Africa In Focus

Africa In Focus: "The mainstream thinking now is that Africa is different and we could get it right if we want. The choice is fully ours, and it is now time for us to define what we want."

African Development Bank (AFDB) President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Meet Adebayo Jones: Africa’s Fashionista Guru

At the age of 12, veteran multi-award winning Nigerian born and London-based fashion Designer cum style consultant, Adebayo Jones knew he was destined to be a famous fashion designer. Having caught the sight of a T-shirt in the window of a fashion store close to his home, he became inspired by what he saw.

According to him, “There was something about this T-shirt that stood out for me. I just had to have it. I went back home and pestered my mum for the money to buy the T-shirt which she gave to me. The occasion came to wear this T- shirt as it was church time on Sunday. It was worn with pride and almost a sense of knowing. Almost as if one were to predict the future - for on the front of the T- shirt were the words printed boldly “I’M REALLY FAMOUS.”

Adebayo started making shirts from newspapers which were held together with tapes and glue. He would make his younger ones put them on and have mock fashion shows.  Even while he was at the University, where he had his first fashion show, Adebayo said “I knew then that after my degree this had to be my world. Just like the T-shirt I had when I was twelve” I just had to have this.”

Today, Adebayo is known as the Godfather of African Fashion in the United Kingdom as he had built a name for himself both at home and abroad. The media and critics of the fashion industry describe him as the KING OF COUTURE - for the individuality of his piece speaks for him in the international fashion community.

He is renowned for creating his own fabrics and presenting the most lavish and luxurious collections of gowns, his new bridge couture prêt, a porter collection also reflects the style and the elegance that has defined his career over the years while his success has opened doors for others in his field.

As one of the leading African designers in Europe; Adebayo Jones is known for creating the most luxurious and luscious fabrics, ranging from silks to brocades, velvets, chiffon’s organza’s, crochets and damask while presenting a fine, clean and classic lines. The fashion genius outstanding designs in formal wear and wedding dresses are second to none. His designs are often described as glamorous, elegant, magnificent, rich and mind blowing that are fit for royalty.

His influences, he says are from his travels, art, surroundings and also from the subconscious.  “I have always loved fashion. It has always been my childhood dream. It was also my mother’s profession and I grew up seeing her make outfits for clients and particularly my elder sister. I had my sketch book with me always in school and would draw fashion sketches nonstop. University was no different either. I designed my outfits even when I was in school. I saved my pocket money and bought fabrics and designed my shirts and trousers. I always wanted to stand out. In school we took part in what was then called fashion parade. I was always involved if it had to do with fashion.”

But his fashionpreneur stint has not been one without storm. Having completed his first degree in humanities at the University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1985, Adebayo proceeded to a fashion college in London (London Central School of Fashion) to acquire a formal and requisite training for his first love - fashion design.

Starting out as he once told Yada magazine was small. According to Adebayo “Some have been incredibly wonderful and others have been heart-wrenchingly painful. I have known comfort as well as desertion. I have seen love as well as betrayal. I have known grace and the loss of loved ones. I have seen kindness.” In spite of this he said “All these varied experiences in pursuit of this dream and from every experience, the totality of a blessing has been gained. It is refreshing to know that I am never alone and can stand at all times, for if God be for me, nothing can work against me. I have become stronger and refined.”

He will be quick to say that his grace for resilience has worked for him. To him, “Failure is not in falling, it is in not getting up to fight again.”

However, for each piece he created, the fashion genie says, “Passion, dedication, time, and a great deal of love and sacrifice go into each average piece. The need for an identity and signature to be embedded in the garment. So when someone sees a garment, they can tell immediately “that’s an Adebayo Jones.”

Adebayo believes details will set your work apart.

Adebayo recently celebrated 25 years in the fashion industry at the Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) which was held at the London Spitalfields Market Halls to African and African inspired designers all over the world where he showcased his work to a 10,000 strong audience in London’s hip Shoreditch district this August, 2012.

Will he have been doing something else aside fashion, Adebayo said in an interview, “Fashion has always been a lifelong passion for me. As far back as I remember my dream has always been to explore, innovate and push the boundaries of new thought and creativity where fashion is concerned. From the conception of an idea to realizing, the end product gives one a buzz and satisfaction that cannot be quantified.”

Aside fashion, Adebayo also has an equal passion for food and music. He sings and writes gospel songs. The fashion genius in his university days once belong to a group called the Ayoro voices. He sang at Isha and Arne Johansen’s wedding in Freetown. He also sang with a live band when he collected the Male Lifetime Achievement Award at BETTFA 2011 Awards.

