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Allure Cover: Rising Creators Of Stylish Men

By Linda Orajekwe

 

It is amazing to live in a time such as this where the fashion industry has moved to just being seen as another hobby that needs expression rather it is now known as it should; an economy booster and the bread and butter for many households. This industry, seen simply, accommodates different sect from clothes, bags, shoes and accessories and these sectors have full-fledged industries with movers, shakers and the young that are still carving their path.
This edition of Allure, we cover three talented menswear designers who, in their different journey have a common goal, to make every man look as good as he possibly should.
We have Seun Morafa who transitioned from a fashion model to a fashion designer, Sodiq Adams who domesticates T-shirts in his African- inspired tees and also bespoke Suits and Telvin Nwafor of the eponymous fashion label, TELVINNWAFOR who talk about the unique identity their brand offer every client.

 

Seun Morafa—- Still Evolving
He is an English Language graduate of the University of Lagos and a model turned designer. As a model, he was signed to one of the biggest modelling agencies in Nigeria (Isis Model), and walked some of the runways.
In 2014, he established his label Morafa, with one branch in Lagos and the other in the United States.
His works have graced fashion shows such as Arise Fashion Week, Lagos Fashion and Design Week, Kinabuti’s Dare2Dream Initiative amongst others.

 

Let’s talk about your fashion journey, how did you start?
It all started as far back as 1997 when I was about age 6. I remember I would pick out my mother’s old fabrics, cut them into little patterns to make garments for myself and my teddy bears sewn with thread and needle. Back then it was all fun.
My folks are also fashionable figures, most especially my dad. While in school, I was always known for being fashion conscious from my elementary to high school days. I participated in fashion shows in high school as a model.
As a brand, I released my first Spring-Summer collection in August 2014 while I was still in the University. Though I was uncertain whether I will make it in the fashion industry because of competition, but with God on my side, and my supportive brother Ayodeji Morafa, I got the courage to forge ahead.
That same year, my brand won University of Lagos Finest Designer, a competition organized by Kinabuti Fashion initiative. Through that platform, we showcased at the Dare2Dream 2014.
In 2015, we emerged 2nd runner up as Most Creative Designer at Student Fashion and Design Week. I then proceeded to New York for a campaign shoot for the same collection which got a lot of applause. We showcased at the Elite Model Look Nigeria 2015, Music Meets Runway, Africa fashion week, Ecowas fashion Week and Lagos Fashion Week.
In 2017, The brand got the opportunity through the Fashion Focus platform, to intern with Top Fashion Brand “Atafo” by notable Designer, Mai Atafo. it was such a wonderful and impactful experience for our brand.

Starting off as a model, has it always been a dream for you to grow into a designer?
Yes, it has always been a dream for me to be a clothing designer. I never had the idea I was going to be a model at some point; but, modelling paved the way for me. I was signed to Isis Models Africa in 2012. As a model, I walked the runways at Arise Fashion week 2012, Lagos Fashion week 2014-2016 and I also got other big modelling contracts. Though I don’t see myself as a successful model yet, through these experiences, I knew much more about the Fashion industry and I also got the opportunity to meet top Fashion brands, photographers, models which made it a lot easier for me when I finally started my brand.

What were some of the challenges you faced at the early stage and do you still face them?
The challenges at the early stage were having doubts whether I would make it being a being a student at that time. But, I said to myself “If others are making it through, I definitely will too” With God on my side, my brother being supportive and always putting my best in whatever I do now, I am more confident than ever.

As a brand catering for both male and female, what would you say is the most distinct difference serving both markets in terms of perks and challenges?
Most male clients are much easier to deal with. Men are straightforward and they know exactly what they desire. The Female client on the other hand, also knows what she wants but can sometimes be indecisive.

What’s your creative process like for creating for men and women?
Most of our womenswear and some of the menswear are Androgynous wears.
The inspiration sometimes, come from past, present life happenings or mood of the designer.

What do you do when you’re facing a creative block?
Being a devoted Christian, I seek the help of the “Holy Spirit” and that definitely always works for me.

Who was your first celebrity client? How did that happen? And How did getting that make you feel?
Our first celebrity client was Falz for a cover shoot by Black and Bold magazine in 2016. The cover boy was meant to be Patoranking whom I was really looking forward to meeting; but somehow, he couldn’t make it through. Working with Falz was an Awesome experience. He has a great personality.

What would you say is your greatest achievement so far as a designer?
I wouldn’t say I have had any greatest achievement yet. The sky is the stepping stone for me.

What’s your most embarrassing moment as a designer and how were you able to handle it?
Hmm…Most embarrassing moment was when I was on a movie set as a costume designer for a Chico Ejiro movie Open marriage, it had actors such as Monalisa Chinda, Alex Ekubo and Ik Ogbonna. At a concluding scene, the Director asked if I could play a role which I had never done before. I was so exhausted from styling the actors all day long and I wasn’t prepared for it at all. But I got the courage somehow, I was able to memorize the script and I did perfectly well with the role. I was so surprised myself after watching the movie. That was really an embarrassing moment for me.

