US Consulate Honours 20 Nigerian Fashion Designers
The United States Consul-General, Claire Pierangelo, played the perfect host when the Public Affairs Section of the Consulate General in Lagos organised a reception in honour of 20 emerging and mid-career Nigerian fashion designers who recently participated in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP). Funke Olaode captures the exciting moment
The atmosphere inside the expansive compound of the United States Consul-General’s residence situated in the highbrow area of Ikoyi, Lagos on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, was colourful and relaxing. From the colourful display by the 20 emerging and mid-career fashion designers, who participated in the International Visitors Leadership Programme, organised by the Consulate, it was evident that the evening was not an ordinary one. It was one marked with outstanding creativity and awards of excellence.
After intense three-week training, the participants were hosted to a beautiful reception by Pierangelo. In attendance were leading Nigerian fashion designers, creative industry leaders and investors. Among the dignitaries were Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Kathleen FitzGiboon, Nigerian pioneer in fashion designing, Shade Thomas-Fahm, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, and billionaire businesswoman, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija.
IVLP, a three-week programme with participants drawn from different parts of Nigeria is a collaboration between Nigeria and the United States. This year’s IVLP project titled, ‘Promoting Economic Growth and Trade in the Fashion Industry’, was unique for the opportunity it availed the participants to connect with their US counterparts and enriched their knowledge of entrepreneurship, business development, and innovation in the US fashion industry.
Pierangelo, while thanking her guests for honouring the invitation, highlighted the US government’s commitment to promoting economic growth and trade in the fashion industry, by empowering local fashion designers to not only thrive in Nigeria’s fashion industry but also to prepare for the global fashion marketplace.
According to the diplomat, this year’s programme was done virtually but the process has trained thousands of participants over the years.
“This year’s participants were awesome. I am pleased with their creativity, energy and enthusiasm. I know that they have learnt the skills that will help their business grow. I know we have amazing designers who are set to rule the fashion industry. The United States created this programme to strengthen economic growth in Nigeria, being the heartbeat of Africa. And with Nigerian artistes winning Grammy Awards, it shows that indeed the country is beating the heart of Africa even in entertainment.”
Speaking further, she said the purpose of the programme is to help connect all the creativity of Nigerian designers to their American counterparts, not only to expose them but to use the opportunity and what they have learnt during the programme to grow their business. “The feedback we got was impressive; their energy and enthusiasm was amazing and I hope they will keep the tempo going,” she added.
Praising the Consulate for giving her the opportunity of a lifetime, one of the participants, Abiola Adeola of Treasure Stitches said she got to know about the programme through the First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi who nominated her. “The experience was good because we were exposed to the business side of fashion on how we can showcase and market our products to the international community. How we can attract investors. I am based in Ekiti and I am able to showcase our indigenous fabrics (aso-oke) which are woven locally in Ekiti State. Before now, aso-oke was an occasional wear that was restricted to either funerals or weddings. To keep it trendy and make it everyday wear, I mix it with ankara. The three-week training was an amazing experience because it boosted my confidence and opened my eyes to the international world.”
Corroborating Adeola, Peter Emealih of Rockdart, a Youtuber who teaches people for free and equally promotes African fabrics online said through IVLP his effort has paid off. I was recommended for the programme. I do everything fabrics but with a mixture of African prints. Basically, the training helped me want to serve humanity in the fashion industry more.
“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.”
Bolupe Adebiyi, Founder of Cotton Loops who has been in the business for 15 years and has visited America several times said IVLP was a life changer as it has given her access to the international market. “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. For me, my goal is to be number one and this programme has shown me that it is possible.”
Speaking on behalf of other participants, President, lVLP Alumni Association (AA) Adetoun Tade expressed her gratitude to the American Consulate for the life-changing experience. Adetoun said IVLP is an expression of diversity: climate, fashion, creativity and so on. “For us, the expectation goes beyond three weeks of training. It means when you enjoy such benefits you must give back. Again, the expectation is to bring African fashion to the global stage in a compelling way. And we are set to rule the fashion industry globally,” she concluded.