Meet The Nigerian Lawyer-Turned-Style-Powerhouse Who's Turning Lagos Into A Fashion Hub

Nigerian fashion power player Omoyemi Akerele speaks to Okayafrica on the heels of the 2015 Lagos Fashion & Design Week.

Omoyemi Akerele (Photo Credit: Claudio Bonoldi)

Omoyemi Akerele has an impressive resume. As the founder of Lagos Fashion & Design Week (LFDW), the lawyer-turned-style-powerhouse is widely credited as being a pivotal force behind the Nigerian fashion industry. Her development agency, Style House Files, works with Nigerian companies on brand positioning and retail strategies. Even though her tenacity and strong work ethic have led to success, she jokingly says that she should have taken the easy way out. “It's a lot of work and it never ends.”

In just five short years, Akerele has managed to turn LFDW into a full-on, four day fashion fête boasting almost 70 designers at their most recent Spring/Summer collection. What makes this year special? “Five years ago it was about trying to get people to understand that fashion is a business,” Akerele tells us. “We had a more laid back attitude towards fashion. It was more entertainment-geared or presented as the idea of fashion as entertainment a bit more versus the idea of fashion as a business. For us, that's something that's changed.”

Fittingly, this year's event was more of a celebration, says Akerele. “It's just a year that we decided to focus on celebrating–and when I say celebrating, it means celebrating the industry and celebrating the baby steps that we have made. The industry is not what is was five years ago when we came on the scene” says Akerele.

She adds “When we look at the structure of LFDW as a whole we are also evolving and sort of coming into our own. We realize that there is a conscious need to focus on contributing to other areas that will nurture or position LFDW for greater success. Be it the areas of manufacturing or working with stakeholders to help designers have easier access to finance or getting the designers together a lot so they can share ideas, brainstorm and network.”

In New York City, fashion week is exclusively for media, bloggers, buyers, socialites. Getting a ticket for the average person is near impossible. In Lagos, however, the fashion spotlight is squarely on the consumer. “We have to make it open to the public. They are the one's buying, they are the consumers of fashion. They walk into the designer’s studio to do all the shopping and the buying.”

Ejiro Amos Tafiri At Lagos Fashion And Design Week 2015. Photo: Kola Oshalusi (Insigna)

For designers on the continent, in addition to struggling with manufacturing, agonizing startup costs and a host of other issues, one of their biggest pain points is competition from larger brands making their way into Africa. Think of lower-priced brands such H&M and Forever 21. How can designers compete? According to Akerele, though, there's room for everyone. “We need to ensure that production, manufacturing and distribution is in place for designers, and that consumers understand the need to support Nigerian designers or brands,” she says. “At the same time understanding that it's OK to support international brands. It would be really cool to see how people mix and match.”

Considering that fashion is still a niche industry in Nigeria, it's not surprising that sponsorship is an integral part of making the shows happen. "It's easier to raise sponsorship for music and sports–there's still that mentality that fashion is frivolous," Akerele says. "It's tough trying to get people to understand that we are trying to do is different and that it's not just about getting designers together and then just moving on. We cannot do anything without a sponsor. From trying to get a venue, to production, to models needing to get paid , hair and makeup—it's a lot of money.” For the 2015 edition of LDFW, Akerele & co. teamed up with with Heineken. “It's beyond sponsorship it's about a partnership. How can we all come together to help build this industry and take it to the next level?”

A recurring theme throughout our chat with Akerele was her goal to turn Nigeria into a fashion hub. “It's about the industry, it's the bigger picture. It's about everyone coming together to do what they need to do for this to work. If you think in isolation about what you need to do you will never get there.”

Makho Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean born blogger living in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @MakhoNdlovu.


This Video Takes Us Inside Lagos' First Ever Plus-Size Fashion Week

A new video from BBC Africa offers a look inside Lagos' first Plus-Size Fashion Week.

A new video from BBC Africa takes us inside Lagos' first-ever plus-size fashion week, dedicated to catering to the needs of Nigeria's population full-bodied women.

Keep reading... Show less

Nigerian Youth Are Bringing Back Traditional Clothing In a Major Way

Traditional Nigerian clothing, like the agbada, is enjoying a reemergence amongst the country's youth.

LAGOS—A new video from AJ+ highlights the reemergence of traditional Nigerian clothing like the agbada amongst the country's youth.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC.

Cameroonian UFC Fighter Francis Ngannou Is Set To Join the 9th 'Fast & Furious' Installment

"The Predator" will be the third UFC fighter to make an appearance in the blockbuster franchise.

This Cameroonian UFC fighter will be making his first movie appearance in the next installment of Fast & Furious, Deadline reports.

Francis Ngannou will be playing a character that has yet to be announced in the ninth Fast & Furious movie—the third UFC fighter to join the blockbuster franchise. The film is set to be released May 22, 2020.

Known in the ring as "The Predator," he currently ranks second in the heavyweight division, Deadline adds.

Keep reading... Show less

Listen to Swae Lee & Drake's​ New Single 'Won't Be Late,' Produced by Tekno

As well as production, Tekno also gets a writing credit on the new song.

Rae Sremmurd's Swae Lee drops two new singles today, "Won't Be Late" featuring Drake and "Sextasy."

"Won't Be Late" is notably produced by Nigeria's own Tekno. The new single is built on a mid tempo, afro-fusion-inspired beat, filled with claps, and light keyboard chords.

As well as production, Tekno also gets a writing credit on the new song. You can hear his input when Drake sings lines like, 'Ikebe, pressing on me heavy' and 'Bakasi, moving on me wassy.'

If you remember, Drake shouted out Tekno last year as one of his many inspirations behind Scorpion and posted a picture of them working on something together.

"Won't Be Late" is paired with Swae Lee's "Sextasy" which was produced by Mike WiLL Made-It and Chopsquad DJ.

Tekno's had a lively past few months. He was recently featured in Beyoncé's The Lion King: The Gift album and dropped his "Agege" collaboration with Zlatan. He was also accused of being a "threat to security" by Nigeria's Council for Arts & Culture for that single's pole dancing video.

Listen to "Won't Be Late" below.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox