‘Love of quick money doesn’t pay’
‘I’m cool with barbie dresses’
BY CHRISTY ANYANWU
Athough Ronke Ademiluyi, the delectable founder of Africa Fashion Week Nigeria (AFWN) and Africa Fashion Week London trained as a lawyer, hardly did she don the wig and gown to practice the profession. Ronke’s ambition to become a fashionista dates back to her days on campus when she traded in clothes. Her classmates and friends were her customers way back then. On her return after studying overseas, she opened ‘Rukkies’ a fashion store, in highbrow areas of Lagos. With this year’s edition of AFWN forthcoming, the fashion entrepreneur spoke on the change of venue for this year’s outing to the National Theatre, Lagos and many more about the week-long fashion fiesta.
Whats your assessment of the fashion industry in Nigeria, including the textile factories?
Textile factories, I would say yes. We don’t have vibrant textiles factory in Nigeria any longer. I can’t say that the fashion industry is collapsing because we have a new generation of Nigerian designers that produce apparel that can compete globally. For instance DaViva is there with vibrant designs and has been supporting Africa Fashion Week since 2011. Currently, they have come up with the latest ABC Wax design which they are showcasing at the show. That is what our platform is all about and that is why we have decided to start Africa Fashion Week in Nigeria as well. A lot of designers now use our platform as a spring board. They use AFWN to launch themselves into the industry and we have a lot of positive feedbacks where designers come back with testimonies that but for Africa Fashion Week, nobody was willing to support them or give them a platform or create awareness for them. I think it’s a gradual process. We also need the private sector and government to invest in designers. If government gives them start up funds for example. If you look at the fashion industry in the UK, the London Fashion Week receives grants worth more than 4 million pounds every year to support British designers. That is why the fashion industry in the UK is growing. I think we need to incorporate that into our show in Nigeria as well.
Are there people you have mentored along the line?
We try to connect them with mentors. We have established designers like Adebayo Jones and what we do is, we connect the young designers with the established ones who would mentor them.
Can you recall a memorable moment staging AFWL/AFWN?
The first one was, in 2011 when we started the Africa Fashion Week, London. When I saw the crowd; the queue that was almost extending to Liverpool Street, I was amazed. We weren’t expecting it to turn out that big. We envisaged a crowd of less than 500 but surprisingly, we had over 4,500 people standing up. That day was great. The other was in May, this year when we held the Africa Fashion Week Nigeria. We actually had it when there was fuel scarcity and come and see how people turned up. Over the two days we had close to 3,000 people. That was another good memorable moment again for me.
What about challenges
Funding, getting sponsors are few of the challenges Corporate organizations must see the need to support emerging designers because its difficult for you to tell young designers who have just started, to pay for a platform or pay for accommodation and flight tickets if they want to showcase their designs in London. It might be too much for them. If we get sponsors we would be able to take care of the upcoming designers. However, we won’t take all the designers but the best among them.
Where is your favourite holiday spot?
I travelled to Spain last year with my daughter. I also want to visit Monaco. I have heard that Life is really good there.
What’s your typical day like?
In the morning, I praise and worship God. I do that for about half an hour. Then I’ll bring my jotter out and jot things out that need to be done during the day. I’ll call my PA to discuss with him over the phone.I just attend to things daily. Phone calls, emails.
Do you have other passion aside fashion?
I don’t think so because I have been doing fashion since I was in university. In 2001, I started Rukkies and currently, we have about five branches in Lagos.
What advice do you have for upcoming designers?
I would tell them to remain focus but not to be in a hurry to make money. There’s this thing they call instant gratification. It doesn’t work. There is no free meal. You have to work. It’s a lot of hard work. You can’t just wake up one day and think you’ll start making money. Go on- line, do a lot of research, see what your competitors are doing as well. If not, you will lose track.
What about your Law degree, has it been dropped since you don’t practice as a lawyer?
When I need to sign an agreement or enter into partnership, it enables me to read the agreement vey well and read all the clauses well. My knowledge as a trained lawyer comes handy then.
How do you describe your style?
I’m very simple, I like my Barbie dresses. I don’t usually makeup. I make up only when I’m going out to occasions. I’m a very simple person and I love African dressing
What inspires you as a person?
I like having positive people around me. Even if people have to criticize me, let it be positive criticism. I like having innovative people around me and that keeps me going. Thank God I have a good team. They have seen my vision for AFWL and AFWN and they have keyed into it.
What should we expect from AFWN 2017?
Today is the opening of Africa Fashion Week Nigeria (AFWN) at the National Arts Theatre in Lagos. After three successful outings at the Eko Hotel, AFW Nigeria has moved its venue to the National Theatre in its bid to continue to promote and showcase African culture and heritage to a global audience, the 4th edition of the fashion week will be holding on the 3rd & 4th of June at the National Arts Theatre Lagos. This is where Africa’s culture was showcased in all its grandeur and splendor 40 years ago when Nigeria hosted the world at the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77). For this edition AFWN selected fast rising 53 extra presenter, Amira Ibrahim Alfa, as the face of AFWN 2017 and she will be co-hosting the Red Carpet with ‘Derenle Edun of Lip Sync, South Africa.
But National Arts Theatre is predominantly for stage plays?
Not really. Om 1st April, AFWN launched the first Iconic Catwalk Show in Nigeria at the National Arts theatre and Tinubu Square on the 2nd. The pre-events to the AFWN, where talented designers expressed how traditional culture fused the modern spirit to fashion against the splendor of these heritage sites.The turnout was really impressive and people had a different feel of the fashion show.
How many designers are participating this year?
This year’s AFWN will feature 56 designers and 40 exhibitors selected from various parts of Nigeria and the African continent. They are all in Lagos to celebrate and showcase creativity on a platform that turns creativity into sustainability. Some of the designers showcasing include Modella, Kola Kuddus, Maufechi, Regalia by FAL, Blingshiki, Zizi Cardow, Marobuk, Tash by Tasha, Linda Ngwi (Cameroun) Sally Bawa, Alex Akande (Cameroon), Afrikawala (Zambia), Del Africa (Jos), and Eve Design (Senegal).