these areas, that could be a particular add-on as a result of they’re luxurious shops and customers can entry, have interaction and buy your product and this is able to be nice! However what can be even higher is customers shopping for instantly from my ATAFO retailer in New York somewhat than me being in a concession retailer. I’m not towards truly stocking in these shops, however I’ve to be trustworthy with myself and ask, am I prepared for that?

12. Do the Nigerians within the diaspora store the ATAFO model and what number of revenue does this contribute to your online business?

Sure, the Nigerians within the diaspora store from the ATAFO model however not as a lot as I would love them to. If you need customers to purchase and store your model, then you must present your model worth and place your self strategically.

13. Why does the typical Nigerian each feminine and male put a variety of effort into their look and branding?

Dressing nicely is an indication of respect, it’s in our upbringing, and we’re educated to imagine that the best way you current your self is how individuals will handle you.

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