Maurice Sokari is a global talent manager and founder/CEO of 90s Models Management. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, he spoke on challenges and prospects of modelling business in Nigeria. Excerpts:
The modelling side of fashion in Nigeria seems to be limited to runway shows and brands looking to use models to advertise. Do you think there should be more to modelling than shows and adverts that Nigeria needs to explore?
The Nigerian system of modelling does not have money in it or so they say, the brands are leaning towards collaborations more and the commercial side of modelling; campaigns, advertising and catalogues seem to be a bit slow, but are we learning the ropes to adapt to model demand for products? I think we have limited show seasons and brands willing to do shows, we should explore that option more.
Would you really say the modelling business is a sustainable one, especially for these models?
The business of modelling is not like cycling or running. It is very tasking but precise and requires a lot of self-honesty and honesty to the talents also. Not everyone is going to be a star face and you must be willing to say the hard truth to the models nonetheless. The longevity of your career as a model depends on your personality and your management’s approach to your clients and career at large. A lot is involved but if you are a great face, you can exist as a model for decades. Although I advise my talents to always have alternative income points and approaches when they become top models as a contingency for the future. I would be a bad manager if I keep that conversation off for my personal gains.
What are the challenges of running a creative and fashion business (modelling agency) in a growing economy like Nigeria?
Nigeria is a base point for African faces. We have been changing the narratives for decades now. I feel parental consent has been a major setback for us as a premium modelling agency operating from the heart of Lagos, Nigeria. We strive to change other norms in scouting, but parental consent and lack of financial aid during the development and discovery stages derail the growth of the scouted faces.
What lessons do you think Nigeria can learn from countries that understand the business of modelling such as France, the United States and Italy?
Passport control; we lack the means to fasten our immigration process in terms of delivering timely passports to the models/talents for visa applications. We also don’t have enough fashion governing bodies to help position designers in ways that will help promote and celebrate models here locally as they do overseas. No model organisation holds the agents and agencies accountable for misbehaviours and lack of commitment in fulfilling their duties to said ‘signed models’ under their agencies. I want us to fix that too.
As the founder of Africa’s leading modelling agency, 90s Models, who manages models currently working with top global luxury fashion brands, how would you rate the business side of modelling in the fashion industry? Is it growing?
Prior to this interview, I have always spoken about ‘Unconventional jobs’. It’s part of my life’s work here in Nigeria and in the Uk as a Black global talent manager. I feel the work we do here in Nigeria is undersold, and the changes are not been emphasised on. We are changing stories every day. I mean, we are changing the norms, and the parents are aware of this. And they are realising that too with us, and they are moving with the vision.
How do you source for models that work with global fashion brands and how often do you get companies requesting for these models?
This is a very strong one.
All our models are street scouted. We invest so much money in finding the right face and telling the best stories out of Africa because no one tells them better than we Africans.
And for requests, we are the most sought-after Black-owned agency in Nigeria from our last statistics. We get requests from every major casting agency and house at the beginning of every season. It’s like a marathon for new faces here.
We love the inclusivity of Black Nigerian faces globally.
An average Nigerian parent would not invest their money in a child to do modelling. Some parents may frown at a child choosing a career path in modelling. What advice do you have for such parents and how do you convince them that modelling is a worthy career path?
Firstly, we appreciate all parents and always are grateful for their moral support, but financially we cover everything here at 90s Model Management. We try not to burden the parents with expenditures we can cover, such as development fees, composites or digitals. We cover all of that and also cover their international passport, visas or hotels and flights so there is absolutely no need for the parents to be financially involved. Our mission is; Discovery, Development and Direction.
What is the role of government and regulatory bodies in advancing the fashion and modelling industry?
I will keep this one simple. We have no visible regulatory body for models and there is no fall-back plan for them. An average model is set to fly solo after a period of time. Also, the statistics in our industry are unstable and unreliable, we need to do better in terms of availability of data.
I try to change the norms and I hope we do better too, as model managers.
Do you think Nigerian models and talents are positively projecting the image of the country on a global scale and how are you facilitating this?
Truth be told, Nigerians are stunners! They are the faces of the future and on a global stage too. I am proud to be Nigerian. The models are well diverse and commit to a particular course and try to promote a system of Africanism as they grow into Top models. The Nigerian system of modelling might not pull in as much revenue, but it is safe to say that the models are positioning us as stars out there. It can be better but we have come a long way and are proud of the work we have done nonetheless.
What is the estimated value of the African fashion industry and what is Nigeria’s market share in that value?
As of 2022, we were far over $300 million in market shares for the fashion industry in Nigeria. The textiles space is also a great booming global business out of Nigeria. For the value of Africa at large, I could estimate that at $2 billion in revenue.