African fashion may be the answer to our economic woes

Ajibola

The African Kids and Teens Fashion Week is a platform that showcases the best of African fashion for kids and teenagers. It is an avenue where creativity and sales mingle as all fashion stakeholders (designers, textile manufacturers and brands with products that concerns children) meet to discuss possibilities. According to Ajibola, the face behind the event, the African fashion industry for kids and teenagers in Africa has been widely underestimated and thus underutilised in spite of its ability in boosting economic activities and also creating jobs. He tells us more about why he started this event and what to expect from the fashion industry at large.

Why did you start African Kids and Teens Fashion Week?

Our vision is to use fashion as a tool to improve the Nigerian economy. We want to see fashion brands at home and overseas with African clothes in their stores. My hope personally is to one day walk into stores in other continents and see African clothes for kids on display.

What made you decide to host AKTFW here in Ibadan seeing that most people would rather do something like this in Lagos?

Besides the obvious endless business opportunities in Ibadan, I love this city. I am very much a son of the soil. My dad is from Kudeti here in Ibadan and so I wanted to put the city on the map in my own way. When I wanted to start this show and we had to choose a location, I figured, 'Why not bring international here? Why not bring Africa to Ibadan?'

What made you decide to focus on fashion for children?

Unlike adults, children are very impressionable. Catch them young they say and if we can imbibe the younger generation with the mentality of wearing African fashion now, hopefully, they'll grow up appreciating it as adults and passing it down to their own children.

What problems did you encounter at the beginning?

Like most start-ups in Nigeria, funding was and remains one of our biggest obstacles. Most organisations would rather support a business with roots than one in its maiden edition and the case was more or less the same with us. It was quite difficult in the beginning but after we held the first edition, things began easing up.

What is your relationship with the Bank of Industry?

The fashion industry presently contributes roughly 0.47% to our GDP which amounts to billions of Naira but in the opinion of many, this is not enough. The industry has the capacity to do better and the Federal Government thinks so too which is why it released a billion Naira fashion fund to the Bank of Industry for those working in the fashion industry. An individual, business or designer can actually access up to 30M naira and it is BOI's responsibility to enlighten people about this opportunity and to facilitate the funding process.

Was it difficult recruiting fashion designers?

Not as difficult as one may think. For our last event, we had so many fashion designers that volunteered their services to us. In fact, the first day I told someone about hosting this event, I was introduced to a fashion designer who is an expert in the area of African fashion for children.

Do you think the average Nigeria parent will be able to afford the clothes you showcase?

Absolutely! We make sure these clothes are made in an elegant way but not in an overly sophisticated manner. An average dress for a kid will cost around N2,000 which is cheaper than what you find in most children boutiques of today.

So are you of the opinion that the fashion industry can contribute to our economy?

I see no reason why not. Till today, countries like England are heavily reliant on their fashion industry to generate cash inflow for their economy. I see no reason why we cannot as a country adopt the same approach. In my opinion, African fashion can become one of our biggest sources of revenue if given the opportunity.

Don’t you think the Nigerian mentality of ‘Homemade products are inferior to imported ones’ won't affect such aspirations?

Unfortunately, that is still a monster we need to slay. This is where the media comes in as it is the best tool we have of circumventing this psychology. We are hopeful of getting a couple of indigenous A-list celebrity on board as ambassadors and hopefully this will push the African brand while debunking such fallacies in the process.

Do you think Nigeria designers are well equipped for such projects?

Yes, I do. The drawback remains to increase our productivity. The market possibilities for this are endless and when this actually comes through, the designer will have to be able to meet up with the demand. While I hope the designers will be able to meet the demand when the time comes I also hope that the quality of work will meet up with the demand

How do you intend to make these wears available commercially?

Technology has made things easier these days. Our plan is to use e-commerce channels such Konga, Jumia and so on, as distribution channels. There are also independent stores that are interested in getting on board. In addition to that, we are speaking to the Nigeria Export Promotion Council in order to facilitate exportation.

The Nigerian fashion industry has made progress on the international scene lately but what else do you think the industry needs?

What we need to do when it comes to our industry is standardisation.  The Chinese, Europeans and Americans all have different measurements that work for their children's body structure. The same way we also need such standardisation of fittings for our children especially those between the ages of 3 and 5.

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