by Yemi Olowu
23 year old Ayo Agunbiade is the creative director of Naledi’s Clothing, who first showcased her collection at the YNaija #Hashtag party in July. The graduate of Banking and Finance from Covenant University, Otta, who is also a lover of God, fashion, good food and thriller novels lets us into the world of Naledi’s Clothing.
” What matters most to me as a designer is making my clients happy and satisfied. It’s not just about financial rewards. I ask myself – is my client happy with the outfit I designed? Is he/she satisfied? If the answer is yes, then I feel fulfilled as a designer.”
What is the origin of Naledi?
Naledi means Star and it has its origin from Africa. We are Africans. We are stars. A lot of us look at outfits made from African fabrics and we do not see the cultural importance. There is a lot of history attached to each of these fabrics, be it Kente, Aso-oke, Adire or Ankara.
What was the first piece you ever designed?
The first outfit I ever designed was an ankara dress with frills. I still have a picture of that outfit. I design a lot and I would always sketch at the back of my notes. Everywhere I went, I had my sketchpad and pencil. My classmates ended up giving me a nickname (la fashionista). So whenever there was a school dinner, I would design dresses for my friends.
What are the fabrics you like working with?
Naledi’s Clothing is all about making trendy, elegant clothes from African fabrics. I especially like working with ankara. Over the past few years, this local fabric has been undergoing a dramatic revival, with more and more people returning to their traditional roots and choosing Ankara fabric over the other choices available to them. And this fabric is also available in amazing patterns and colours too!
Which international designer would you like to work with?
I’d like to work with ReneeQ. She’s a Ghanian designer whose love for African fabrics – especially ankara – is evident in her unique pieces. Ituen Basi is also one of my favorites. She recently moved back to Nigeria. A veteran designer with over two decades of fashion experience, she has set herself apart through her innovative and fresh techinques of blending different ankara fabrics.
How long have you worked as a designer?
For about 3 years now.
What matters to you most as a designer?
What matters most to me as a designer is making my clients happy and satisfied. It’s not just about financial rewards. I ask myself – is my client happy with the outfit I designed? Is he/she satisfied? If the answer is yes, then I feel fulfilled as a designer.
What inspires your designs?
Everything around me inspires me. It could be an object or a shape or the pattern of something. I am always open-minded. One can always fashion a design out of something you ordinarily wouldn’t spare a second glance at.
What are the problems you face as a designer?
Production problems mostly, and also getting good tailors to interpret designs perfectly.
How do you rate the Nigerian fashion industry?
I’d say more and more talented designers are springing forth everyday. This is a good sign and this shows that the industry is growing and getting better.
How do you think the government can support fashion designers?
By putting together fashion shows and encouraging young designers to participate. We have to start from somewhere and we can certainly use all the support and publicity that these shows stand to offer.
If you were not a designer what would you have been?
If I wasn’t a designer, I’d be a banker!
What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
Try to improve on what you have and get better at what you do. There are a lot of players in this field. Carve a niche for yourself and set yourself apart.
Where do you see your label in the next ten years?
In the next ten years, I see NC in fashion cities across the world and on the runways of major fashion shows.