GTB Master Class: The Business Behind the Glam
Fashion business is serious business. As in every business, not understanding how to properly manage and run it could be really frustrating, especially when building and growing the brand is the goal.
It is the solution to this problem that GT Bank Plc established the GTBank Fashion Weekend Master Classes.
The 2018 GTBank Fashion Master Classes were tailored to equip fashion entrepreneurs, with key industry insight, by granting them a unique opportunity to learn from global industry leaders.
This year’s master class topics, handled by key industry professionals such as Jay Manuel from America’s ‘Next Top Model’, iconic Dapper Dan – who took Harlem fashion to the world, celebrity hair stylist Nai’Vasha Johnson, Nikki Ogunnaike and a host of others, addressed opportunities and challenges in the fashion and beauty industry in the age of social media. It also focused on how one could maximize it all without being sucked in.
Speaking on ‘Understanding the Industry’, 20-year old Taofeek Abijah, who got his big break in the global fashion space after presenting his Spring/Summer’19 collection at New York Fashion Week in 2018 (making him the youngest designer ever to show at the prestigious event) enlightened participants about the fashion industry, how he got his big break and how he was able to create a brand for himself.
Abijah revealed that for him, fashion is the best platform he found to tell stories, which is what he loves to do. Despite this seemingly rosy beginning, the young designer made the audience to understand that the road to breaking in is full of challenges and rejections. He emphasised, “Rejections are not always a bad thing. Re-strategize and go get them”.
Anna Trevelyan and Stavros Karelis, two fashion influencers supporting and developing young fashion brands, gave insightful talks on ‘The Concept of Fashion Curation’.
Their talk centred on how important it is for designers to be conscious of all body types and create appropriate pieces accordingly. “It’s important we not just make clothes for sample size, because more and more, we’re seeing diversity in sizes and we really need to have access to clothes that look great on us,” they noted.
Nikki Ogunnaike’s ‘Diversity in Fashion’ class was very interactive and practical. She spoke about styling and the importance of individuality in every style. In a later interview, the Nigerian-American ‘InStyle’ editor revealed that “… Finding your individuality is what singles every stylish person apart”.
Using her hair as an example, Ogunnaike told the audience that cutting off a part of her hair raised a lot of eyebrows but because it’s who she is and how she accepted that part of herself made the world to classify that look as her signature look. This is what has differentiated her from everyone else, aside from being Nikki Ogunnaike, that is.
Popular judge from America’s Next Top Model, Jay
Manuel was very open about his experience and challenges in the fashion media world as he talked about ‘Discover You – In a World of Social Media and Noise’. The American beauty professional encouraged her audience to know and understand themselves as there are so many things, from offline to online, that will try to change who they are.
He gave four tips on self-discovery which are: be impeccable with your words, don’t take anything personally, always ask questions and don’t assume. Finally, always do your best.
The master classes for Day One ended with ‘Sticking to Plan A’ by Kahlana Barfield, a very useful and successful class that gave clarity to many in the fashion industry who feel that their ‘Plan A’ is no longer working and ‘Plan B’ is the next.
The beauty and TV personality said that where she is, currently, was not the plan she had for herself as she was not outspoken. But, because roles are given to her by her bosses, who thought she’ll do better in those roles and, accepting them, she has watched herself grow.
Day Two started with Burak Cakmak’s ‘Building a Fashion Ecosystem’, where he coached fashion entrepreneurs on how to take their fashion business higher – from ground level – and continued with celebrity hair stylist, Nai’Vasha Johnson, who spoke about ‘ Expressing Yourself Through Hair’.
This was another practical session as the hair stylist – using a model, styled her natural hair in a most professional way that many in the audience had never seen.
The practice of hair styling was followed up with questions on misconceptions, hair practices and advice.
One notable statement Nai’Vasha made was on hair-splitting and how people should stop trying to manage what is already damaged and trim off split ends. Before ending her session, she stated that “all hair, both relaxed and natural, are all beautiful and when you take care of them, they’ll blossom.”
Shoe designer, Nicholas Kirkwood spoke on “The Art of Building An Empire With Heels.” In this session, the designer spoke about how his shoes, which are eccentric in form, have gone beyond being coveted by some a selected few to being the couture and red carpet piece celebrities want to make their fashion statement with.
Armed with years of experience of fashion and culture, Dapper Dan took the audience to the beginning of his brand, in Harlem, and how it started with him as a little boy with no good shoes.
With a history of making statements with fashion and helping others show who they are through fashion and street styles, Dapper Dan spoke to the excited participants on ‘Making a Fashion Statement.’
His story is one of hope as he went on to reveal that fashion was a way out for him because, in his words: “The beauty of clothes is how it transforms you.” He noted that he saw fashion as something that could take him away from who he was.
Dan reminisced on when he opened his first store in Harlem. He said he realised that people loved designer labels but couldn’t afford to own them. He started replicated those brand designs but added more logos, making them a little different and more visible. The twist he introduced made his brand a success.
Dapper Dan also revealed that the concept of ‘logomania’ was a concept he started, noting that he started the art of blurring brand products as his pieces were worn by musicians to MTV Base in the ‘80s.
On working in a western terrain as a Blackman, Dapper Dan revealed that every creature of colour has to know that there are two staircases in fashion: the European staircase and the Black staircase. The European staircase has a ceiling that limits you while Black staircase has no ceiling, which gives every coloured creature endless possibilities to be whatever they want to be.
Lastly, Dan encouraged everyone to embrace their roots as Africans and embrace education ‘because there lies your passport to escaping poverty and suffering’.
The master classes were wrapped up with the class of Julia Sarr Jamois, who spoke on ‘Authenticity in Style and Global Fashion Trends.’
At the end of the two days, some participants spoke about how the sessions had impacted them. They expressed gratitude to GT Bank for the wealth of knowledge gained at no cost.
A young designer, Kehinde Rhodes, said “This has been a fulfilling two days for me. I’ve learnt from these great people and I didn’t pay a dime! Plus, the environment was very conducive for learning; everything just feels right”.
From the insightful presentations and audience feedbacks, plus the opportunity to be in the midst of experts who opened the mind to dreams and possibilities in fashion, the GTBank master classes definitely invested in the lives and businesses of Nigerian creative entrepreneurs who did not just come – just for the fashion but needed to understand the business behind all the glam.
By Linda Orajekwe