Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Fashion & Retail Conversation - Reni Folawiyo, Omoyemi Akerele, Jennifer Obayuwana & Amaka Osakwe Discuss

 {L-R} Amaka Osakwe - Maki Oh; Jennifer Obayunwana – Polo Luxury; Omoyemi Akerele – Style House Files & LFDW; Reni Folawiyo – Alara and (Moderator) Lola Ogunnaike – Presenter & Writer 

WIE Symposium - fashion, Retail panel

This post took quite a while, something about it seemed unfinished but after careful considering I thought better to post than save it for that 'appropriate time'. Good information is always good conclusion.

During W:IE symposium last month, I had the privileged of listening to some of the leading women in Nigeria fashion industry - quite an enlightening panel they were. They discussed fashion - the creative and business aspect & Retail - the marketing, advertising and publicity aspect of it.

These women;
Reni Folawiyo - Founder, Alara
Amaka Osakwe - Designer & Founder, Maki Oh
Jennifer Obayunwana - Executive Director, Polo Luxury
Omoyemi Akerele - Founder, StyleHouseFiles & LFDW
 Moderator: Lola Ogunnaike

Share some fascinating points...

Reni Folawiyo on ALARA:
Alara will be about everything real  - heritage, tradition, in relation to today. It will also be a platform to celebrate our lifestyle, who we are, how we are...celebrating culture and what we feel they (people here) want to buy.

Omoyemi Akerele on LFDW:
Lfdw is not about the publicity, it's about positioning brands and the idea of fashion - "what goes on behind the wall".  Some feel fashion is for the elitist, it's not - often. That's the idea LFDW is trying to share, the idea to let people, sponsors understand fashion is more than parties and all the fancy nature around it.

Moderator: asks about the relationship between the government & the fashion industry - how to  promote fashion or bring art initiative alive?
Omoyemi & Reni: They'll make life much easier if they support, also they can help with infrastructure - it's one main issue that's yet to be resolved. So for us to gain that good standard the government needs to support with labour, infrastructure and more.

{L-R} Amaka Osakwe, Jennifer Obayunwana, Omoyemi Akerele,  Reni Folawiyo – Alara and (Moderator) Lola Ogunnaike – Presenter & Writer  

On Domestic Challengses and Overcoming Them:
Jennifer Obayunwana
If there are no platforms like Style House Files then we the retailers don't have anything to sell..if there are no platforms like Alara, it'd be difficult for her (a designer) to gain ground especially here in Nigeria and Africa .

Paying rents is also another major challenge in retail in Nigeria, it's a high cost environment.
Also, man power has to be trained in Nigeria because there are no experienced workers or sales staff. So it's about us communicating that to our client, make it about the experience not just the product or the materials.. We have to teach staff how to delight customers. It's all customer intimacy. We need schools (perhaps created by Omoyemi and more)

Research has shown that Nigerians prefer to shop abroad because the experience is different but that is something we need to bring here.

Suggestions & Solution:
Publicity is key - start with the mind set. Get the experience from other brands abroad, go there, learn and understand how they manage the mindset. That way you know how to communicate your message. When the client/the African woman understands this she knows then it is about supporting a brand not just buying that skirt. It's the idea of the brand that invites the client.

Top Question: "What would you say or do to/with your younger self and what makes you happiest the most?"

Reni: The realization that I have the power to empower and impact more people. The opportunity to elevate people and brand, it's great joy to see that Alara is giving and opening opportunity.

Omoyemi: Using brand to celebrate Nigeria through fashion. Being part of the group, process that's changing the country, transforming careers. That keeps me going.

Jennifer: Happy that I've been able to house international brands. The fact that we can bring luxury to Nigeria.

Maki OH: I'm happy that Maki Oh has successfully told Nigerian and African stories, true story of the Nigeria woman. It a great thing that Maki Oh is celebrated on the international level.

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