How supportive do you think the Nigerian fashion industry is to growing brands?
The Lagos Fashion Week’s Fashion Focus initiative has really been impactful on growing young brands in Nigeria and also Africa. It was such a wonderful experience and has really helped my brand grow tremendously.

What would you say is the most distinctive quality of the Morafa brand?
Morafa deals with the production of the best Bespoke tailored wears, with a perfect finishing of the finest and most exclusive fabrics.

What’s one fashion item you cannot do without as a fashion lover?
That’ll be Sunglasses for me.

What’s the grand plan for the Morafa brand?
To make the brand a household name both locally and internationally, and to be a community service, giving back to the underprivileged through fashion. This will involve staging a fashion training institute in a rural area where 10 to 30 per cent of my proceeds will go to charity.

With the coronavirus crisis the world is currently facing, how is the fashion industry affected and how is your brand personally affected?
A lot of events have been postponed. Fashion brands are temporarily shut down and not rendering services for now to take precautionary measures. I love my job but this period has just been uninteresting for me. We hope and pray it all end soon by God’s Grace.

If you have to do this all over again what would you do differently?
If I get a second chance, I would love to attend a fashion school abroad.

 

 

TELVIN NWAFOR—— Pursuing Passion
With his desire for fashion stirred so early in life, the Creative director of the eponymous label, skilled himself up by sourcing for avenues and training to turn his love into a business venture.
After bagging a degree in Marketing from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Telvin Nwafor sought out training under the tutelage of the likes of Mai Atafo and that learning period, gave him the required confidence to start his label. Since then, he has catered for some of the top stars in Nigeria.
Let’s talk about your fashion journey, how did you start?
My journey started when I was a kid. My mum and eldest sister love to play dress up and being the closest to my eldest sister who’s late now (May her soul rest in peace), I remember every day before she gets dressed for a party, she would ask if what she wore was okay and then we would all laugh at it, make adjustment, so she could be the best. That’s pretty much, how I could remember picking an interest in fashion.
After my NYSC, I enrolled at Nobel Fashion Training and Dressmaking Academy where I learnt basically how to make patterns for dresses, cutting and sewing. After a year of practising my craft in the fashion school, I enrolled as an intern with Mai Atafo and automatically became his menswear designer for a year and a half as agreed. After that experience with Mai Atafo, I decided to establish a Menswear Brand called TELVINNWAFOR for Men who love to dress for statement.

Has it always been a dream for you to become a designer?
Yes, looking at the way I took good care of my clothes when I was young, there was no doubt, this was a dream come true for me.

What inspired the name of your brand?
The Brand name was inspired by the desire to portray something unique, spectacular and unexpected.

Was it difficult making people believe in your brand?
No, it wasn’t, from the onset, I had always had a strong feeling that my designs were quite different, special and unique.

What’s the strongest defining factor that made you decide on becoming a Menswear designer considering you interned with a designer like Mai who does both male and female?
Truth is, I also make female wears. In fact, I started out making ladies wear before I ventured into making menswear. The love and passion that comes with making suits for men is quite different. Men’s wear is so straight to the point, unlike the womenswear, where you really have to be patient, and be very detailed.

Who’s the ideal TelvinNwafor man?
The ideal TELVINNWAFOR man is modern, successful, active individual who dresses as a statement piece.

What do you love the most about the male market you service?
There’s so much to love about the Male market. Gone are those days when men want to put on a dull colour, the new generation men want to look good, smell nice, and dress sharp. They are not afraid to wear any colour, so far it soothes their personality. Men are topping the chart these days when it comes to looking good. For example, look at a celebrity like Ebuka, no matter what he wears, everybody would love it. I think the men’s market has a lot of potential in the fashion industry at the moment.

What’s your creative process like and what do you do when you’re facing a creative block?
Well, I just give myself a break. I either go out of the country or to a place where I can confide in myself alone. Listen to smooth old school Jamz, that could relieve me of the stress, and also bring back my creative thinking.

Who was the first celebrity client that wore your pieces and How did getting that make you feel?
If I could remember vividly, it was Uti Nwachukwu and Helen Paul for a fashion magazine in 2013. That was the peek and it was like everything at the moment was working for my favour.

What would you say is your greatest achievement so far as a designer?
The Greatest achievement as a Bespoke menswear designer is knowing that when a client encounters our brand, they feel very happy, confident, wearing the TELVINNWAFOR brand and also refers us to family, friends and loved ones.
What is that one thing a lot of aspiring fashion designers come into the industry thinking they know that they don’t?
Well a lot of them come to my page, asking for internship and all. They usually think the fashion business is all about glamour until they start and see the amount of time we put into producing a garment, then the reality sets in. I just laugh and move on.