As a foodie, he has a passion for exploring foods and has future plans to do something in the food industry as well.

Adebayo is not alone in his enduring journey to fame as he said “I have been very fortunate having had the support of a very loving family.  I would not have progressed along on this journey without their support. Fashion was also my mother’s profession so I naturally had support from her as well as the rest of the family.”

On the reason for making London his business domain, Adebayo acknowledges that techniques, skills, availability of resources to function at one’s best is a very important catalyst to his brand’s success and there are limitations sometimes in operating back home as even the littlest of things like finding good quality zips which would not snap and embarrass your brand and your client in a situation can be tasking. He argued that basically most of those with successful brands back home do the shopping from abroad.

“I studied fashion in England. My training and work experience was acquired here. My contacts were mainly here. The natural progression was to harness all the resources and contacts and make them work for ones vision and dream.  Convenience could be a defining factor here. I could have access to fabrics, manufacturers, and every kind of resource that I needed to realise whatever I was trying to achieve in a garment or collection.”

Adebayo however believes fashion can be a tool for development in Nigeria and in Africa. He said “Fashion is a huge industry. It is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. There are economies that boast a great percentage of their revenue from the fashion industry. 

Nigerians was responsible for the second highest revenue documented for fashion in the UK.
Egypt is noted for her cotton as well as manufacturing. Egyptian cotton is easily the most covetable worldwide and does not come cheap either when purchasing fashion products made from it. It is highly esteemed and valued.  Tunisia, Morocco etc are major manufacturing ports in North Africa. Morocco for leather goods, which are mainly exported to Europe and boast a base of factories for shirts, jeans and other fashion separates that produced for major international brands worldwide.”

“Considering how much fashion is a huge and integral part of Nigerian life, the right support, infrastructure set up, and a conducive atmosphere for factories to be able to operate with minimal obstructions, would not only create employment for thousands, should international brand begin looking in at such manufacturing bases and to take advantage of a massive workforce. It would also attract many investors both local and foreign. If we look in and put in the right infrastructure, it would be amazing opportunity for growth and investment as revenue can be realised in this industry.”

Adebayo’s famous clients include singer/ actress Patti Boulaye, T V star Sally Familoe, Miss World 2001 winner Agbani Darego, TV cum stage star Faith Brown and celebrity stylist Janet Ginnings. He has also designed and styled gowns for several winning Miss Nigeria contestants and for some finalists at the Miss Universe pageants.

Adebayo has in the past worked for different brands including a company that lineup of Hollywood top celebrities on their books from Tina turner, Diana Ross, Shirley Bassey etc. He has also worked with Britain’s Katherine Hamnett CBE, a two time British Designer of the Year.

At the home front, Adebayo formerly worked with HRH Erelu Abiola Dosumu, who in the eighties had opened her shop “Talala” on New Bond street where he once worked as an intern.

To fashionistas, Adebayo said, “If you do go into the industry … have a balance. Fashion has its excesses as well and be strong enough to say no to things that may be injurious to your health. I would rather be un-cool at a party than end in rehab later for one form of addiction or the other. Be yourself, eventually those who considered you un-cool then will in turn respect you.”

But everything is not all about making money. Adebayo Jones has over the years used his skills to support various charity Organisations by hosting charity fashion shows, and travelling the Globe in support of Organisations such The British Red Cross, UNICEF Children’s fund, Pink ball Fund, Support for Africa, Imperial Breast cancer Research Fund, Kanu Nwankwo heart foundation, The heart campaign amongst others. He has also contributed to Education both in the UK and abroad by working with various schools, colleges and universities in educating and training students for the fashion industry. His high-profiled company has also been a haven of employment to Nigerians and Africans in Diaspora.

Adebayo’s phenomenal success has been widely acclaimed all over the world and has received various international award to boot. In 2009, he was honored with the N4LIFE AWARD first special recognition for his outstanding contribution to fashion industry in the UK and for promoting the image of Nigeria positively through fashion on a global platform.

On the 29th of November 2009 at the Nigeria fashion awards held in Abuja Nigeria, Adebayo Jones won the BEST NIGERIAN DESIGNER IN DIASPORA AWARD while in 2010, the 
designer was the recipient of three Fashion awards in the UK alone.

Adebayo is also the proud achiever of The BEFFTA MALE LIFETIME ACHIEMENT AWARD (2011), NEL AWARD for outstanding contribution to Fashion (2011). He has also won The Best Designer in Diaspora from three major organisations: CITY PEOPLE AWARDS( 2006), NIGERIA FASHION AWARDS (2008), and SIDEVIEW STYLE AWARDS (2011).

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