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Nigerian adire in the global fashion industry

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By Mercy Kelani

A fashion entrepreneur shared her experience on what it's like in the industry.

Seun Safia Kekere-Ekun, creative director of Aries Couture, is a fashion entrepreneur who is focused on the preservation of the heritage of Africa. She aims to reinvent African fashion through her use of the adire fabric. In an interview, the fashion entrepreneur expressed her passion for the enhancement of feminism through her art. She stated that her passion for ethical fashion is fuelled by fairness and the exhibition of humanity in all that she does. This is because ethical fashion has to do with conversations and activities that concerns fashion beyond the practicality of its designs.

While speaking on how Aries Couture is impacting the economic development of Nigeria through fashion, the Creative Director asserted that the brand focused on affecting economic development through targeted inclusion. She added that the brand has always intentionally sought ways to make sure that its existence benefits all age demographic. The brand contracts both the youth and the elderly to have a successful processing of the fabric; by doing so, it financially empowers them. She asserted that there are several ways through which the fashion industry drives economic development.

There is a lack of sizable and consistent investment from the government.

Kekere-Ekun, speaking on what prompted her to run a brand focused on African heritage, said that she had always known adire as a child, and wondered, as she grew older, why it was no longer prominent in Nigerian fashion. She stated that with Aries Couture, her goal is to be a part of the movement to make adire prominent in Nigerian and global fashion. As someone who has hosted pop-up shows in London, she said that they are expensive, but she derives joy from witnessing the excitement of Nigerians and non-Nigerians in the diaspora about the cultural beauty of the fabric.

Today, adire textile and production materials are largely imported. The fashion entrepreneur stated that this is happening mainly because of lack of sizable and consistent investment from the government of Nigeria. She added that financial injections or subsidies will massive help the fashion sector to key into mass production of indigenous fabrics. The cost of production, Kekere-Ekun said, will remain an impediment, until mass production commences. Other challenges that impede mass production include poor electricity supply, inflated cost of fabric transportation to and fro production location, among others.

If the business side of fashion is failing, creativity would also fail.

The Creative Director of Aries Couture further stated that the major challenge that she faced while running her fashion business is the adoption of the international retail model in Nigeria. However, she encountered other challenges such as costly and epileptic power supply, barbaric rent surges, difficulty hiring trustworthy staff, and many more. With this, she stated that she has learned over the years to have a defined goal that begins with a business plan that is periodically reviewed.

Also, the fashion enthusiast said that it is quite easy for the creative side of fashion to become a distraction from other factors that matter and contribute to the success and growth of a business. If the business side of fashion is failing, creativity would also automatically begin to fail. Also, ensuring investment in effective marketing and public relations is very important. Other essential values needed to balance the creative and business sides of fashion include positive thinking, consistence with excellence, doggedness, and investment in creative out-of-the-box thinking for business scaling.

Women can rise to the top and live their dreams.

Furthermore, Seun Safia Kekere-Ekun said that she stays motivated through fear of being broke, as it is for most Nigerians. Also, she said that other female-led brands, and women in various sectors like oil and gas, law, real estate, the royal families in Nigeria, and women she had being privileged to style in her brand have greatly been a source of motivation to her. She likewise affirmed that it is possible for women to rise to the top and live their dreams by making use of business tools like goal setting, being a member of professional organizations, constant learning, funding opportunities, networking, and genuinely celebrating other winning women.

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