Adebusola Adetona of Grapes pattern bank is taking us on a spin into the intriguing world of surface pattern designing in Nigeria
When a Nigerian fashion enthusiast tells us about a further interest in fashion, we automatically think they’re talking about being a fashion designer. Statistically speaking, the textile, apparel and footwear sector has an average growth of 17% since 2010. Although professionals like designers, fashion models and fashion photographers currently pioneer a majority of the Nigerian fashion scene, there’s a tad load of [underground] occupants like illustrators, stylists, fabric makers, and even surface pattern designers.
Surface pattern designing is a major integration in the fashion industry, but Nigeria’s occupying only a small fragment of 3%. Although the global fashion industry is worth over $2.5 trillion, Africa’s share is estimated at less than 1%. In the sub-saharan fashion market worth over $31 billion, Nigerian accounts for only 15%, which is about $4.6 billion, unlike her South African counterpart, which accounts for an estimated $14.4 billion.
This is why Nigerian pioneer and surface pattern design maestro, Adebusola Adetona, of Grapes Pattern Bank, is doing the most to hone the craft, and project a new light into the interesting world of surface pattern designing. “Surface pattern designing is basically the designing of prints on surfaces,” Adebusola says. “There is a general misconception that it involves just fabrics for fashion designing and designers, but it’s way more than that. It could go all the way to fashion interiors, cars, and even diners,” she adds.
As earlier mentioned, the world of surface pattern designing is still finding its roots in the Nigerian market, with a majority of reasons owing to the fact that an increased number of Nigerian designers source their working materials from countries like China, Turkey and Vietnam. After completing a major degree in Fashion and Textiles from Leeds Art University, UK, in 2016, the designer thought to bring that knowledge to the Nigeria market, build the industry from scratch, and circulate the economy in the process. “Although the safest thing was staying back in the UK, I decided to return to Nigeria to build this sector from scratch. For a while, most designers didn’t even understand what we did and that delayed us. However, we’ve grown over time, and are grateful for that.”
Just like every other sector in the industry, surface pattern designing for Adebusola was pretty difficult to navigate and establish. From working with just one designer during the first year of establishment, to production setbacks, shortage/unavailability of necessary materials, possible risk of design steals, and the hovering thoughts of quitting and [probably] doing an eventual 9-5, the brand has managed to deeply steer into the course of growth, both in size and in numbers.
“We try to put our own personality into our works, whilst collaborating with the designers as they help us understand the message, attitude, themes and ideas they want to communicate,” the designer says when asked about her management practices. After successfully working with major fashion brands like OrangeCulture, Kai Collective, and Udara Couture, Grapes Pattern Bank has experienced a cognitive market surge.
On explaining about the experiences and thoughts on why that was, Founder, Adebusola explains about the power of exclusivity, collaboration and transparency. “A lot of surface printers resell prints, but we’re not about that, even with our already made prints. When brands pay, they pay for the exclusivity. There’s a certain sense of ownership when you see prints, and can easily identify them by their brands. Look at the Gia Dress for example,” she says, paying recognition to an exclusive and very successful work she did with Kai Collective during the covid-19 pandemic, as it gathered millions of GirlsInKai hashtags (#GirlsInKai) during its launch.
In a secluded space of the industry where 2D fashion illustrators, graphics designers, and CLO-3D illustrators could be major competitors, the entire team at Grapes Pattern Bank acknowledges that they’re their own competition, and would keep themselves motivated to remain that way. “My biggest competitor is myself. As long as I continue to push myself and research more, the prints would come out great. I think this is what all aspiring printers should focus on more. Find yourself and find your style before you think of designing for others. The passion for success is what would keep you and me afloat in this industry.”