By Anita Eboigbe
Abuja – From traditional attire to modernised African-inspired dashikis and dresses, the various print designs and range of colours of Nigerian and African textiles have an influence on the fashion industry, says Dennis Osadede, ace fashion designer.
Osadebe, is arguably the first Nigerian to own a fashion brand, `D and D Clothing’ in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) while his brand is the predominant means through which Africans and non-Africans in UAE can access Nigerian fashion pieces.
Osadebe speaks further in this interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Below are extracts:
As a Nigerian designer, how would you describe the influence of Nigerian fashion in global fashion?
Going back to history, African print textiles, which were actually
inspired by batik or wax-resist cloth from Indonesia, have been used to
dress the people of Central and West Africa from the 1800s to present
day. From traditional attire to modernised African-inspired dashikis and
dresses, the various print designs and range of colours of African
textiles have had influence on the fashion industry.
It is amazing to watch this influence as the world seems to have suddenly realised the beauty of African fashion. It is now a strong part of global pop culture and provides more opportunities for African designers to shine internationally.
Why did you decide to pursue fashion and design?
The fashion industry had always been my passion. I love fashion and that is the main reason, among many businesses, I chose D and D Clothing. After a successful outing in Europe and US, D and D Clothing became popular and recognised all over the world. I then decided to set up my own show rooms across the world and that was how we opened the Dubai office.
What led you to launch in Dubai?
Dubai is the most suitable place for luxury tailoring services. I recognised the potentials of introducing African fashion to the world and now here we are. I chose to create an African fashion brand in United Arab Emirates because no one had done it before. I wanted to use the opportunity to reach my brothers and sisters in the world. Remember that Dubai is a tourism hub for business.
D and D clothing showcase at a recent fashion show (Source:IG)
Your brand is big on African pieces, how much thought and consciousness would you say are put into this?
Africans are bold especially Nigerians and I love to represent the homeland in every piece I make; however, it takes a lot of thinking and creative digging to make a master-piece. I simply tell myself that nothing good comes easy. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand and determination that whether one wins or loses the best strategy has to be applied on the task at hand. So, I put 100 per cent of my time in designing the business and because I see the future in this, I want people around the world to know about African fashion.
How are African prints received in Dubai which is the world’s biggest emerging fashion market?
The reception has been amazing and seeing taste we are pioneering it, I can say that D and D is more than a clothing line. It is a movement that gives each person the opportunity to express oneself. My clients in Dubai were very bored of the regular before we launched it; that is why they feel so special wearing custom-made clothes with creative African touch. Working in Dubai and in the international fashion market, I quickly realised the need to translate our fashion language to the worldwide market to show Nigerian inspired print fabrics, colors combination and modern fashion trends. Dubai is only the beginning, you will hear about us in Milan, London, New York this year.
How would you describe the growth of African fashion globally?
African fashion is growing and I can say it’s ready for the world. You can see an African touch in recent collections of Gucci or Louis Vuitton. Just look at all these impressionable fashion houses and you will see that African elements such as prints are present. Yearly, more and more international runway shows are happening in on the continent and African designers are becoming world famous number one on the chart. In fact, their businesses are shining outside Africa and I feel proud that African fashion has such big influence on world’s fashion trends.
What are the factors responsible for this growth?
First, African fashion is beautiful. You cannot take this away. Secondly, the thought and process that is put into it makes it a project close to the heart. A lot of people want to connect with something esoteric and African fashion has so much soul in it.
Also, the industrial and cultural revolution from Africa is positively affecting the fashion industry. With competitive labour costs, Africa has the potential to claim a much greater share of the world’s apparel and textile manufacturing output but to achieve this, significant international investment is needed to build the industrial infrastructure required to compete with the likes of Asia. Now, we can see that South African fashion is growing and heavily influenced by Nigeria. Kenya is catching up fast too. Already, I can see the massive growth of African industries in the nearest future.
What new projects are you embarking on this season?
As I already mentioned, 2019 is a new era for us. The team and I are so excited to implement all our plans and to showcase our creativity to the world. We want the world to hear us and we are working to put together our own fashion shows and houses. After Dubai, Kenya is our next stop and all the necessary documentation for our new office in Kenya has been done. I am very keen on the importance of making African fashion more visible in the international fashion market. I will always support and develop my native fashion culture and I can assure you that the new season for D and D will be all shades awesome.
D and D clothing showcase at a recent fashion show (Source: IG)
What challenges have you faced as an African designer in the international market and how are you combating them?
I love challenges and was ready to start from the beginning in a new country although I knew it was going to be hard. When we started, nobody knew our brand. But you have to keep pushing business to each African person; now we are proud of our growth. At least, 50 African customers visit our showroom regularly and the numbers keep growing. We also have Europeans and Arabs who love our products and are intrigued by the beauty of African fashion. We have the same uniqueness on our newly launched online store. We are so proud to be shipping our clothes all around the world. Even the last custom-made wedding dress was shipped to Australia. Our brand has grown in terms of scale, working now all over the world with agents and distributors and we are trying to grow with the addition of new categories like accessories for instance. In all these, I have learned over time that it is really important to stay true to our values and keep the same hand writing in every business.
What are the lessons for the Nigerian fashion industry?
Africa is home to seven of the fastest growing economies in the world and about 70 per cent of the continent’s populations live in countries that have experienced average growth in excess of four percent over the past decade. Although the statistics are interesting, the African fashion industry currently contributes only a small fraction. So, to grow to the international level, Nigerian fashion designers should bring their styles abroad and actively search for international representatives to tell the African story. We should always dream big and work hard to make our plans real. That is the only way to make your brand popular and successful.