Considering you learnt under the tutelage of a Nigerian designer, how supportive would you say Nigerian designers have been to upcoming designers?
For me, I think we are not doing enough especially fashion schools in Nigeria. They should at least, have a curriculum where they can have internship with a very good designer. This will help him learn more about the industry before establishing his own. These days..everybody wants to be a designer, by all means, everybody wants to be a boss instantly, which is not right at all.

 

What would you say is the most distinctive quality of the TelvinNwafor brand?
The Details that come with the outfit. It stands you out from the rest of the world. We always make it a priority that our clothes have one unique piece even if it’s so small. We go the extra mile, creating an excellent fashion item that sets you apart.

What’s one fashion item you cannot do without as a fashion designer?
Wearing good quality clothes that fit at the right angles and shape.

Who would you call the TelvinNwafor man?
The TELVINNWAFOR Man is Bold, courageous, fashion-forward, charismatic, meticulous, transformational, genuine, charming, optimistic, polite, friendly and aspirational.

With the coronavirus crisis the world is currently facing, how is the fashion industry affected and how is your brand personally affected?
The Coronavirus epidemic did not only affect the Fashion industry, it also affected other industries, government and its agencies. For now, we work from home, so we can satisfy our loyal clients and also our new client…who are dying to have a statement outfit. We pray and hope this crisis ends soon, so we all can go back to the way we use be.

What’s one thing you’ve learnt running a fashion business in Nigeria?
I’ve learnt to be strong, tenacious, focused, passionate and most especially, the fashion industry and everything in it and most especially, to be so patient. The Nigeria fashion industry is a very competitive market, so you need to slow down sometimes know your strengths and weakness and how u would be able to win customers over with your amazing gift.

 

SODIQ ADAMS: Living his dream

Sodiq Adam is the creative director of the premium fashion brand, ROGUE NG which specializes in the designing and production of quality tees, suits, and traditional regalias. A Masters’ degree holder in Business Administration from the University of Lagos, 28-year-old Sodiq turned his skills of graphic designing into a fashion enterprise, creating fashionable pieces from digital designs created.

Let’s talk about your fashion journey, what pushed you into the industry?
My love for creativity. I’ve always been a lover of creative works, right from childhood. I used to hand-make greeting cards with my siblings as a kid and teenager. I also learnt graphics from my brother which pushed me into starting a clothing brand, and that birthed my journey into fashion.

What were the major challenges you faced at the beginning of your fashion career?
Funding and production. Getting finance for business in Nigeria isn’t an easy feat. Production as well, in terms of the right tailors to interpret designs and lack of high-quality fabrics.

How difficult was it for you to make people believe in the Rogue brand and what strategy did you employ to make that easier and possible?

Getting people to believe in a startup brand is a big task. However, at the beginning, I was just focused on creating masterpieces. That’s what has led us here, the drive to create high standard fashion and deliver value to customers.

What’s your creative process like?
I draw inspiration from virtually anything. Everything around us is art. Sometimes, I sketch my designs and source for fabrics to bring it to life, other times, the fabric inspires my design.

What do you do when you’re facing a creative block, how do you get yourself back to that creative space?
I get back on course by reading a book or taking a walk, find inspiration around me or online.

Who was your first celebrity client? How did that happen? And How did getting that make you feel?
That’ll be Skuki. I sent a message on Twitter telling him about my craft. We exchanged contacts and one day, he got in touch with me to create some magic for him. I felt really great because he admired my work.

What would you say is your greatest achievement so far as a designer?
My greatest achievement is the fact that I’m still here, and that I’ve made it this far.

How supportive do you think the Nigerian fashion industry is to growing brands speaking from your personal experience?
Truth is, I can’t point out any program, structure or platform in the industry that caters to growing brands asides the media which has been a great support. Fashion and lifestyle blogs and other creative platforms push a lot of growing brands that have quality content. This has helped a lot of growing brands gain some recognition.

What would you say is the most distinctive quality of the Rogue brand?
Our designs, I believe we have quite a variety of designs, many of which are one of a kind and can’t be remade or copied in exact form.

With the present coronavirus epidemic, how do you think the fashion industry can better promote awareness?
T-shirts are great canvasses for promoting messages. Brands can print T-shirts with information about the virus and ways to avoid contracting it. We can also come together as an industry to create content that can help sensitize our communities about the virus.

What’s one thing you cannot do without as a designer and why?
My phone, it’s what connects me to the vast world of creativity, customers and associates.

Looking back to how you started, are you where you planned on being at this time?
I am grateful to comfortably say yes, this is what I planned it was going to be and I must say, I’m privileged to be living that out.

Going forward, what’s the grand plan for Rogue brand?
We plan to expand our market and also, create more ready-to- wear pieces across our product lines, and also provide platforms for online shopping for our customers.

If you have to do this all over again, what would you do differently?
I would do it even bigger!

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