Fashion is evolving rapidly and it seems that our Nigerian fashion designers are caught unawares. Whether it is here in Nigeria or in the Diaspora, our Nigerian designers are doing what they know how to do best and that is stand out. YADA Magazine caught up with celebrated Nigerian fashion designer, Adebayo Jones for an interview. Read as we follow his journey from ordinary dreamer to a celebrated fashion designer. Enjoy
YADA MAGAZINE: Why did you choose fashion design as a career and what were the other options you had?
Adebayo Jones: Fashion has always been a lifelong passion for me. As far back as I remember my dream has always been to explore, innovate and push the boundaries of new thought and creativity where fashion is concerned. From the conception of an idea to realizing, the end product gives one a buzz and satisfaction that cannot be quantified. Aside fashion I have an equal passion for food and music. Watch this space for the AJ gospel album soon.
YADA MAGAZINE: Was your family in support of your chosen career path then and are they in support now? Did you have to prove anything to them?
ADEBAYO JONES: In many ways, I think I have been very fortunate having had the support of a very loving family. I would not have progressed along on this journey without their support. Fashion was also my mother’s profession so I naturally had support from her as well as the rest of the family. There were times when I would have to ask her about achieving certain cuts. Her skill and knowledge were such a blessing. Father was a little unsure at the beginning, but came round when he saw how determined one was. Pure joy was having both of them sitting front row at one of my shows in Nigeria. My siblings are the best any one could wish for and I could not have been more fortunate
YADA MAGAZINE: How did you get into the business? Was it easy? What were the challenges that you faced?
ADEBAYO JONES: I have worked in the industry for different brands both in the high-end designer ready to wear as well as Haute Couture fashion. One of the companies had a lineup of Hollywood top celebrities on their books from Tina turner, Diana Ross, Shirley Bassey etc. We made garments for these famous names by the day. The experience from both sectors is invaluable. One was able to learn skills by being directly involved in aspects of the design to completion of various collections. My dream was always to be a designer who would be universally acclaimed and accepted based on merits.
I decided to give it a go. I knew it was not going to be an easy task, but nothing prepared me for all one was to experience over time. If I had seen the middle of the journey I probably would not have started so it was just as well that I did not (laughs). Starting out was small. There was always going to be the issue of funding. Some are fortunate to have backers invest millions in them at the start, this was not the case. I began to create my own fabrics. I wanted to be different. It took long person-hours. I made all my collections myself. Cut patterns, stitched and beaded the collections. I brought in all the knowledge, skills, experiences and techniques I had learnt over the years and began to create my own signature brand. The grace for the zeal and passion with which I pursued this dream could only have come from God. A door opened, I got press and more doors opened, and the coverage got bigger. I made contacts and nurtured them. Opportunities came and I ran with the visions. No task was too difficult for this dream. Sacrifices had to be made, on every front to nurture this dream. One would have to work longer hours rather than a nice time out.
YADA MAGAZINE: Why are you based in London? Any particular reason or is it just convenient?
ADEBAYO JONES: I studied fashion in England. My training and work experience was acquired here. My contacts were mainly here. The natural progression was to harness all the resources and contacts and make them work for ones vision and dream. Convenience could be a defining factor here. I could have access to fabrics, manufacturers, and every kind of resource that I needed to realize whatever I was trying to achieve in a garment or collection. The opportunities in England helped to create the access way for the brand. On the home front, I have been blessed. The press has been supportive and wonderful. There have been organizations that have supported us with inclusions into various progammes and campaigns that have continued to take us higher.
YADA MAGAZINE: Where do you get your inspiration?
ADEBAYO JONES: Inspiration comes from God mainly and everything around one. God is the foremost designer. Have a good read where God was giving specific details about the designs and uniforms for the priests. Exodus 28 will give a clearer picture. The attention to minute details is astonishing. The yarns, fabrics, precious stones, embroidery and appliqué methods are all detailed here. Reading through the description of God’s throne room in Revelation 4 almost leaves one speechless.
YADA MAGAZINE: You recently won the award for the best Nigerian fashion designer in Diaspora. What are your plans as regards fashion in Nigeria? What will you love to contribute towards the development of fashion in Nigeria?
ADEBAYO JONES: On the 18th of July 2009, I was given the special recognition award at the Icepade event in London by the N4LIFE Organization. The First ever-Special recognition award for outstanding achievement and contribution to the world of fashion and for promoting the image of Nigeria positively on a global platform.
November 29TH 2009, I was given the award for the best Nigerian designer in Diaspora. That was the crowning glory for the year. The reason why one is blessed is also for one to be a blessing to others. I hope to very soon host a series of seminars in Nigeria and London that will nurture, enhance the skills and confidence of those hoping to explore the creative side of fashion and give the necessary information they need to be competitive in a world that is already saturated. Questions like how can we compete in this saturated market will be answered in the Adebayo Jones fashion Seminar due to take place later in the year.
YADA MAGAZINE: From your perspective, can fashion be used as a tool for development in Nigeria?
ADEBAYO JONES: Fashion is a huge industry. It is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. There are economies that boast a great percentage of their revenue from the fashion industry. I read an article recently in England that stated that apart from the Japanese visitors to the UK who were in the first position, Nigerians was responsible for the second highest revenue documented for fashion in the UK.
