Ronke Ademiluyi, Founder of AFWL & AFWN
Abiola Okoya Africa Fashion Week’s Good Will Ambassador and Partner
On Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th May, 2014, the city of Lagos will witness the biggest fashion festival yet to occur within the Nigerian clime. Spread into two days and happening in two separate venues, Africa Fashion Week Nigeria will indeed be an African fashion celebration, coming in continental dimensions and depths of professional panache and finesse, fit only for a world class fashion event.
Africa Fashion week Nigeria will feature over 50, fashion designers, showcasing in two days of absolute fashion glitz and glamour. Saturday 17th May will break the event with the best of Nigeria’s up and coming designers who have been sponsored to showcase.
The event is the primary objective of Africa Fashion Week Nigeria, which is to create a platform that will give much needed visibility and exposure to the best of emerging creative talents in the Nigerian fashion industry. This is to enable them to be discovered and to network with high net worth individuals in order to form clientele quality and develop strong revenue base that will convert their fashion creativity into economic sustainability.
The event will feature catwalk shows, exhibitions, celebrity runways, stunning models, A-list contemporary music, combining runway with classy entertainment in a night of fashion blitz such as has never been witnessed in Lagos before. There will be strong African background, enhanced by poetic renditions by seasoned orators of the Nigerian theatre. It will be a night best witnessed than narrated.
Sunday 18th May event will be at Eko Hotels, Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island Lagos. The Sunday event will be the mother of all fashion events, featuring the cream of African and Nigerian fashion brands from both home and in the Diaspora, such as JOHN KAVEKE from Kenya, LOPEZ from Angola, POLIKEM from Ghana, QUEENE From New York USA and our Darling Nigerian Fashion A-Listers, such as EJIRO AMOS TAFIRI, ZIZI CARDOW, and HOUSE OF MARIE, just to mention a few
The high point of the event will be a grand out coming by Hajia Abba Folawiyo, the doyenne of Nigerian fashion, in an inspiring show, for the current and future generations.
Among our grand patrons, who also form our guest list, include the best that Nigerian society has to offer in the personalities of Chief Molade Okoya Thomas, Sen. Daisy Danjuma, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa and Chief Oprah Benson among others.
Africa fashion Week Nigeria is an inevitable home coming of Africa Fashion Week London which was birthed in August 2011 in London UK. The brainchild of Nigeria’s own Ronke Ademiluyi, the event was conceived to bridge gaps between African Inspired Fashion Designers and the mainstream European fashion industry, by creating a pedestal upon which the economically challenged African themed designers can reach the European limelight, cutting through barriers of visibility occasioned by the lack of funding which denies them showcasing opportunities in big fashion shows.
The first Africa Fashion Week London debuted in 2011, It gave over 50 African designers a free showcasing platform to showcase their designs to an audience of over 4000 visitors who attended, initially we were expecting 500 guests as this was the first of its kind in the UK but to our amazement over 4000 guests trooped to Gibson Hall in London to witness the event, including mainstream media houses, making it instantly the most successful African themed fashion event of the year in the UK.
The event met the urgent need of supporting young and emerging African inspired designers in the UK and globally, providing a professionally produced showcasing platform for them and creating amazing opportunities for both established and up-coming categories among them, to form self sustaining business networks. AFWL also provided fresh faces in the modeling industry the opportunity to walk on the runway and work with designers, giving them a break into the industry.
The second edition coincided with the 2012 Olympics in London and was elevated on the crests of the Olympics summer crowd, excitement and international media fervor into a huge success. Held at Spitalfields open event hall in London, it recorded an all time high attendance of 20,000 guests in 3 days of African fashion frenzy and funfair. It showcased 60 designers and over 50 exhibitors and a hundred models from all corners of the globe.
The 2013 edition which took place at the old Truman Brewery, in London's hip district of Shoreditch took the ante a notch higher than previous editions with an extra fund raising banquet, which also featured a high-end glamorous exhibition and fashion show at the prestigious Dorchester hotel Park Lane London.
The Banquet: The AFWL 2013 banquet, massively supported by our Patron, Princess Fifi Ejindu, was an African arts and style renaissance fundraiser in aid of youth empowerment in Africa. It was programmed to provide initial and support capital for talented student fashion designers and artists with an African theme. The platform created opportunities that fostered partnerships with business communities globally, thereby giving the designers business linkages, clientele connections and wealth creation synergies.
