Ade Bakare on Creating a Legacy (Part Two)
Begun over last week, we present the second part of leading couturier, Ade Bakare’s insightful interview.
Please tell us why you decided to set up a fashion academy in Ikoyi, Lagos and in what ways it will be different from the several existing fashion schools in Nigeria?
When we opened our boutique in Lagos in 2006, we were inundated with requests to train with us. This was not a possibility with our design studios in London. We had set up the Young Designers Creative Competition to also highlight creativity in the fashion industry but over the years, I realised that most of the fashion designers did not have basic fashion training. It was becoming endemic in the industry, people were setting up fashion businesses with no qualification, so I felt it would be best to establish a fashion design school to address the issue.
Yes, there are existing fashion schools in Nigeria, however, my research revealed they were teaching the basics such as pattern cutting and sewing but not much emphasis on design, which is integral to becoming a successful designer. The courses we offer at the Ade Bakare Fashion Couture Design Academy are aimed at making the fashion student international, such courses as textiles, graphic design, photography, fine art, art history, which are all relevant subjects to mold the design student.
What are the challenges being faced by Nigerian designers?
Though we are not fully operational in Nigeria, we now run a small manufacturing unit in Lagos that makes the ready to wear line (White Label). Most of the problems we come across as reiterated by other designers in Nigeria, are the issues of; power (electricity) and transport, both which affect the costs of production; and the availability of textiles, difficult because most are imported and sadly have faults in them. I once asked a fabric merchant why so many of the fabrics have faults in them. He responded that merchants usually buy by weight, which implies that most of the time they are not aware of the exact contents of the bales of fabrics. We have now become a dumping ground of sorts for factory rejects to find their way into Nigeria. While there are quite a few trained tailors, their attention to detail is also lacking, constant supervising is needed even when the tailor has been in your employ for several years. Theft and deceit complete the picture of daily activity in a design house. Though this might paint a picture of bleakness, they are not uncommon in other developing countries, but all can be surmounted with checks and balances, and with the right training and care, the future is bright for the Nigerian fashion design industry.
Please describe your personal style?
I am known to wear a lot of black. When asked, I always reply that I am surrounded by many colours of different fabrics for collections and clients as such, I find black very calming. It is also easier to choose an outfit when your wardrobe is full of black. Comfort is key for me as I travel frequently, hence t-shirts, jeans and lightweight jackets complete my look. These days, I am fond of wearing white, but it’s due more to the looks of disbelieve I receive rather than the colour itself.
You also have two couture fragrances “Breeze” and “Ade Bakare Signature”. What is next for your business?
Breeze was launched in London in 1998; it’s a floral fragrance with teak and sambac, it’s also light and airy as the name signifies and comes in blue with a silk organza sash at the neck of the bottle. The Ade Bakare couture Signature has been designed especially for me, influenced by my constant travels between 2 continents and 2 fashion capitals London and Lagos. A woody fragrance with deep and animalistic notes, it’s a collection of memories and places I visit on my trips. It has a silhouette of my face on the cover of the bottle and comes in a black velvet pouch.
We intend extending our design services to Owerri and Abuja this year, to sell through outlets there, enabling our clients in other parts of Nigeria to experience Ade Bakare couture. Our perfumes would also be available at more outlets. I have also started on a fashion book that would chronicle my years in the fashion industry, captured through text, photographs, sketches and flat drawings.
You have spent 26 years in the fashion business, what are some of the milestones in your career that led to your acclaimed success, and what advise do you have for emerging designers?
Seems like a long time and yet I feel like I am just getting started. There is so much I want to achieve but I am very fortunate that I have been able to live my dream of becoming a fashion designer; starting the business, opening an atelier in Mayfair, London, selling to boutiques across the UK, launching a perfume line, being made the official designer to Mrs Stella Obasanjo, and designing uniforms for an airline, restaurant and hotels. These are some of the significant aspects of my design career I remember with great fondness.
My advice to anyone who would like to become a fashion designer is to make sure they have deep passion for it, then study and gain experience before setting out, for the path to success is long, steep and full of obstacles, but your love and tenacity will see you through. God bless.
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