Ajibola Akande is a fashion entrepreneur who is passionate about children’s fashion and is the brain behind the African Teens and Kiddies Fashion Show/Exhibition. He spoke to ROTIMI IGE about his passion for the fashion industry, among other things.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Ajibola Akande, I am a Nigerian with a passion to contribute my own quota to the growth of my country and that of my continent at large. This I am doing in my little way via the African Kids and Teens Fashion Week.
Why the interest in kids and Teens fashion?
For me, that is where fashion should start from. The fashion industry in Africa is not really contributing enough to the GDP of African countries. Why is this so? When our kids and teens are left out of the picture, the future of our fashion industry will still remain the same (dominated by the western designs). Imagine our children at the moment grow up wearing African fashion, the demand for African design in the future will increase because they would have been used to it. This I believe, will increase future patronage. That is what I think the western world took advantage of by introducing their clothing to us while we were kids,automatically when we grew up wearing their designs, we will have no other option than to accept their clothing as the real deal. Apart from that, the revenue generated from the kids and teens fashion industry in Africa is quite huge and I can tell you that over 95 per cent of that revenue cross the border into western economies. I know that happens because of the standard they have, but with my little years of promoting African fashion for kids and teens, I can tell you that our designers have stepped up their game. So therefore, I believe it is time for Africa especially Nigeria to retain what is generated from that industry, this will create a lot of jobs and increase the GDP in African nations in no small measure.
Your fashion show is in what year?
It will be three years this December.
How has been the response of people to it?
The response has been fantastic. What we showcase are mostly ready to wear for children. Mostly what we see when it comes to African fashion on our children are actually adult designs and what we propagate is that our children should wear children’s designs. African ready-to-wear for kids and teens is very interesting to see. We had a hall packed full at the 2015 edition of the event and parents were really impressed at the designs showcased.
How do you source for content for your kids and teens fashion event?
We just announce our call to entry, and get designers show up to have their designs on our run way. I actually thought at the beginning that it would be difficult to get designers who specialize in the African kids and teens design. But I was shocked to discover that we have a lot of them around. We even had to cut down on the numbers of designers who signified interest to showcase their design at the 2015 edition.
How do you hope to erase the ‘foreign clothes are better than locally made ones’ syndrome in Nigeria?
When it comes to African fashion, our designers have stepped up their game like I earlier said. We have African designs now being worn by top celebrities all over the world. I am also impressed at the rate Africans are accepting their own products. I can assure you that with time, that mindset will be a thing of the past because even the foreign citizens won’t be able to resist our products.
You were in partnership with the Bank of Industry last year. Can you shed more light on this partnership?
The Bank of Industry is really doing all it can to support the fashion industry via the fashion fund introduced by the Federal Government. The bank is using platforms like ours to educate those in the fashion industry on how to access the loan and also educate them on how the bank can be of help in making them successful in business. The African fashion industry for kids and teens is an industry the bank of industry believes can contribute in no small measure to the GDP fashion is contributing to the Nigerian economy right now which is around 0.47 per cent.
How do you intend to use your partnership to help fashion entrepreneurs to expand?
At this year’s event, we will be having a business meeting/symposium with fashion stake holders. At the symposium, the bank of industry will be educating participants on how to access this funds. Other speakers will also be speaking about the opportunities that abound in the African fashion industry for kids and teens here in Nigeria and all over the world.
The first two editions where held in the city of Ibadan, where is it going to be held this year?
Ibadan was a great place to start the event and I must say we appreciate the city for her love. The 2016 edition of the African kids and teens fashion week will be held in Lagos state, Nigeria.
Personally, are you a fashion buff?
I will say yes when it comes to children fashion. It is actually what I have a strong passion for. With my research into the children wear industry all over the world, I discover that Africa is losing hundreds of millions in foreign exchange every year. That made me more determined to ensure the African fashion industry for kids and teens is giving the needed support because with my findings, I know it is the next big thing in the fashion industry all over the world.
Many stylists say it is quite tasking to style/sew children’s wears. Is this true or a myth?
It is not difficult in the real sense of it. I know it has its own technicalities, but I can say that the first step to success in the industry I have seen is just having passion for children’s clothing. If that is sorted, The rest is history.
What is the vision for this project?
The vision is simple, by 2025, we look forward to having an established African fashion industry for kids and teens not only in Africa, but all over the world.
What other projects are you involved in?
Working with kids for close to three years now have been an eye opener. We have come to discover that a lot of this kids are super talented. So therefore we have established a modeling agency for kids and teenagers, we are also putting together a summer fashion school which we believe will create an entrepreneurial mindset for these children. With this, we will produce more job creators which will be of great benefit to the economy.