*Omoyemi Akerele is a YNaija Person of the Year 2012 finalist
by Tolu Orekoya
It came out of nowhere in the March of 2010; a breath of fresh air that swept Nigeria off its feet, and ironically, ensuring that Nigerian and African fashion had firm footing on the Internet.
The website’s name was Style House Files, and it began as a platform that chronicled Nigerian and African fashion scene—established designers and their labels, fashion shows and events, new trends on the red carpet—and the business of fashion throughout the continent.
[Read ‘YNaija Editorial: Aliko Dangote is YNaija Person of the Year 2012… Let’s tell you why‘ HERE]
Its philosophy was that the viewpoint of African beauty and fashion deserved its own home, and its address was www.stylehousefiles.com. The website was a roaring success beyond its web-hosting space and has expanded well beyond its original scope, thanks to the keen sense of vision of Omoyemi Akerele, the creative and managing director of the company.
Former editor with women’s magazine True Love West Africa and a visionary with a styling and imaging company as far back as 2007, Akerele has now become one of the key arbiters between Nigeria and its interface with the international world of couture.
As more Africans move into the middle class and crave the accessories and clothes that come with their newly minted economic power, the market for quality and high-end luxury items has grown in leaps and bounds and the opportunity for African labels is immense. “We all know that Nigeria was all about oil and natural resources for a long time,” she said at the IHT Luxury Conference held in Rome in 2012. “Now we have telecoms, banking, marketing, retail and tourism. As a result, more jobs have been created, consumer spending has increased and there is more disposable income.”
Filling this need has become her life’s passion, and Akerele is determined to put Nigeria at the fore of African couture, and has not only has pushed for homegrown fashion to be recognised and celebrated outside of our shores, but has also realised that the future of designers based both at home and abroad lie not only in beautiful creations but in the viability of building a business that could ensure success and a future.
One of the key steps she has taken to assist designers in bridging fashion and financial success has been to establish Lagos Fashion and Design Week (LFDW), which began 2011. Held in the “fall” of the fashion season, the forum brings together fashion designers, buyers, consumers, media and industry experts to showcase the best collections from the country’s hottest designers. Part of LFDW mission is to recognise budding local designers, creative entrepreneurs and models and present opportunities for further career development.
Akerele played an instrumental role in the push for the recognition of African designers on the international scene in 2012, even as recognition for the talent at home flourishes. LFDW recently participated in Milan Fashion Week, assisting in showcasing African designers in an Exhibition titled ‘Rhythms of Africa’ hosted by Pitti Immagine.
Akerele’s path to the world of fashion actually began in the world of law. She graduated from the University of Lagos with a Bachelor of Laws, attended University of Warwick, UK, where she obtained a Masters in International Economic Law, before joining and rising to the position of associate in the prestigious Olaniwun Ajayi & Co. law firm. She segued out of the legal profession and into the image consulting for a few years before striking out on her own to start Style House Files.
2012 has been another banner year for the Akerele and Style House Files. In December 2012, they announced Ndani, a Nigerian fashion pop-up store that ran from December 1, 2012 to January 2013. A partnership between Style House Files, GTBank, and high end British department store Selfridges, Ndani brought the best of Nigerian fashion to the high street of London, UK. The temporary store featured a selection from collectios of high-profile Nigerian designers Lisa Folawiyo, Lanre da Silva Ajayi, Eki Orleans Odio Mimonet and Tiffany Amber. It also showcased upcoming young designers Agu Anumudu (Agu) and Jennifer Adighije (House of Silk).
In an industry where it can be difficult enough to drive one’s one vision, the fact that Akerele has emerged to be the biggest supporter for her own industry, beyond her business or her own brands is beyond inspiring. And when we begin to hear of Nigerian fashion as a global reference point, following in the footsteps of Nollywood and Nigerian music, know that its because Akerele took the giant step.