The Banquet featured an art exhibition by Tiwani Art Gallery of London. Speakers at the AFWL 2013 Gala included Her Excellency, Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, First Lady of Cross River State a
The high point of the Banquet was the conferment of AFWL African Ambassador Awards to some individuals who had contributed to the growth of the African creative industry. Some of the awardees were : High Chief Edem Duke; Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism Nigeria, Her Excellency Rachel Mazombwe Zulu; Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Culture Malawi, Hajia Toyin Saraki; Former First lady Kwara State of Nigeria and founder of the well being Foundation Africa (WBF Africa) and Senator Grace Bent, distinguished former Senator of the Republic of Nigeria.
His Excellency, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida (OFR, CFR, MBBS) Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Estelle-English R&B Singer, songwriter, rapper and record producer, Alexandra Burke-successful British recording artiste and songwriter attended the banquet.
It was a roll call of diplomats and celebrities from the world of international arts and fashion who networked together in an evening of class and creativity to, map out ways of empowering African fashion talent, to give them a footing on the global front.
AFWL in a few years of existence has become a landmark event on the world fashion calendar and is fast becoming the biggest African inspired fashion event in Europe. Combining runway and fashion exhibition shows in three days of perfectly paced illuminating expos, the event as a platform, has hosted the creations of over 200 African and African inspired designers from across the African continent and the Diaspora. It has had over 35,000 visitors attend the events and through its charity arm, AFWL provided over 70 young UK based designers free platforms to showcase their collections to a global audience, in the effort to continue to showcase and support young African inspired designers.
AFWL 2014 will be taking place on the 7th-9th of August, of over a period of 3 days ending with the red carpet grand finale event where awards will be given to those recognized for their contribution to the growth of African fashion in the United Kingdom and globally as well as those who have contributed to youth and women empowerment in Africa.
Interview with Ronke Ademiluyi, Founder of AFWL & AFWN
Law graduate founder of Africa Fashion Week London & Africa Fashion Week Nigeria Ronke Ademiluyi is an Ife Princess. In this chat with Ovation Magazine, she reveals that her driving force is a passion for improving the lot of talented but under privileged fashion designers.
Ovation: What do you do professionally and what have some of your accomplishments been to date?
I am a fashion industry entrepreneur and my particular niche is creating promotional platforms through which undiscovered African Inspired talent in the fashion industry worldwide, both young and old, can be given much needed visibility so as to reach the right audience and be assisted in turning their innate creative abilities, into economic self sustenance.
So professionally I can be described as a fashion business promoter if you like, but for me it goes a bit beyond that. My greatest motivating factor in launching out to do what I do is my coming to realize the tremendous potential within the fashion industry which if properly harnessed, can create jobs, channel youthful energies and talent into constructive use and bring economic emancipation to African women and youth and improve the economies of African countries. So I launched out and started with whatever means I had, to give African fashion a global voice in the diaspora and in Africa in an all ramifying spectrum, covering the designers, the models, the fabrics & textiles, the make-up artists, the hair stylists, fashion photographers, fashion stylists, the media including online, prints and TV. Everyone indeed included so I don’t know if there is any one single professional description for that.
My greatest accomplishment so far is the fact that I was able to put together the first Africa Fashion Week London on my own with no support or sponsorship.This very first edition was a dream that lived in my mind for years before I was able to summon the courage to start planning and organizing in 2011. The fact that it was a success is my greatest fall-back pillar. With it at the back of my mind, I can never be frustrated or dismayed into giving up on my dreams again. Today we have had three successful editions and it has become an annual event in London during the summer which a lot of people look forward too. We have showcased over 200 designers and had over 35,000 people attend our events. We have enjoyed broadcast in over 100 media platforms, from print and blog to TV and online video tubes. We have also concluded with partners to have the event in Nigeria, Amsterdam, Brussles, and Sweden. We are also raising funds for indigent African Fashion Designers, to provide distribution outlets for them. We are just finished recording the first ever reality show for designers in Nigeria which will be airing soon., all are offshoots from the success of the first Africa Fashion Week London.
