Ronke Ademiluyi on Africa Fashion Week Nigeria 2018
Lawyer Ronke Ademiluyi is a fashion expert and entrepreneur. Born in England, she is a descendant of a royal family from Ile-Ife in Nigeria. A few years ago, Ademiluyi founded the Africa Fashion Week, an initiative that promotes African fashion designers through its platforms, the Africa Fashion Week Nigeria and the Africa Fashion Week London. In this interview with Omenka, she discusses her expectations for the year.
You trained as a lawyer, what inspired your interest and career change to fashion?
Yes, I trained as a lawyer to please my parents but my interest has always been in fashion. Even while I was studying law, I remember how I was always buying and selling fashionable items to my friends. Back then, I used to travel as far as Asia to source for affordable fashion pieces to sell.
You are the founder and chief executive officer of Africa Fashion Week London (AFWLondon) and African Fashion Week Nigeria (AFWNigeria). What motivated you to create these platforms and what challenges have you faced since initiating them?
AFWLondon was created in 2011, and this year is our 8th. At the time, the rationale behind it was there were no international platforms that showcased African designers. With millions of Africans in the diaspora seeking access to African designers, we decided to bridge that gap. The AFWNigeria created in 2014, is now in its 5th year. It was established to provide an affordable platform for equally talented African designers who can’t afford to showcase at the AFWLondon. The major challenge has been putting together the right team, whose goals align with those of Africa Fashion Week.
How has the reception for AFWNigeria been since its debut in 2014, and what can you say is its major contribution to the local fashion scene?
It has been amazing as several young and emerging designers use our platform as a springboard into the fashion industry. We also have a marketplace type of exhibition where fashion enthusiasts can buy items straight off the runway. Every year, we bring out new fashion designers to the Nigerian fashion show, providing them with a platform to grow their creativity, as we know that for creativity to grow there needs to be a platform that supports and promotes its growth.
What criteria do you use in selecting the participating designers and what can we expect from this year’s edition of the AFWNigeria?
Our platform is an inclusive one, so you do not have to be a top or known designer to access it. AFWNigeria supports many youths who are graduates in other fields, but due to unemployment have ventured into the fashion business. We work with a team of curators that carefully selects the designers from over 500 who apply every year. We have designers coming from Ghana, Congo, Togo, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Cameroon to showcase at AFWNigeria this year. The highlight of this year’s event will be the celebration of the National Theatre at 42. Therefore, we will close the show with 42 models, wearing 42 designs representing the African countries that participated in FESTAC 77. And if Oliver Enwonwu allows us, we would like to put a ‘Tutu’ collection together for the AFWLondon show.
How would you compare AFWNigeria with its local and international competition?
AFWNigeria is an inclusive platform that accommodates aspiring, emerging and established designers. Every year, it welcomes fresh faces to the modelling industry who use the platform to showcase themselves to the world.
We also assist designers in getting funding for their fashion businesses, and this year in collaboration with a known UK university, we will be starting the education in fashion courses in Nigeria.
You have played a great role in promoting African designers globally, as well as grooming new ones. What do you opine are the challenges impeding their growth and by extension the Nigerian fashion industry?
Fashion is not really taught as a module or degree in many of the Nigerian universities. It has gone beyond just passion. There is also the business side of fashion that designers need to learn to become sustainable brands. This goes for pricing as well. Many new designers out price themselves out of business in a bid to get rich quick. Furthermore, there is fragmentation within the Nigerian fashion industry, rather than coming together to make a massive impact as everyone wants to do their own thing.
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