As part of efforts to provide access to market and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Small Medium Scale Enterprise (SMEs) of the fashion industry, First Bank of Nigeria Limited partnered with Eventful Nigeria Limited on its event, fashion souk, a platform that creates an opportunity for players in the fashion industry to exhibit and sell their wares to the thousands of event participants.
Speaking at the event held in Lagos recently, the Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communication, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, said the bank has over the years, since its founding, been very supportive of the entrepreneurial space and SMEs, adding that the role of the bank is that of an enabler.
“FirstBank has been involved in every sector of the economy since 1894, so if you think about that there is no sector we have not been involved in, in fact this particular fashion souk, we are the pioneer sponsor and we sponsored it right from when it started.”
Ani-Mumuney explained that the fashion industry over the years has grown incredibly and added that it has helped to grow other businesses.
According to her, “Just like Nigerian music, the fashion industry is still in its infancy. We have great talents and potential in the fashion industry. Let’s consider the developed fashion industry of Italy for instance and the entire value chain of fashion, it tells you that there is a lot to be done. We still need to have fashion zones in core Cities and States, so that within a particular zone, you could have the cutters, button hole creation and others.
“The great thing is that we have a market here, but beyond that is that we could easily become the fashion hub for Africa, especially its export across continents. The fashion industry is diverse and versatile with many roles carried-out by individuals with uniquely different skill-set. Some persons could focus on finishing; some could focus on sketching, garment making and other areas. Indeed, Nigeria are fashion freaks, with a large and diverse market.
Also at the event was Nollywood actor and producer Kunle Afolayan whom had his clothing line Ire Clothing, displayed. Afolayan, the Chief Executive Officer of Ire Clothing said he started the clothing line with just the Kunle Kembe, and presently, it has expanded to about five, six collections.He also stated that what inspired Ire clothing is because of his love for arts and anything that deals with the Nigerian cultural heritage and helps to document culture, “so with Ire clothing, we use Africa fabrics, Anakara, Adire and others.”
Afoloyan explained that he has modified the old Yoruba Kembe style to something that is now pop culture so that the younger generation can also wear it, adding that there are T-shirts and Kunle’s Dansiki which is a bit smaller than the traditional Dansiki, and face caps.
According to him, “The brand story we are trying to tell is that we want people to embrace their own culture and tradition; use it to their advantage and use it to the world. I think the fashion industry is striving and it’s been here for a very longtime and it is doing better because a lot of our people are exporting our clothing abroad.”
In his remarks, veteran comedian, Atunyota Akpobome, popularly known as Ali baba, said the fashion souk is a platform of opportunities and a collage of business ideas, providing a platform for people to network and express business innovations.
According to Ali baba, “To expand the frontiers of the fashion industry, there is need for exposure and the social media is helping a great deal to improve the employment needs of Nigerians. Once the employment statistics increases there will be higher purchasing power and people will tend to invest and spend more in fashion. In a country of about 200 million people, one should be able to do one million sales in months. But I think we will get there someday. We need to grow our textile industry and revamp the textile companies, which implies that we have to revive the production of cotton so that players in the industry can have access to raw materials, thereby cutting down production cost.”
Also speaking at the event, popular television presenter and model, Uti Nwachukwu, expressed satisfaction with the event, commending the organisers for creating an avenue to convene fashion vendors under one roof to provide their wares at discounted and affordable rates, while giving customers the opportunities to patronize their brands. He further stated that the fashion souk gives the vendors an opportunity to showcase what they have to sell and creates opportunity for them to advertise their products.
Nwachukwu added: “A lot of vendors and customers here are happy. It is a give and take situation that works well. The fashion industry in Nigeria is the most underrated industry; there is so much potential, and greatness in the fashion industry.
“We have great designers that will shine in any part of the world. It is a great gesture the bank is making by supporting the industry. I just wish the bank can help these designers to get to international level of exposure. Our designs are wonderful, African prints are in fashion in different parts of the world. Finance and exposure are the key challenges facing the industry, if it is properly addressed, things will work out well.”