Ovation: What drives you to make a difference the way you currently are?
No matter how good you are, you can always be better; improvement is a never ending process. For me there is so much to be done, so many young people are out there wishing someone could just give them the leverage they need to succeed in life and leave the unemployed roll call, so may women are out there, hoping someday, they have the opportunity to market their products and skills to more affluent clientele and so enable them to pay school fees and put more food on the table for their kids. For me, if the fashion industry can be turned into a wellspring of opportunities to make people’s dreams come true, then I will be fulfilled. Until that happens, I will keep on struggling.
Ovation: What is the positive talk you have with yourself on days you find thoughts and feelings of self-doubt trying to creep in?
I always know that nothing ventured is equal to nothing gained. To me the greatest risk is failure and that is no risk at all because the only implication is that I just have to pick up and start afresh, having learned how to do it better! So I have nothing to lose. The only person who died from failure is the person who tried to play God. I am just a woman with my own fair share of imperfections. If I can fail at any one thing, I can fail at any other thing. On the other hand, if I can succeed at any one thing, I can succeed at any other thing also. So I do what I have to do and let God decide what I deserve for my efforts. But I never decide not to try because the prospect of success and the joy it brings, the thought of it and dwelling and hoping on it, is like opium to me, very addictive!
Ovation: What did you do before Africa Fashion Week?
Ronke: I studied law and before Africa Fashion Week I was involved in fashion retail marketing, representing some major European brands in Africa through Rukkies Chain of boutiques.
Ovation: The first African Fashion Week London was held in 2011, what inspired you to create the annual show and bring a taste of Africa’s best and upcoming fashion designers to the mainstream London public?
Ronke: In my career as a fashion retailer working between two continents, I was exposed to a lot of gaps in the relationship between Africans and Europeans when it comes to fashion, that needed to be bridged. I saw that there were a lot of African and African themed fashion designers and accessories makers who are tremendously talented but who remain relatively undiscovered because they had no platform on which to showcase what they had to offer. That was my inspiration, the need to create such a platform, to give showcasing opportunities to these fashion designers, enabling them to hit the limelight, be discovered and thus reach quality clientele. The core aim of Africa Fashion Week London is to enable these designers to turn their creativity into economic sustainability by giving them the much needed visibility.
Ovation: What challenges did you face setting up Africa Fashion Week London?
Ronke: Funding was a major challenge as a lot of corporate bodies did not believe in the initiative initially. So 80% of the organizing costs had to come from me and a few partners who identified with my cause. But now we are driving very hard for sponsorships and a few organizations are responding.
Ovation: The fourth edition of African Fashion Week London comes up in August, what is your impression on the event so far?
Ronke: It has been a very God blessed project. The success the event has enjoyed has been overwhelming and that is as a result of God’s favour and professionalism and using all integrity in handling people. At every event, starting from 2011, we have had more visitors and participants than we projected and planned for. We have had some fairly dedicated partners and goodwill ambassadors without whose contributions the event might not have grown so fast. But in summary, the event has been successful, is still growing and there is so much future excitement.
Ovation: Do you think it is meeting the set out goals and objectives and what are your expectations this year?
Ronke: yes indeed it is meeting the set out goals and objectives. In only three years, we have showcased over 200 designers, 200 exhibitors and advanced the careers of at least 50 young models of African origin in Europe. We have had nearly 40,000 visitors visit our events and beyond giving visibility to so many designers, we have provided start-up funds for so some 25 young fashion designers. We have had designers from Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia, Tanzania, Cote’D Ivoire and Congo, USA, Caribbean and all over the world, come and participate. We have had some major sponsors use the event as a platform to reach the core African market. Yes, Africa fashion Week London has lived up to expectations and is still living up to expectations.
Are there challenges in running African Fashion week London?
Ronke: Funding is a major challenge, obtaining the right kind of services at an affordable price without compromising professional standards is a challenge, but most of all getting a dedicated team whose goals align with yours. But where there is passion, there will always be breakthrough.
Ovation: The fourth edition of African Fashion Week London is underway and you are about to host the Nigeria version come May, what motivated this?
