Government must support creative designers internationally -Ronke Ademiluyi
Princess Ronke Ademiluyi is a lawyer by profession but a fashion entrepreneur by passion. Wherever there is an opportunity to promote and support indigenous Nigerian fashion designers, Princess Ronke is at the forefront, using all her resources, contacts to make things happen. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, the business-minded woman who has been leading African Fashion Week in London and Nigeria for the past decade, talks about the need for the Nigerian government to support young creatives in the fashion industry and how it can bring huge growth to the economy.
You did African Fashion Week in London and Nigeria. What are their particularities, their differences and where Nigeria should improve?
This is the 8th year that we have organized African Fashion Week Nigeria in collaboration with Lagos Fashion Fair. One of the peculiarities is that many Nigerian designers rely on textiles from abroad. Even though they were Nigeria-based designers, they still have to import their textiles. Now we encourage them to use our indigenous textiles and fabrics.
This is one of the reasons why we created the Adire hub to be able to continue producing for them. When we had African Fashion Week in Nigeria a few years ago, Anthropology, a department store in the United States, came as a buyer. They saw a few models on the track and wanted to buy an off-track model.
They wanted 1000 pieces but the designer didn’t have the ability to reproduce. The problem for the designers was not a financial issue but because this particular fabric was not available in the market. I believe she got the fabric from Balogun Market, made her pieces and presented it on the runway, but by the time she returned the fabric was no longer available. This is one of the reasons we created the Adire hub, so that designers are consistent with their designs. We have the ability to reproduce thousands of a fabric.
African Fashion Week Nigeria collaborates with Lagos Fashion Fair. Tell us what’s new in the fashion exhibition coming in September?
Jhe Master Classes are part of the novelties that we do differently. The Master Classes, which will be taught by Toyin Lawani, will help train fashion designers to become entrepreneurs, and we all know that Toyin Lawani is a serial entrepreneur. That’s why we have it on board this year.
Is she the only one to manage the Master Classes?
For now, yes, she’s the only one, but we’re going to have more people. We are starting with her to animate the Master Classes this year.
Speaking on behalf of African Fashion Week Nigeria and Lagos Fashion Expo, this year’s event will look like a bespoke outreach program. We will introduce our designers and channel them for the export industry.
Here, the focus will be on helping them grow their brands to a level where they can be exported. We really need an export channel for our designers to help them grow. Yes, we promote them inwards, but we also have to promote them outside the country. So, from this outreach program, we will be picking a few that will be showcased at African Fashion Week in London in October, where the best of Nigerian fashion will be on display.
How many designers are you hoping to bring to London after the Lagos Fashion Show?
For the Best of Nigeria in London, we hope to invite 10 Nigerian designers. And we would like them to be supported by our government.
Every year we have governments from South Africa, Seychelles, Egypt and so many other African countries promoting and supporting their designers on the international platform of African Fashion Week in London. We would like to see our government supporting our designers as well.
Just as the Founder and CEO of Lagos Fashion Exhibition, Ayodeji Olugbade said, Chinese, Turks who come to Nigeria receive 70% support from their government as it helps the economy grow and promotes their export channels. . If we have our own government agencies that support our young creatives, our designers to go abroad and exhibit what is made in Nigeria, that will also help our economy to grow.
You also supported the Fashion Finest Africa which has just ended. Tell us about this love found to wear only to say it all the time…
On the occasion of London and Nigeria African Fashion Week, we established a local and indigenous textile production industry from Adire to Ile Ife, Osun State. We have been gifted about six acres of land by the Imperial Majesty, Ooni of Ife. We also received start-up funds. We don’t design; we do not make ready-to-wear models but we design fabrics that allow designers to create their own pieces.
The textile industry lay dormant for quite some time before your team created this brilliant establishment. Are there any measures in place to expand this textile industry to other states in Nigeria and also export the Adire fabric?
We are reviewing it. We opened our doors as a textile industry last year. So we are about a year old. We are exporting to many countries right now. We export to USA, UK, Canada, Brazil and other countries in Europe as well. Demand for Adire over the past two years has skyrocketed. We should see the vision of the future and enjoy it.
It would also be necessary to think of creating a hub of the textile industry in the cities of the South-West because Adire is from the South-West. It is a Yoruba cloth.
You founded African Fashion Week London and African Fashion Week Nigeria. What is your career in fashion that you are so passionate about? Are you a designer?
For me, I’m more in the fashion business. I am not a fashion designer. I did not study fashion. In fact, I studied law. I’m always trying to figure out how brands can stay sustainable in everything they do. When you talk about business, it overlaps, whether in fashion, textiles or building or construction. You just need to know that any business you build should have a return on investment. Otherwise, he will die.
Do you wear other types of clothes like jeans, plain shirts because lately you only wear Adire?
When I launched African Fashion Week in London in 2011, Adire wasn’t very popular. So, I only wore Ankara at the time. For about 10 years I wore Ankara. Now that there is a revolution for Adire, it’s Adire that I wear now. Also because we produce Adire fabric, the best way to market it is to wear it.
Would it be a problem to take Adire to court if you were practicing your profession?
I do not practice the profession of lawyer. So there is no problem.
When in law school did you decide that fashion was what interested you the most?
I always wanted to get into the fashion world, but you know, back then, growing up, telling your parents you wanted to study fashion is a no no. That’s why I opted for the law. Immediately after graduating from West London University, I went straight into fashion. I went back to Nigeria and started a few shops called “Roukies” in 2001.
Is the store still functional?
Roukies promoted Western designs and in 2011 I launched African Fashion Week London. I switched to promoting African creations and closed all the “Roukies” branches. My vision is to promote African designers and make them visible within the international fashion industry, the mainstream fashion industry, because when I launched African Fashion Week London in 2011, it there was no platform that promoted or supported the growth of African fashion. During this time, there was so much creativity and talent behind African designs. That’s why I created African Fashion Week London.