Egypt is noted for her cotton as well as manufacturing. Egyptian cotton is easily the most covetable worldwide and does not come cheap either when purchasing fashion products made from it. It is highly esteemed and valued. Tunisia, Morocco etc are major manufacturing ports in North Africa. Morocco for leather goods, which are mainly exported to Europe and boast a base of factories for shirts, jeans and other fashion sepates that produced for major international brands worldwide. Why are they able to achieve this in a very highly competitive market force worldwide?
Considering how much fashion is a huge and integral part of Nigerian life, the right support, infrastructure set up, and a conducive atmosphere for factories to be able to operate with minimal obstructions, would not only create employment for thousands, should international brand begin looking in at such manufacturing bases and to take advantage of a massive workforce. It would also attract many investors both local and foreign. If we look in and put in the right infrastructure, it would be amazing opportunity for growth and investment as revenue can be realized in this industry
YADA MAGAZINE: Where do you see fashion in Nigeria by 2020?
ADEBAYO JONES: I see Nigeria being a force to be reckoned with where fashion is a topic. The Nigeria Fashion Awards for example also produces the Nigerian fashion show, which takes models and designers abroad for catwalk events, and has forged international alliances with the world fashion council for example. Designers and models get more exposure from events and major shows. Nigeria also gets to sit on the board and have a say. There are many other liaisons that are been forged by other organizations in Nigeria with various world fashion bodies as well. There is a great potential to growth and if the resources are put in place to nurture and develop this industry that has a huge potential for being so resourceful, the sky could not even be considered the limits.
YADA MAGAZINE: Some young people think that the fashion industry is all about being trendy and knowing what’s in vogue but from my understanding, fashion is more than that. As a professional in the field, could you please explain to our readers what being in the fashion industry is all about?
ADEBAYO JONES: The fashion industry may be about trends, Vogue and style but that is not what it should be about. One may follow fashion and trends but it should not be blindly. There are looks and designs that may not flatter or suit one’s body shape though it may be in vogue. However, one should overtime experiment, explore and discover your own style. Everyone is unique to himself or herself. It is finding out what suits you, the colors, and shapes, the accessories that make you special and stand out in the crowd. The key however is discovering all these and been able to carry of the look comfortably and effortlessly that you individuality begins to evolve and before long you have set the pace and created your own iconic style of fashion unique to you alone.
Great style is not about how an expensive product of is. What matters is if the objective of the desired look is working and you can confidently carry it off. Create your own style, work out what suits the best. Not advisable just to follow fashion blindly, adopt ideas that are in season or vogue but at the same time a singular idea might be more suitable to your needs than the whole of a look.
Remember also a look may not necessarily be useable outside of the catwalk stage. Some of the looks we present are merely what we call showstoppers, which is a design, or a look that is designed to inspire, or in some cases merely to create attention on the media world stage. Choose nice lovely and possibly classic accessories that are timeless, chic and elegant.
YADA MAGAZINE: Time for the YADA question. What do we NEED TO KNOW about fashion? What we mean here is can you share things that the average guy or girl will not know about fashion?
ADEBAYO JONES: It is an amazing industry. It allows you live your dream. It has the glitz and glam factor about it. Should you choose to go into the industry, ask yourself repeatedly why you want to do it?
Most of all let your reason be about the passion. The passion will sustain you through the highs and the lows. It will give you a reason to keep doing it until you succeed at it.
If you do go into the industry, however have a balance. Fashion has its excesses as well and be strong enough to say no to things that may be injurious to your health. I would rather be un-cool at a party than end in rehab later for one form of addiction or the other. Be yourself, eventually those who considered you un-cool then will in turn respect you.
YADA MAGAZINE: Where do you see yourself in twenty years?
ADEBAYO JONES: I would hope by the grace of God Almighty that Adebayo Jones would in twenty years be a world -wide brand, a household name, universally sought after and desired for good quality products on every front with diversifications into other major areas of investors that I am not able to talk about right now.
I would hope that the Adebayo Jones Foundation would have been fully operational then making a difference in the lives of children worldwide. Use my assets to bless others who are less fortunate.
YADA MAGAZINE: It seems that God rules everything around you. Can you talk to us about your relationship with God? What you have learnt so far from walking with Him?
ADEBAYO JONES: In God alone, I find strength and the resilience to take on the challenges of life. In him is perfect peace. In him is perfect love that surpasses all understanding. He is the giver of beautiful gifts; he has given me so much. When I walk through the valley in the dark hours he is there, he walks with me. Just as he promised, he would never leave me nor forsake me. He keeps his word.
Look at the Lord and see what he has done. All I have achieved I could never have done without him by my side. Thank you Lord for all you have done, where I am, where I am going, for I know that just because you are with me, all things are settled.
YADA MAGAZINE: Can you give a final word to YADA readers?
ADEBAYO JONES: Thanking all YADA readers for the opportunity to share my experiences with you all. I wish you all a wonderful, fulfilled and blessed 2010. May God inspire and enable each person to walk in the fullness and purpose of his or her destiny. In addition, if anyone is just afraid of starting on any dream that or vision, just start from somewhere, trusting God and he is willing and able. That is why he is God.