Omoyemi Akerele: Taking African Fashion into the Future

Meet the founder of Lagos Fashion Week and learn more about what makes the African fashion industry so special.

By Lagos Fashion Week

Kigali meets Lagos (2019)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week YouTube Channel

Describe your creative journey?

My career in fashion started about seventeen years ago with an understanding that some of the most important things in life are purpose and passion driven, combined with a deeper need to make a difference beyond myself.

Omoyemi Akerele (2020)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Fashion Entry
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My entry to the fashion industry was in fashion styling and image consulting. I was the fashion editor of True Love West Africa, a lifestyle magazine and with my partner at the time, Bola Balogun, pioneered and revolutionised styling in Nigeria.

Omoyemi Akerele (2020)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Incurable Optimist
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What does being Nigerian mean to you?

An incurable optimist.

Omoyemi Akerele (2019)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Over The Years
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Over the years, I realised that there was huge gap that needed to be filled. There was a need for a platform to spearhead change and work towards positioning fashion as business in Nigeria. Style House Files has done that with the Lagos Fashion Week platform and initiatives.

Maxhosa Africa, Spring / Summer 2017 (2016) by Laduma NgxokoloOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

We Are Inspired
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We are inspired by the creators in our community and an understanding of the potential that having clearly defined structure and infrastructure can have on positioning the ecosystem as a key contributor to job and wealth creation. 

Ekwutolom Chigozie, Akwete weaver (2017)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Fashion and Textiles
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What excites you about fashion and textiles?

What excites me most about fashion and textiles is the unique ability it has to tell a story about my people, our heritage and unique craftsmanship across the continent. 

Streetstyle at Lagos Fashion Week 2017 (2017)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Socio Economic Change
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The fashion and textile ecosystem can be a vehicle for socio economic change and empowerment. In addition to this, it also has the ability to unite communities through the creative process when functioning effectively as a value cycle.

Look 4, Ejiro Amos Tafiri, Spring / Summer 2020 (2019) by Ejiro Amos TafiriOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Value Chain
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We have contributed to building some of these communities over the years through impact from the work we do. Our fashion and textile sector can produce brands that positively empowers, creatively unites and commercially benefits thousands of people across the value chain.

Maki Oh A/W16 Video Campaign (2016)Original Source: A Whitespace Creative Agency

How has Lagos Fashion Week developed over the past 10 years?

At Style House Files and Lagos Fashion Week, there’s been a growing consciousness for us to protect, preserve and present fashion in Africa and the people who are directly involved. Fashion in Africa is distinct for its craftsmanship and dependence on valuable human resources and skills like embellishment, embroidery, weaving, spinning and customization.

Lagos Fashion Week X Koibird 2020 - Loza Maleombho (2020) by Loza MaleombhoOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Techniques
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Skills Preservation and Knowledge Exchange

Techniques that make them really special because they have been touched by human hands. We have found the need to gradually begin to focus our work on how African fashion can preserve its essence in a world where automated machines are fast replacing such traditional skills and techniques. 

Lagos Fashion Week X Koibird 2020 (2020) by Lisa FolawiyoOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Balance
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How can we balance the designers’ need for scalability without upsetting the fragile ecosystem that’s people dependent for its uniqueness? 
How do we ensure that value is created from source to product?

Maxhosa Africa, Spring / Summer 2017 (2016) by Laduma NgxokoloOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Rather than Dwell
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What is next for Lagos Fashion Week?

Rather than dwell on fashion weeks and it’s future, in the last four years, our vision at Style House Files | Lagos Fashion Week has been to gradually move the conversation beyond creativity to adding value to the industry. It’s been about exploring how to create and support platforms that provide knowledge acquisition, skills development and job creation.

Lagos Fashion Week Street Style 2019 (2019)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Future Lies
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Shaping Fashion's Future

The future lies in 
- creating an ecosystem of thriving fashion businesses that can impact the African economic landscape
- developing intra African export markets, accessing untapped local and regional markets; and
- driving productivity and innovation in fashion.

Maki Oh, Fall 2017 (2016) by Amaka OsakweOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Designers
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Designers have also had to devise effective online and offline strategy for presenting their work to a global audience today. I don’t necessarily think it should be an either or situation, it should be combined because of the need for buyers and consumers to touch and feel, and to experience some of the collections beyond the confines of a screen.

Model Backstage at Lagos Fashion Week. (2017) by OG OkonkwoOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Lagos is home
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What makes Lagos so exciting and an epicentre of creativity?

Lagos is home to over fourteen million people with a youth population that’s estimated to be over half of this. There’s no denying that the creative energy and confidence in this city that’s constantly bustling with activity cannot be rivalled. 

Orange Culture, Spring / Summer 2020 (2019) by Adebayo Oke-LawalOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

The Energy Stands
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The energy stands out because it tells a story. It tells a story of the diverse and dynamic culture of the people, of historical references, of commercial viability, of resilience and grit. It’s about creativity and innovation. It’s about job creation and empowering people. It’s about collaborative efforts; it’s about a group of people who are passionate about what they do as they set the pace for creative industries to thrive and I believe it will!

Day 4: Lagos Fashion Week (2019)Original Source: Lagos Fashion Week YouTube Channel

We constantly interact with a diverse group of people through the work we do across our platforms at Style House Files and Lagos Fashion Week. We describe them as fashion’s new ‘Creative Class’ who do not operate on its superficial level. They are a group of like-minded, passionate individuals; members of a fashion scene where the only passport to entry is passion and a desire to succeed together.

Streetstyle at Lagos Fashion Week 2019 (2019) by Ogwa IwezeOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

These Group of Individuals
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These groups of individuals are so committed to their vision and it's fine tuned season in season out. They remain true to their code – to see a thriving fashion industry. What makes them really special is the sharing of influences, the co-creating and collaborations. It is more than just dreaming of a fashion utopia, it’s about creating fashion made by our people, for our people to develop our people. 

Backstage at Lagos Fashion Week 2018 (2018) by OG OkonkwoOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Our Resilience
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What can the world learn from Nigeria?

Our resilience, passion and grit. 
Our unity, because what unites us as a nation is deeper than what separates us.
Our national pride.

Backstage at Lagos Fashion Week 2017 (2017) by Lisa FolawiyoOriginal Source: Lagos Fashion Week

Find a Good Mentor
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What advice would you give designers starting out today?

·  Find a good mentor
·  Don’t be too hard on yourself
·  Be true to yourself
·  Be consistent
·  Stay focused on your goals·  
.  It’s ok to make mistakes :)
. It's ok to be afraid.
. Keep going

If Lagos had a soundtrack, what would it be?

Currently tripping over Wizkid and Burnaboy’s Grammy’s so.. 
Ojuelegba by Wizkid or 
Burna Boy’s Anybody.

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