Ronke: In three years of Africa Fashion Week London, we discovered that a lot of the participating designers were Nigerians. A closer survey at home also revealed that there are still thousands of talented youth in this country whose talents and creativity are at the risk of being lost due to lack of support and encouragement. We decided to launch Africa Fashion Week Nigeria to provide the much needed inspiration for Up-coming Nigerian designers. The event will lay a lot of emphasis on the young designers, giving them a sponsored platform to show the world what they have to offer. This is geared to help them develop their creative abilities into economic self sustenance and by providing them with a platform that will enable them to create global awareness ,visibility, exposure and networking opportunities for themselves.
Ovation: What do we expect at the Nigerian version of African Fashion Week?
Ronke: Expect to see creativity at its best, designs that you never knew existed in the minds of these young Nigerian fashion designers. Which is one thing that never ceased to amaze me, the immensity of talents and creative abilities lurking away in the minds of young Nigerians. Every edition of Africa Fashion Week London, I have always been awestruck at what they come up with. There is something about having this opportunity which brings out the best in them.
Interview with Abiola Okoya Africa Fashion Week’s Good Will Ambassador and Partner
Warm and delectable Abiola Okoya is AFWL’S Fashion Ambassador and one of our greatest sources of support and inspiration. In this chat with OVATION MAGAZINE, she opines that Africans must
Showcase Africa more boldly before we can earn global respect.
Ovation: Give us a glimpse into life as a child in the home of Rasak Okoya:
ABIOLA: I am the second eldest child and from my earliest memory have been involved in running the family business.
Ovation: As a child, what kind of future did you aspire towards?
ABIOLA: I imagined a life totally dedicated to being part of the family business mainly because of the size of the organization while doing a bit of my own thing and looking after my kids.
Ovation: Are there things in life you discovered that only you can do for yourself? What are they?
ABIOLA: With regards to my fashion and beauty routine, I am the only person that knows what I am comfortable in.
Ovation: Describe what you do professionally/ occupationally.
ABIOLA: I am first and foremost a sales person based on my orientation from Eleganza and of course in to real estate. I am presently looking at being part of the local content in the oil and gas sector.
AFWL: You are currently working on AFWN as a fashion ambassador, how do you feel being a part of this
ABIOLA: Very excited at being branded a fashion ambassador of such an international event and also a pleasure collaborating with the founder Princess Ronke Ademiluyi and my darling sister the Life Patron, Princess Fifi Ejindu.
Ovation: What is your vision for the project?
ABIOLA: It is an idea whose time has come and I believe it will continue to flourish and gain momentum based on the response it has garnered.
Ovation: The situation of young African designers, how would you describe it? Are they finding a niche for themselves in the scheme of things?
ABIOLA: Creativity certainly is not lacking, but what is needed is a platform for them to showcase their talent and funding to nurture it, which I hope is what AFWL will help achieve.
Ovation: What do you think Africans in the Diaspora ought to do better?
ABIOLA: Showcase more of our culture in terms of dressing. We have cold climate dressing in east and southern Africa and soft dressing for hot or warm climate in West Africa. Also we have very nourishing cuisine, made from natural ingredients like Efo Riro, that if well presented I am sure will be palatable to any sense. Even the best soaps in the world are the ones made from natural herbs like sea weeds available from Africa.
Ovation: What does fashion mean to you, a way of life or just a necessary addition?
ABIOLA: Fashion for me is personal. It must reflect beauty and elegance while not being too seductive. The primary purpose is to be attractive.
Ovation: What apparel would you never be caught wearing?
ABIOLA: Any thing Fake!
Ovation: If you have the opportunity, what would you love to do for African Fashion today?
ABIOLA: Just exactly what we are doing with AFWN; expose them at international events so that they can gain the confidence necessary to promote their art. They must also be able to gain access to funding.
Ovation: Africa fashion Week Nigeria is coming up in May, why do you think it is a good idea?
ABIOLA: It is an excellent idea because there are millions of talents within the Nigerian Fashion industry that need to be given the right exposure. That is what Africa fashion Week Nigeria is billed to provide. This will enable them find a footing in the fashion industry and build successful careers. There is a global movement now towards generation of self employment as a means of tackling poverty. Most institutions nowadays have enterprise development among their curriculum's. Africa Fashion Week Nigeria is a practical project that supports this new way of thinking by giving real enablement to young people, enabling them to fend for themselves through fashion.