CEO of Rukkies Fashion Boutique and founder, African Fashion Week, London, Ronke Ademiluyi, talks about the fashion project which is in its third year and sundry issues.
Read full interview after the jump. As she speaks about African Fashion Week in London.
What is the idea behind the African Fashion Week in London?
It was just a desire to promote emerging fashion designers from African origin, fashion designers that are inspired by African prints and fabrics. They don’t necessarily have to come from Africa as long as they have a bit of African inspiration in their designs. It was a good platform; we had 4700 visitors who attended the event.
Why the choice of London as the venue?
A lot of designers look forward to showcasing on an international platform. They get a lot of recognition from buyers. Most of the fashion shows that take place in Africa, we don’t have any buyers, it is just a show of a small focus. So the reason was to expose the designers to a lot of fashion buyers so that things could be stock in the High Street one day hopefully. The buyers mostly buy for mainstream shops. They represent shops and can place an order for a thousand pieces if they like the designs.
How successful were the previous editions?
It was great, from the reviews, you could go on our site and our Facebook page. The reviews were high and we received a lot of positive responses. We have 4700 people who showed up for the event.
At what point in the British fashion industry did designers discover that they could display African designs in their shops?
It is going to be African fabric but in contemporary clothing. So it is an office dress but in African prints. All the big names like Burberry, Gucci and the rest all use African prints now and they sell them at exorbitant prices. They don’t use our designers and they don’t give our designers any credit at all. So, what we are trying to do is to push our own out there as well.
Are British designers comfortable with this idea of African Fashion Week, London, or are they resentful of your intrusion?
No. They embrace our fashion, they like it, they say that African fashion is full of vibrant colours. We are able to show a lot of people that Africa is not just all about poverty or corruption, but there is more to Africa than the negativity which they try to portray.
What’s your educational background?
I did my secondary school and part of my A levels in Nigeria, I finished my A levels in London then I did my law degree in London as well before diversifying into fashion.
Why did you jump from law to fashion?
It started when I was in school. I was buying clothes to sell to my friends, I was travelling and buying for people. It was actually a hobby that developed into a profit making business. At a point, I came back to Nigeria and I have a couple of boutiques in Lagos, then the African Fashion Week London kicked off.
What was it like growing up in the United Kingdom?
It was okay, my parents were based in London initially and then we moved back to Nigeria and after part of my A levels, I went back to London and continued from there.
Which do you prefer, life in Nigeria or life in the United Kingdom?
I prefer life in both. I commute. I could be two months here and a month in London. I shuffle between Lagos and London.
And you have four boutiques, how is the business?
It used to be very good but now, people tend to recycle what they have, so a lot of people who would come out and buy 10—20 items before would now buy only about two or three. But we thank God, we are still surviving and we can still make a living.
Is that why you came up with the fashion week project?
I don’t think so. I have had my boutique for more than 10 years and I am a very focused person who likes to do things for a while before jumping into something else. Now the boutiques are at the level where they can run themselves, I don’t have to be here as often as I used to be before. It is just about time that I move on to something else and I felt that the African Fashion Week project is a good idea.
What do you stand to gain after investing so much?
I am a businesswoman, I do not expect an immediate gain when I invest. I look at three or four years time and if by then money comes, I am fine, my boutiques did not bring immediate money, it was a gradual process.
What don’t you like about yourself; if you had your way what would you change about yourself?
Physically I would not change anything about the way I look. I get a lot of compliments, so I like the way I look. I am very confident. But if I could turn back the time, I probably would love to have more children. I have just one daughter now and I love kids, but right now, I don’t have the time to raise any more children because I am very busy.
What is your favourite fashion accessory?
I love perfumes, bags, jewellery, and wristwatches. I travel a lot and I shop a lot. I am very plain and simple.
What is your diet routine like?
I am not a diet freak; I eat whenever I feel hungry. Sometimes I eat at 11pm, even 1am. I eat if I am hungry but I take a lot of water. I jog three or four times a week; I jog for about an hour. I do sit ups and other exercises.
What about your beauty routine?
I don’t do a lot of makeup, it is because you were coming, that was why I did this slight makeup. I am not really a makeup person. For my face I use Obagie, for my body I use Crème de lamere and Shea butter sometimes.
What are the challenges you have running this business and managing your home?
In Nigeria, it is getting people to do what you want them to do on time. You always have to follow up with phone calls when you give them a job to do but abroad, you pay someone to do something and they do it, you don’t have to follow up. But in Nigeria, you have to call, shout and make sure they do it over and over again.
You have shops in the UK?
No. I have an office. We are also opening a fashion showroom in London.