News

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.

News
Photo: Alvin Ukpeh.

The Year Is 2020 & the Future of Nigeria Is the Youth

We discuss the strength in resolve of Nigeria's youth, their use of social media to speak up, and the young digital platforms circumventing the legacy media propaganda machine. We also get first-hand accounts from young creatives on being extorted by SARS and why they believe the protests are so important.

In the midst of a pandemic-rife 2020, the voices of African youth have gotten louder in demand for a better present and future. From structural reforms, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and derelict states of public service, the youths have amplified their voices via the internet and social media, to cohesively express grievances that would hitherto have been quelled at a whisper.

Nigerian youth have used the internet and social media to create and sustain a loud voice for themselves. The expression of frustration and the calls for change may have started online, but it's having a profound effect on the lives of every Nigerian with each passing day. What started as the twitter hashtag #EndSARS has grown into a nationwide youth revolution led by the people.

Even after the government supposedly disbanded the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) unit on the 10th of October, young Nigerians have not relented in their demands for better policing. The lack of trust for government promises has kept the youth protesting on the streets and online.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Interview: 808x On Crafting Different Sounds For the Diverse Innanetwav Roster

808x, the in-house producer for South Africa's popular hip-hop collective/label Innanetwav, breaks down his working process with artists and the importance of energy.