‘We can be agents of change’
BY CHRISTY ANYANWU
President of Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), Mrs Funmi Ajila-Ladipo and her team have been able to take Nigeria’s fashion industry to the next level. Just recently, the Consul-General of the American Embassy honoured her with an award in recognition of her contributions to Mentorship and Leadership. But this is just a tip of the iceberg considering the number of awards in her kitty. Recently, two members of the association commented on her leadership style, and that prompted her to put the records straight. She spoke to Effects about this and other issues.
What are the rumblings in FADAN all about?
Many of our members were aggrieved. The reason was that they felt that just two to three people in the association who, according to them were not really doing anything; who are laid back, want things to be put on their tables or using the association to achieve personal gains.. Out of 20 executive members, just two or three formed themselves into a group. I think I’m really trying. We cannot always agree. If we agree all the time, then something is wrong somewhere. It’s a nice thing that people air their opinions as long as it’s constructive but when it’s not, it is jealousy and strife. We just want to correct that because the international bodies are identifying with us, we have younger people coming in, BOI, a lot is at stake. The bank of industry is giving people loans and this is something they had not done before. Lagos State and the Federal Government is identifying with us and they came up with that write-up. The bad news might reign even more than the good news.
What is your verdict in all these?
There’s no problem in FADAN. Everything is going on fine. It’s a happy home. There’s always a hierarchy in every institution and if you don’t follow your leader, definitely nothing will be in your favour. It’s very important that people follow protocol and we have to become change agents in Nigeria. We have to follow the leader and constructively support him/her to make sure the works are in progress. We should not think about the present, rather, we should think about the future and our children. What are we leaving behind, what are the legacies?
Tell us more about the annual Runway FADAN?
We had the runway last year and it was a time of exhibition; a time of trade, just like the Lagos Fashion and Design Week. This year, we intend to make it bigger than what we used to have. Even children of 10 years, as long as you’re creative, we’ll put you on the runway because we have been building people up. Even if you are of little age, as long as you are coming up with ideas, we’ll put you on the runway. We’ll tag it “catch them young.”
What does it take to participate as a designer?
We are going to make an announcement and anybody who is interested will obtain a form. You don’t have to be a member of FADAN to take part.
What about your own brand?
My brand is still intact. I’m launching Regalia Plus by December. It’s fashion consultancy, new brand of regalia, its skill and training.
When a client visits you, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
I’ll talk to the person. I want to know the things he/she loves to wear. I like creative people; I like people with whom I can flow. So, I get familiar with the person. From there, the creativity flows. There are some clients who had certain designs in mind, but after my discussion with them, they tend to change it because they feel that design might not sit nicely on them.
How would you describe the creations from regalia?
The things I do are artistic and creative. I call them Afrocentric designs; things that are just me. They are things you can’t pick on the streets, things you would know were done by a creative designer. They come in skirts, kaftans and dresses. I do different things apart from the regular things that we wear. I’m more of a creative person, and I like to come up with something different
How do you muster the strength for all these?
My energy comes from Christ. I didn’t know I could do it. But when you see things coming your way, maybe it’s God that has destined me for positions of leadership like this. If you find yourself in it and you are determined and passionate, definitely, the industry will grow.
With your leadership role, are you envisaging going into politics in the future?
I’m already a politician in my own world. This is my world, the master class. I invited all the designers, Frank Osodi, Ituen Bassey were there working. That is politics at work already. Next year, if we ask the Federal Government to look into the fashion industry and we are talking as one, government would do something. We need a production hub in Nigeria, the policies are not favourable to the designers, and it’s not supporting production, or manufacturing. The only way we can push all these is by coming together. That’s why I’m trying to bring everybody together but some people are not keen.
Can you share memories of your childhood years
A long time ago, when I was younger, somebody told me I was going to be a tailor. (That was what she said). My mum also, was a woman of very sharp instinct. She discerns what is right or wrong easily. She was a very strict disciplinarian. She was also a teacher. I grew up seeing my mum bake; she baked all our birthday cakes. She was a great entrepreneur. I grew up to see my mum cooked, sew. She made our Christmas clothes. She was a fantastic mother; she would not spoil you, but she would ensure ,all your needs were met. She was a fighter. She fought to the end. She had health issues. For eight years, my mother was on the wheel chair because of stroke but she battled it. She was a great woman.
What parenting skills did you learn from your mum?
I picked the domestication aspect of her lifestyle, her hard work, never say-die and her compassionate sides. My mother was a regular church-goer as well. She was neat, clean and detailed. You can’t make clothes for my mum and she sees thread coming out, you have to knit it. In my growing up years, she made sure we had proper diet. Your etiquette must be right. You eat like a king for breakfast on the table. You eat like a king. In the afternoon, you minimize it and in the evening, you eat very light. My mother was health conscious. One of the things I grew up to know about my mum was having garlic in the house. There must be garlic at home. She knows the medicinal side of what to eat and not eat. You must eat fruits. She’s very detailed about our eating habits. She believed in having a strong family. Some of her relations and in-laws lived with us.
What were your toughest moments in life?
My toughest moment was when my father died and three months later, my mother also died. I’m just a lucky and happy person. When something goes tough, people think, how is she going to cope? I would just go through it and come out of it. When my parents died, I thought that was really my toughest moment because I missed them. Going through the burial, I knew I wasn’t going to impress anybody. They died about three years ago. My father died and when my mum heard about it , she was heart-broken. Three months later, she died. I had to bury them on top of each other because they loved each other.You know some situations come your way and there’s nothing you can really do about it but to leave everything to God.
That is the attitude of a very happy person. I love to see successful people, I love to see happy people and I believe that anything that happens to people in life, God has destined it to happen. I don’t look at the rough sides. I look at the end results , knowing that somebody somewhere, higher than I, will take me through it. This gives me much joy.