Mai Atafo, Idia Aisien Upbeat About Design Fashion Africa


Vanessa Obioha

Renowned fashion designer Mai Atafo was among the fashion enthusiasts and celebrities who gathered at the ritzy Sky Restaurant at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos recently to witness the new wave of change coming to the fashion industry.

It was the launch of a new fashion initiative, Design Fashion Africa (DFA), that will arguably put the African runway on the spotlight.

Conceived by Felix King, the helmsman at Oracle Experience Agency and in partnership with Jakaranda Productions, ably represented by Yemi Amusan, DFA presents a unique opportunity to empower existing and upcoming designers to commercialise their talents.

Like music, many youths are exploring fashion designing but there are very few platforms available to showcase their talents. The organisers apparently wants to fill this gap through this initiative. According to King, he was inspired to embark on this journey by his mother who was once the only seamstress in his village. But her determination to train others has increased the number of tailors in the area.

“It was the insight from that experience that inspired us to do something in this industry. Today we have a lot of talented young people doing amazing things. But the difference between then and now is opportunity. We want to provide that opportunity for these very young talented people who have so much passion for fashion to create beautiful designs for themselves and the people as well. The idea is to discover, inspire and empower these young individuals across the continent.”

The initiative involves different stages which include an online fashion challenge, a fashion training academy and a runway fashion show where finalists will be exhibiting their work to the public. There are also plans for a marketplace where fashion lovers can pick up accessories and outfits.

Mai who has been tapped to be the resource person for this project is particularly upbeat. He delightfully told the audience that he is looking forward to grooming aspiring fashion designers on the business of fashion.

“I’m very excited about DFA. This platform complements every other existing platform in the country. In as much as the target is designers that have not had the chance to shine but are already shining, this platform is to make them shine brighter.

“More than anything, there is a whole market where there is commercialisation. I’m very keen on people being able to monetise their fashion. It’s nice for the brand to be known but how do you make money from that? There will be a fashion conference where all of these will be discussed. Again, this will put Africa in one space,” he said.

This piece of news was welcomed greatly by the fashion buffs at the gathering hosted by media personality Valerie Ike.

Mai will be joined by model and media personality Idia Aisien, who will serve as a spokesperson, and other celebrities and style experts like Kelechi Amadi-Obi, especially for the fashion academy which will run for about a day before the finalist designers who would present on the runway get selected.

King revealed that the initiative is not limited to Lagos but to every part of the country. The overall winner of the challenge will be rewarded with N1m cash prize and an opportunity to travel to other African countries to get an insight in the fashion business there.

The boot camp is expected to open on October 3, while applications for the online fashion challenge are expected to begin fully in the coming days and run until the end of the month, after which finalists for the fashion academy will be announced.