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Designers Revolutionising the Nigerian Fashion Industry – Part 1

By Yemisi Suleiman

They are young and definitely blazing the trail in fashion design. For these designers, who discovered their creative flair quite early in life, there was no hurdle in their respective paths towards fulfilling their dreams. As Nigeria’s fashion industry continues to boom locally and on the international scene, they speak with Allure on their inspiring passion for the business and their fulfilment as part of the growing industry.

KING HAKBAL – Wear Nigerian and Grow the Naira

king-hakbal Hakeem Balogun is the designer and founder of King Hakbal Royal Brand, a brand which designs a line of men’s collection using exotic and delicate African fabrics.  This line seeks to prevent the extinction of African, particularly Nigerian, dress culture. The University of Lagos Mathematics graduate takes us into his world of fashion.

What sparked your interest in fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion because of how fashionable my parents are. The way my mum always dressed my siblings and I whilst growing up automatically made me a fashion lover. However, I became a fashion designer because I wanted to share my gift with the world and put genuine smiles of satisfaction on the faces of my clients.

What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?
Interesting question, I must say. I had always wished I had special gifts growing up, and I knew I could make every man look regal and like royalty. As I grew older, I could not help but notice fashion mistakes a lot of men make; like not having the right type of shirt collar to match a blazer or the perfect tie knot to give that final touch of class to a good suit. I found out that a lot of men don’t even use the same colour of belt as their shoes. When I noticed all these, I realized I had to do something about it. That was essentially why I started the King Hakbal Royal Brand.

Are you self taught or did you study Fashion Design?
Neither. It’s a God-given talent.

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
It has been amazing and I am immensely thankful to God and humbled by His grace. I started with making fitted shirts but my brand has really evolved over the years. Now, we make wedding suits, bespoke shoes, agbada, royal caps and a lot more.

Have your pieces become more appealing to people as a result?
Oh yes! Like people always say, good work speaks for itself.

How is your work received internationally?
Extremely well received, I must say. I get daily orders from all over the world. I am truly humbled.

How do influences from outside Nigeria find their way into your work?
I get inspiration from a variety of ways. It could be art. It could be music. Whatever it is, Western or African, I incorporate it into my designs with the aim of achieving my goal which is to make my clients happy.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt since you started your company?
Patience and discipline. Those are the greatest virtues anyone needs to survive in this business.

What advice would you give to young designers?
Stay focused, positive, and fashionable! Be humble, always look presentable and believe in yourself and your sense of style!

What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
I have big dreams and I have taken them to God in prayer. The rest, they say, is up to God.

Are you superstitious or do you have any rules you live by?
No, I am not superstitious. I, however, live by a set of rules. I am simple. I love God, I love people, I love fashion, I love life and, ultimately, I love my family dearly.

What’s your motto?
Style, simplicity, class.

How does being a fashion designer influence your style?
It influences my style in every way because I am the creative director of King Hakbal and I create and design everything that comes out of my company. It influences not just my style, but my lifestyle also.

What is the latest trend for men?
The King Hakbal inspired walking stick.

How would you describe the Nigerian fashion scene and its impact on the economy?
The Nigerian fashion scene has really evolved. You see Nigerian brands in major stores, home and abroad, and on major online platforms. It is now “glamorous” for celebrities (Nigerian and foreign) to wear outfits made by Nigerian designers. We are the new cool!
You say ‘buy Nigerian and grow the naira’, I say ‘wear Nigerian and grow the naira’. Nigerians are very fashionable people and we are getting more conscious and appreciative of our home grown talent. I think it is only a matter of time before the Nigerian fashion industry explodes into a multi-million dollar export industry.

TRISH O COUTURE – Appealing To Women Globally

Ptrish-o-coutureatricia Onumonu is the brain behind Trish O Couture, a brand known for its femininity and dramatic cuts.  The Philosophy graduate from the University of Lagos honed her designing skills as a teenager under the tutelage of her mother who was a fashion designer. Her brand has evolved over the years with a number of top celebrities on her clientele list and a number of awards for her creativity.  With an undying passion for fashion and the female silhouette, Trish, as she is popularly called, talks all things feminine, her journey in the needle profession and more.

At what point in life did you discover your creative flair?
My journey began as a child under-studying my mother as a dress maker. Somewhere in my heart, as a teenager, I wished to be doing the same thing once I became an adult.  My mum used to have a fashion line called Henrymore Fashion House. I was born into fashion and I grew up seeing my mum do things that had to do with women. At the age of twelve, I began helping my mum in sewing. I could bead and draft pattern for babies’ dummy size.
When I got into university, my desire and passion for fashion became stronger. At that point, I decided to follow my heart. By 2008, Trish O Couture was fully birthed and the journey has been a wonderful, exciting and fulfilling one. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Are you self taught or did you study Fashion Design?
I was trained at my mother’s fashion house. So, yes, I studied fashion designing.

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
Since Trish O Couture started, it has evolved in style and creativity. I have had top personalities wear my brand confidently and they always stand out. I have been opportune to showcase my collections in different parts of the world and that has encouraged the growth of my brand.

How is your work received internationally?
Amazingly, my work has been well received outside the shores of Nigeria. My participation in these shows has brought me a number of awards which I find really inspiring. Some of the awards include: Glam & Essence Most Outstanding Fashion Designer 2014, Working Moms Awards in Art/Fashion/Style Award 2014,Top Celebrities Female Achievers Award 2014, AFWN Fashion Designer of the Year 2016, CAMA 2016 Fashion Icon of the Year – just to mention a few.

How do influences from outside Nigeria influence your work?
My work is a fusion of romance, fairy tales and feminine beauty. The queenly look of the Victorian era has greatly influenced my designs with the softness of womanhood; the objective is to appeal to women globally.

Who is the Trish O woman?
I would say the Trish O woman is an elegant, sophisticated, poised woman who believes in romance and feminine beauty with an African feel.

What are you fascinated about at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I am inspired by our TOC designs which speak of feminine forms and beauty, cultures and high fashion – detailed in expressing beauty.

What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt since you started your company?
The biggest lesson I have learnt is that patience and positivity are required in the face of challenges if you want to have victory.

What advice would you give to young designers who look up to you?
Stay focused, consistent and persistent. Do not despise the days of little beginnings. It’s not going to be rosy all the way but your passion will push you to aim to be the best. Keep your head up and aim for positive outcomes. Do not let challenges bring you down; the most important thing is to learn from them.

Are there any types of clothing that you avoid wearing?
I love wearing clothes that speak of feminine class, beauty and elegance and are not revealing. If an outfit does not have any of these listed qualities, I simply avoid them.

What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
It has been a very busy and interesting year. At the end of the year, I hope to reach every classy lady because I believe that they should have a great feel of Trish O Couture.

What’s your motto in life?
My motto in life is: “Always keep your head up, dust your shoulders and focus on positivity”.

If you have to advise the government on ways to move the fashion industry forward, what would you say?
The fashion industry is a revenue generating arm for any country and Nigeria is not an exception. I would advise the government to set up policies and regulations to guard copyright of works in this industry. The government also needs to give us tax breaks and electricity. These are really important to move the fashion industry forward.

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