Ade Bakare is a Nigerian-British fashion designer and creative director of Ade Bakare Couture. Bakare is one person that has made a significant contribution to the Nigerian fashion industry. His designs have won several awards. Aside his ready to wear designs, he also has a fashion school where he grooms fashion enthusiasts. In an interview with Ifeoma Okeke, he speaks of his coming exhibition.
Why did you decide to go into fashion, especially knowing this is an area majorly dominated by women?
Fashion is a business, not a hobby; it is also a profession, which can be studied to university level abroad. Fashion design was awarded degree status in the 1960s in England. I don’t think fashion is the exclusive preserve of any gender, indeed, most fashion designers are male. Creativity is innate, from an early childhood I was convinced I wanted to be a designer and was fortunate I had parents who encouraged me along the way
What will you be focusing on in your coming exhibition and why are you having the exhibition?
The exhibition is a retrospective of my work over 25 years.It’s not the first time am staging the exhibition, it was done when I celebrated 15years and 20 years consecutively.I feel it is very important to inspire others especially the younger generation, and for them to see how your creativity can lead to a successful profession and life. In Africa, we tend to focus more on careers such as lawyers, doctors, engineers amongst others. But the modern world has shown how people in the creative industry such as music, food, interior design etc have established companies worldwide. The idea of the exhibition is to identify, stimulate and encourage creativity in people regardless of fashion
How many people will you be expecting at the exhibition and what will be the take way for aspiring fashion designers in Nigeria?
The exhibition is open to the public from Sunday 11th to 16th of November 2018 from 10 am to 8 pm at Terra Kulture on Tamiyu savage in Victoria Island, Lagos. We are bringing in students from local schools to attend, I feel usually these are the children who do not get the opportunity to travel far and see lots of exhibitions. Two schools a day with 50 students per school are targeted both from the island and mainland axis in Lagos state
Who are your target markets in your business?
My target markets are those who love great design and appreciate quality. We are a design brand for women and men, high-end luxury which the couture brand caters too, with branches in Lagos and Abuja, we still maintain our base in London in the West end.We recently launched a ready to wear line at our Nigerian boutiques.Clients can pop into the shops and pick up an outfit in most sizes from United Kingdom size eight to size 24. For men also there is a line of small, medium mad large sizes.
How long have you been into dressmaking and what has the experience been like?
We started in 1991, so the business is over 25 years. We started with a ready to wear line in the UK that sold to shops and department stores across the UK.We then set up a couture line, and bridal line, a perfume called Breeze was introduced in 1998, with a new one launched last year called Ade Bakare signature. We open the fashion design academy also last year. Currently, we are putting together a proposal to now get investors to expand in Africa and Europe. It’s been a tough journey but also very rewarding
In your years of designing, what prominent personalities happen to be your customers and how have you sustained them?
We are often asked in Nigeria who our clients are but I say all our clients are important to us and some prefer to remain anonymous which we respect but we have been fortunate to have first ladies, senators, ministers, professionals and business people. It is important as a designer to give your clients good customer service and show them new designs constantly. This we achieve by making personal calls and holding shows for our private customers in Nigeria, through our annual show in December at the Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos.
What are your unique selling prepositions that set you apart from other designers?
I believe over the years we have been able to create our signature look, which people recognize, classical beautifully made clothes with a touch of modernity. Now we embrace our African heritage, with the development of our designs in silk Adire which we started years ago. It has a luxury look and finishes.
How many people have you trained in your fashion school?
The Ade Bakare design academy started last year and we have trained about 20 upcoming designers. The next session starts the first week in January. I feel it’s very important people who want to venture into the fashion design business have a firm understanding of the industry. We concentrate on fashion designing, creating new ideas, pattern cutting which is key and sewing. We have designers who are in the business who still come for courses to update their knowledge.
What is your advice to aspiring fashion designers?
My advice is that they should first study or practice with another fashion house, then they will be able to learn more before you set out. There are a lot of fashion design weeks springing up in Nigeria and the designers who show have little understanding of the industry, rather focus should be given to make sure they are able to harness the publicity they gain from the awareness of these shows. Fashion is a business and it’s all about profit and loss, not just showing glamorous clothes.
What does it take to be a great fashion designer?
It takes creativity combined with a good business acumen, which can only be gained through years of hard work, so the keyword is tenacity!
What areas do you think fashion designers need support from the government to thrive?
The government can best aid fashion students through more fashion design schools all over the country that are well equipped. In the UK, there is over 500 fashion design government school. The federal universities should also by now be offering fashion design as a four-year degree as is obtainable abroad. Grants and loans such as those offered by the bank of industry (BOI) are positive aspects but the qualifying terms have to be reduced to enable more people to benefit from the programme
What are the greatest challenges of fashion designers in Nigeria?
Some of the greatest challenges I feel is having a sound business module. Fashion designers are very creative by nature and less inclined to understand or appreciate the business aspects of running a business. They must simply partner with a friend who has good business acumen or employ an accountant. Calvin Klein the American fashion designer said it best that for a designer to be successful in the 21st century, they must be able to design and understand business.