A bon mot said, “the way you dress is the way you are addressed”. This unveils the truth about most human societies and groups, especially among the high class. More often than not, people tend to relate with others based on physical looks or appearance. Some consider it to be rational while others think it is akin to “judging a book by its cover”.
Nonetheless, whichever side of the debate you support, the fact remains that the condition or style of one’s clothing, hair, or behavior matters a lot. This makes fashion a very important and irreplaceable part of social interaction.
Over the centuries, African fashion has evolved to include many peculiar decorations. Local industry experts are further paving the way by combining different African traditional hairstyles and dresses. This effort has not gone unnoticed. If anything, it has drawn the attention of developed countries to Africa. The United States Consul General bolstered this point when she congratulated 20 Nigerian Fashion Designers for outstanding performances.
The International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP)
United States Consul General, Claire Pierangelo, led a virtual exchange program between Nigeria and the U.S. The three-week-long event was held in Lagos, Nigeria from Aug. 9 to Aug. 28, 2021. The program provided an opportunity for some of the country’s fashion designers to connect with fellow designers in the U.S. With this in mind, it was tagged “Promoting Economic Growth and Trade in The Fashion Industry”.
The fashion collaboration between U.S. and Nigeria is an initiative of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). According to Pierangelo, “the goal of the IVLP is to provide firsthand knowledge about U.S. society, culture, and politics while cultivating lasting professional relationships”.
Speaking further, Pierangelo described the exchange program as a “strategic economic outreach to Nigeria’s creative industries to further strengthen economic ties through culture and fashion”. She also noted that both countries, “have witnessed growing cultural ties” in recent times.
Even though it was a fashion event, Nigerians from all spheres of life graced the occasion. Notable personalities at the program reception include Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, former Access Bank Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, local fashion designer, Shade Thomas-Fahm among others.
Some of the Nigerian Fashion Designers Recognized at the Event
The virtual exchange program offered training, an exhibition of designs and accessories, and finally, a wonderful reception. Meet some of the fashion designers featured at the event.
#1. Gabby Ibeabuchi
Gabby Ibeabuchi is one of the designers recognized at the Claire Pierangelo-led event. The reputable businessman owns a fashion brand known as Twelve 06 Clothing. Ibeabuchi explained that the training he received at the program “was a great experience”. Furthermore, he said, “I had wanted to go global, share my talent and creativity to the world. IVLP made my desire a reality”.
Asides from his recognition at the virtual exchange program, Ibeabuchi has been an ECOWAS best male model. He is also one of the best male models in Africa.
#2. Tolulope Olayiwola
Tolulope Olayiwola is the Creative Director of Aayanfe Creations. Being a promoter of African fashion, she also took part in the virtual exchange program. Olayiwola praised the event saying that it improved her life by giving her the chance to learn from industry experts.
#3. Peter Emealih
Another participant at the U.S.-Nigeria fashion collaboration was Peter Emealih. Emealih owns Rockdart. He also doubles as a YouTuber where he teaches people for free. Other than teaching, he uses his online channel to promote African fashion using printed fabrics. Expressing his appreciation for the program he said,
“My takeaway was that I was exposed to other people and what they were doing. This broadened my horizon and knowledge and having access to the American market is awesome. On the economy side, we went to AGOA where they helped us to know the value of what we are doing as our wears can be readily available for export which in turn will increase the GDP.”
#4. Veronica Obende
Another recognized participant at the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) was Veronica Obende. The fashion designer who owns Ronid Ventures brand described the collaboration program as “awesome and insightful”.
#5. Mobolaji Jaaji
Mobolaji Jaaji is the Creative Director of Olam Creations. She also participated in the U.S.-Nigeria fashion program. Jaaji noted that the event added a lot of knowledge to the beneficiaries.
#6. Shalewa Ajila
Sahlewa Ajila also made it to the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). According to her, the entire event provided a robust understanding of the “funding opportunities available to Nigerians in the industry”.
#7. Bolupe Adebiyi
Bolupe Adebiyi is the founder of Cotton Loops and a versatile business person. The Nigerian designer joined her colleagues for the three-week fashion program. Speaking at the end of the program, Adebiyi expressed that it supports her dream of standing out. According to her,
“The training, the strategy on how to market, and leveraging on the opportunity was superb. I use locally made materials such as hemp fabrics, batik, cotton mostly organic, tie and dye, and recently recycled denim for my designs. My goal is to be number one and this program has shown me that it is possible.”
#8. Abiola Adeola
Abiola Adeola is the owner of Treasure Stitches. Speaking about the program, she said that, “the experience was good. We were exposed to the business side of fashion on how we can showcase and market our products to the international community”.
The designer is working through her brand to improve the indigenous fabric known as aso-oke. Aso-oke, according to her, is worn mostly for burial or wedding occasions but by mixing it with Ankara, she makes it everyday wear.
Going by the testimonies of participants, the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) was beyond colorful. The impact of the event will see Nigerian fashion designers develop their businesses. Also, it presents a significant connection to international markets and the promotion of national wealth. Subsequently, the beneficiaries of the virtual exchange program are in a better position to coach up-and-coming designers.