King Hakbal: Styling Royalties
Hakeem Adeyinka Balogun, the Creative Director and CEO of King Hakbal International; an established fashion brand is leaving no stone unturned in making a huge impact with his designs, home and abroad.
King Hakbal’s bespoke wears speak volume of sartorial elegance, royalty, confidence and culture.
In this interview, the Mathematics graduate of The University of Lagos (UNILAG), says he hopes to, one day, style Former President Barack Obama and international music star Sean Combs (P. Diddy).
He also sheds more light on the problems of the Nigerian fashion industry and the way forward.
What inspired the King Hakbal brand?
I would say royalty, passion, and the eventual joy of wanting to make every man look Royal. I would also say that, my fashion sense is a natural God-given talent that I absolutely had to share with the world. Not sharing it would have been a sin against humanity in my opinion. I have always loved fashion, even, as a kid, but I would say my very fashionable parents were a great influence, especially my mother. She had always dressed my siblings and me with a very high sense of style, and so, I grew up with that standard. What particularly prompted my interest into making others look good was my sincere desire to see everyone looking classy and special. I, sometime, wished I had special powers, because I would have made every single human look lovely every single day. For me, fashion is life and fashion brings out the true beauty in all. These are the major reasons that inspired the King Hakbal Royal Bespoke brand.
When you were starting out, what gave you the confidence that fashion designing is a profitable venture that could put bread on the table?
To be honest, when I started, I never thought of the financial side of fashion. My main focus was just to make my clients truly happy and basically to deliver a very satisfying value for money service. I will say truly that, all that I have achieved so far is from sheer dint of hard work, perseverance and God’s divine grace. We all never know in the beginning that whatever we set out to do will be a profitable one, or will guarantee bread on the table. But if you are one that never likes to fail, that fear of failure will always keep you driven that, you will always want to do more. So, in a nutshell, I will say that it’s the fear of failure and pure passion that gave me and is still giving me, the confidence that with God by side, He will always provide the next bread on my blessed table.
To God be all the Glory and praise.
What were the initial challenges you encountered and how did you scale the hurdles?
I used to have power problems (Electricity) when I started in 2003. We all know how bad our power situation is but by the grace of God, I saved up for a very good diesel generator; one that can conveniently power all the machines in my factory. That was a very huge achievement for me that year. I look back now and all I can say is ‘Alhamdulilah Robeel Alameen’. It is really not easy for a young Nigerian entrepreneur that has a very big dream ahead of him or her. I also didn’t get the type of support that I expected to get from family and friends, but God put total strangers in my path and my story changed. These blessed people saw how hard working and passionate I was and kept referring me to other clients until the world knew my name. Social media has also been an amazing platform to show my pieces to the world; I am so thankful for that.
Having come this far what lessons have you learnt about fashion designing that can benefit those coming into the profession?
Always deliver a good job. Listen to your client’s instructions to the letter z. Even if you forget, don’t be too shy to put a call through to ask further questions because at the end of the day, that smile on your client’s face when he or she receives or fits into the outfit is what will guarantee a smooth transaction, and eventually bring more clients to you. I have also learnt that a very good customer service is important. Right from the way you speak to your clients over the phone, to the way you welcome them whenever they are around you will say a lot and help a whole lot in pushing you and your fashion brand forward. Always note that one client is like a million because you never know who is who.
Another interesting thing that I have learnt is that as a fashion designer, you must always look the part because there is this wise saying that goes – “Whoever says that he wants to style us, we will be wise enough to see what this so called person has on their own back first.” This will tell us if he truly knows his onions or not. Furthermore, I have also learnt that humility is key. Choose your words very carefully whenever you are around your clients. Being in your presence is an experience for them and it’s up to you to make sure that it’s a fun one that they won’t forget in a rush. This will ensure that you are always in their minds and on their lips whenever they speak about a fashion designer brand.
What has been your best and worst moment so far as a fashion designer?
I have only had best moments because I love what I do. To name one of the many best moments will be taking a bow after the release of my collections on the runway on major platforms. Fashion is life so that makes everyday a chance to make another stunning fashion statement. I always say that the world is my runway and everyone around are my audience. I simply love what I do. I truly can’t see myself doing anything else. God bless the Nigerian fashion industry (Amen).
What motivated you to go to UK and New York?
What motivated me to travel abroad was because of my clients in those parts of the world and also to broaden my horizon. I wanted to know and learn more about fashion. I also needed a refreshing inspiration that could bring out an outstanding creative side to my mind. The world is like a book. If we don’t travel the world and stay in just one country, it’s almost like reading just one page in an amazing and adventurous book. I also wanted to see the things that I used to watch on television as a kid in reality. Growing up and till date, I am only drawn to American movies. They actually make me feel like I am partly American deep down. So, travelling to these parts of the world was just out of curiosity and adventure.
You are trying to broaden your market to UK, what is unique about the Nigerian fashion industry?
What is unique about the Nigerian fashion industry is the Nigerian sense of style and confidence that we Nigerians carry so effortlessly. I, also, particularly love how we Nigerians tend to stand taller and adjust our carriage whenever we are in any of our ethnic or traditional attires. One can immediately see a boost in our self-confidence; watching that transformation is simply priceless to me. This makes me want to share this truly regal Nigerian attires and regalia with the whole world.
How affordable are your designs and who are your target clients?
My pieces are very affordable for what I deliver. My target clients are men that see themselves as Kings at heart; men that do not see themselves as ordinary, men with a very simple yet outspoken sense of style. Men with class!
Kindly share with us some of the fashion shows you have participated in and which was your best and why?
The African Fashion Week and the ECOWAS Fashion Week; I particularly loved the African Fashion Week more because it carried so much power and the coordination. The turn-out was huge. I had the sound track from the classic movie – Coming to America – And my models dressed in stunning tuxedo, very sharp 3- piece business suits and some Dansiki and Agbada made out of Aso Oke. The screams and applause were extremely overwhelming for me. There is nothing like reaping the fruits of one’s labour.
Who is the perfect King Hakbal Lion Man?
The perfect King Hakbal Lion Man is one that is fearless in the pursuit of what sets his soul on fire. A King Hakbal Lion Man is also one that sees himself as a King at heart; a driven- man who puts his money where his mouth is. He is also a stand-up man that exudes so much confidence. A King!
Who do you dream to style as a fashion designer and why?
Barack Obama, Sean Diddy Combs. I mentioned these two great men because Barack Obama is my role model. In fact, he is a girl’s dad just like me. He is also very stylish and he has so much swag. Secondly, I mentioned Sean Diddy Combs because he was my fashion idol growing up. He always loved to look sharp at every single chance given to him. He also inspires a whole generation.
How friendly is the Nigerian economy to fashion entrepreneurs?
It is extremely friendly because we Nigerians are so fashion forward. It’s very inspiring. We also have lots of fashion-loving Nigerians in the Diaspora who see the good works that we fashion designers are doing on social media. They have been so supportive financially. Thank God for social media, especially Instagram. Instagram has helped every entrepreneur show their creativity to the world in a very easy, yet professional platform.
What projection do you have for your brand in the next 5 years?
To be the Royal and Premium Men’s wear brand all over Africa and the world at large. To have stores in major cities all around the world, and to continue to have the high and mighty in the society wear King Hakbal.
How do you relax and have time for family?I pray, drink lots of water and go to a private beach house with my family. I also love having conversations with my wife and daughters about almost everything. That really relaxes me as they are the love of my life.