The fashion industry in Nigeria has continued to play an important cultural role and contributes significantly to the country’s economy.
From its colors, fabrics, embellishments, components and styles that are characterised by tribal society and customs, Nigeria produces fashionable textiles and finished garments and has designers who have achieved international recognition.
However, there are more talented designers that have remained unknown because they lack the support that would bring them to limelight and give them international exposure.
It is therefore in a bid to support high-potential Nigerian entrepreneurs within the fashion and design industry and to promote the Nigerian and French expertise in the sector widely that the French Embassy in Nigeria, through the French Institute in Nigeria and Création Africa, launched the Lagos x Paris – Fashion & Design Accelerator.
The training program will emphasize on reinforcing business literacy and providing one-on-one mentorship for the selected brands, with the best experts in the field from France, Nigeria and other African countries.
Simultaneously, a rich program of masterclasses and events open to the general public will be a platform for knowledge exhange and a showcase of Nigerian creativity.
The Accelerator is positioned to honour Nigerian Fashion & Design, cultural preservation initiatives, sustainable practices and crosscultural collaborations, while providing the tools and skills for creatives to build long lasting and incremental financial growth for their company. Financial and in-kind grants will also be offered to laureates.
The Accelerator is designed to help the selected brands navigate the French and Global Fashion & Design ecosystems. It will close off with professional travels to Paris, to immerse export-ready brands in the world capital of fashion via unique access to key industry players and events.
Speaking during the launch of the Lagos x Paris – Fashion & Design Accelerator, in Lagos, Emmanuelle Blatmann, the French ambassador to Nigeria said they are very excited to power the Accelerator, a brand new programme that we launched earlier this year.
Blatmann disclosed that they have obtained some new funding in order to support cultural entrepreneurs in different sectors such as fashion, design,dance, animation, video games.
According to her, with the team here, they have proposed to Paris to set up a new programme aimed at partnering with young entrepreneurs in the cultural, creative industries and to help give a push to their businesses.
She said this is also to support their businesses and help them expand internationally.
“We are convinced that in Nigeria there is so much talent and it is important that they get help to be known globally. So, there are different aspects to this programme.The first one is the accelerator. We launched a call for the project in August and we received about 128 applications. The juries are composed of Africa and French experts who selected 10 awardees, six in fashion, two in design and the other two are in accessories.
“These are all young talents. These people are known at their levels in Nigeria. We feel they need the extra help to expand. The Accelerator has different components. There would be training and management skills being taught on how these entrepreneurs can manage their businesses and expand.
“There will be Master Classes on how to brand, export and how to prepare projects for international markets, festivals and shows. There would be several stages throughout the year to come,” the French ambassador to Nigeria said.
She assured that soon the awardees will start showing their creations in fashion shows, adding that fashion shows have been identified in France where they could exhibit.
She said what informed the choice the awardees were their creativity, sustainability, environmental consciousness, the uniqueness and potential for growth.
Blatmann disclosed that these great ideas were set up by Emmanuel Macron, the French President who has always been fully convinced of how important it is to support African contemporary creation and talents.
“President Emmanuel Macron did his internship in Nigeria. He spent six months as an intern in Nigeria and he really liked it. This is the foundation of his interest for the continent. In Paris, there is the grand opening of Creation Africa starting on 6th of October, which is the first forum to promote cultural creative industries of Africa in Paris and there are people going from Nigeria,” she said.
Adeju Thompson, designer at Lagos Space Programme and one of the awardees also won an International Woolmark Prize.
“I am the first African to win this award since it’s inception. I flew to Paris and I showed my work. I was picked by Jury of International designers and fashion stakeholders and I won the prize,” he said.
Thompson who showcases gender free clothing have been in the industry since 2018 and has since shown hard work and commitment.
“When the Lagos x Paris – Fashion & Design Accelerator team reached out to me, I was more interested in addressing the customs issues, especially the clearing and taxes amongst others. It is the real world mentorship in terms of challenges that creatives struggle with that is key for me.
“I don’t have any problem with creativity or the trajectory of my company. So I realized that if I want to continue working in Nigeria, it is important to know how the system works in terms of how you navigate customers and the charges you are required to pay and the mentorship would help in this regard,” he stated.
Tunde Awolabi, designer at Ethnik Africa and another awardee told BDSunday that he makes Aso oke accessible and fashionable for everyone, including young people
“A lot of people say Aso oke is too heavy and old modern. But young people wear jeans everyday yet they say Aso oke is heavy. So we thought of how to make Aso oke into other products that people can wear. We also thought of sustainability because if people are not wearing aso oke, how do the weavers keep getting jobs?
“So we started using aso oke to make shoes, bags, and even clothing. So it’s been a journey of about eight years and the acceptance has been very amazing,”Awolabi added.