By Yemisi Suleiman
VANSKERE – Creativity is divine
Evans Akere is Chief Executive/Creative Director of Vanskere, a brand positioned to change the face of fashion on the global scene. The lawyer turned fashion designer has carved a niche for himself with his brand which focuses on revolutionizing men’s wear with the introduction of his fusion of African and Western collection.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
I don’t think there is a particular thing that sparked my interest in fashion. As far as I can remember, I have always had an interest in fashion; right from my teenage days so I think my interest in fashion is in-born.
What made you take fashion more seriously that you decided to make a career out of it?
I have always been a creative person. I discovered my talent quite early in life but I didn’t take it seriously. I was influenced to study Law by my father who was also a lawyer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fulfilled while studying Law. I made up my mind to take fashion as a career while I was still in Law School so immediately after my call to the Bar, I started off. I have not looked back ever since. The rest is history.
Are you self taught or did you study Fashion Design?
I would say both. Initially, when I started, I didn’t have any formal training in fashion but after a few years, I went to study at The London College of Fashion.
How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
The brand has evolved beautifully; our finishing right now is of international standard. Our designs are quite unique. People can easily identify our clothes, which is good. That means, over the years, we have been able to create our own unique way of designing.
Have your pieces become more appealing to people as a result?
Yes it has. We have been able to attract very prominent men in the society. These are men with high taste who can afford the best clothes in the world; they are drawn to us by the grace of God and our unique designs, the attention we pay to details and our good finishing.
What influences your designs?
Creativity is divine; it can’t be thought – neither can it be studied. It is a gift. You can learn how to sew but you can’t learn how to be creative. So anything can spark the wave of creativity and influence my designs. It could be things around me. It could even be my mood and feeling or nature itself. It could also be existing trends and styles or even music. There are no limits to what can inspire me or influence my designs.
How is your work received internationally?
The international acceptance of the brand has been overwhelming; we have a large number of foreign clients, including Nigerians in the Diaspora; although our Nigerian clients in the Diaspora are more than the foreign ones. We feel it’s normal because our Nigerian clients in the Diaspora see the brand as their own indigenous one so it’s easier for them to identify with the brand.
Your brand is made up of African and Western cuts. How do influences from outside Nigeria find their way into your work?
The Vanskere brand is a fusion of African and Western styles, producing a unique, co-ordinated collection of stylish clothes with a contemporary edge. We recognise that we were colonized by the Western world so we cannot totally neglect their influences in our lives; therefore, we try to reconcile both cultures. That is what the Vanskere brand represents. In as much as we are trend setters, we also look out for trends outside the country which we usually like to interpret in our own way.
What are you fascinated about at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I have always had this unadulterated love for colours. I was fascinated with bright colours and I still am. I think this has played a pivotal role in my recent collections which had some really bright pieces. Fortunately, bright colours have been trending for a while so I am glad my designs are not out of place.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt since you started your company?
I have realised that some clients are creative. They know what they want; some know about clothes as much as you do; so never think all your clients are not creative because they are not designers or you will be shocked the day you meet one that might even be more creative than you. I have realized that it is not every creative person that is in the fashion business; some have channelled their creativity into other businesses. Some clients have even helped me redesign some of my clothes and they came out more beautiful. So right now, I listen to my clients carefully and consider their inputs and ideas, knowing that some of their ideas might even improve the design and concept of the clothes.
What advice would you give to young designers?
Success does not come overnight; it takes time. Work hard and be consistent. Never give up on your dream. It will surely get better.
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
There is something I am currently working on which I hope to complete before the end of the year. It’s not something I’ll like to divulge right now. Hopefully, you will be the first to know once it’s accomplished.
Are you superstitious or do you have any rules you live by?
I am a religious person. I’m currently living a new life in Christ so I try to put God first in everything I do.
What’s your motto?
‘There is no substitute to hard work’.
Tell us about yourself; growing up years and educational background.
I’m from Edo State; I grew up in Benin City. I had my primary education at Ebenezer Primary School and my secondary education at Edo College, both in Benin City. I studied Law at Ambrose Alli Univeristy, Ekpoma; after which I came to Lagos for my Law School programme. I have been in Lagos ever since. I had fun growing up. Although I am from a polygamous family, you wouldn’t know because my siblings and I are very close. My dad was a lawyer. In fact, he was the first lawyer from my home town and also the youngest minister in Nigeria. He was a disciplinarian, very hard working and a very good lawyer. He passed away when I was in the university. I am happily married with three children.
What is the latest trend for men?
I think bright colours are still trending for men. I don’t think it will be going out any time soon. Traditionally, the agbada and danshiki looks are still trending. We have been able to introduce some new look for men in our diffusion line, Signore Fusion by Vanskere. We introduced kimonos, cape tops, sleeveless tops and jump suits for men. Ordinarily, these are clothes you will see on ladies but we have made them look cool on men.
How would you describe the Nigerian fashion scene and its impact on the economy?
The Nigeria fashion industry is an interesting one; it’s becoming lucrative, glamorous and highly competitive, which is good. Unlike South Africa and some other African countries, we are not competing locally with international brands. We have our own indigenous styles which are trending. We are currently appreciating our own local products. If you attend any social event right now, you will be surprised to see that 90% or even more of the people in attendance are wearing Nigeria-made clothes. But there is still a lot to be done; we haven’t gotten there yet. The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry which can create jobs and empower our youths. Our government needs to start taking the fashion industry more seriously and support the industry with programmes that will ensure rapid growth.