Saturday, 30th September 2023

Omoyemi Akerele: The Woman Behind Lagos Fashion Week

By Chidirim Ndeche
18 March 2018   |   1:00 pm
For someone who is quite hesitant to do interviews, Omoyemi Akerele exudes an aura that puts those around her at ease. Akerele, a woman widely regarded as a driving force behind the burgeoning Nigerian fashion industry, is the founder and artistic director of Style House Files (SHF), a creative development agency for Nigerian and African…

For someone who is quite hesitant to do interviews, Omoyemi Akerele exudes an aura that puts those around her at ease. Akerele, a woman widely regarded as a driving force behind the burgeoning Nigerian fashion industry, is the founder and artistic director of Style House Files (SHF), a creative development agency for Nigerian and African designers.

With the belief that “some of the most important things in life are purpose and passion-driven, combined with a deeper need to contribute to something meaningful”, Akerele made the decision to revisit what she felt most passionate about.

Her career in fashion started about 15 years ago, with the need to contribute to something meaningfully, beyond the daily demands of her job. This came after two degrees in Law (BL, LLB), starting a third (LLM) while contemplating a fourth (PhD) — an interest she insists “was probably largely influenced by addiction to Ally McBeal, an American legal comedy-drama television series. She also worked at prestigious Nigerian law firm, Olaniwun Ajayi & Co, from 2000 to 2003.

The fashion pioneer started as a stylist assistant with popular fashion magazine True Love, eventually becoming the senior style editor. She then ran an exclusive styling and imaging consulting agency with PR powerhouse and content producer, Bola Balogun, before realising that there was much more to be done in the industry, which she felt wasn’t growing.

“I realised that there was a huge gap that needed to be filled and, for the industry to grow, it was important to think of a platform that would act as a catalyst on the scene to spearhead change and work towards positioning fashion properly in Nigeria, and of course in Africa, as a business.͟She was inspired by the abundance ͞of the talent we have͟ and ͞the sheer size of Nigeria’s population and an understanding of the potential that having clearly defined structure, infrastructure and a vision to position ‘fashion’ retail as a key contributor to Nigeria’s economy can have on the Nigerian economy.

Through the pioneering agency in image consultancy and creative direction within West African countries, SHF, Akerele works with Nigerian brands on brand positioning and retail strategies. The mother also helps brands gain essential international exposure through presenting showcases at Pitti Immagine in Italy and through the Lagos Fashion Week (LFW), which was founded in 2011. “For us, it’s always been beyond fashion week. It’s not just an event; it’s a platform. [SHF] has developed and executed strategic initiatives to support and strengthen the industry. Lagos Fashion Week is one of them.

LFW runs a four-day schedule, featuring a select list of talented up and coming designers and fashion entrepreneurs. The show has been instrumental in raising the profile of the Nigerian fashion industry and has drawn international attention and acclaim from renowned journalists and attracted a host of international buyers. An enthusiastic Akerele eagerly mentions the activities her platform uses to help develop the industry, including the Fashion Focus (formerly Young Designer of the Year), Fashion Business Series. LFW Autumn/Winter Presentation and Style House Files Train in partnership with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council.

“With Fashion Focus, for the growth and promotion of creatives in the fashion industry, we present unique opportunities for emerging talents to harness their skills through business development workshops, creative workshops and a mentorship or internship. We further support emerging designers with business mentoring sessions. Last year we worked with Gozel Green, Sisiano, Onalaja, Titi Belo and Deji Eniola, several of whom were selected to present their work at Tranoi Trade Show, Paris and Pitti Super, a trade show in Milan.

“At SHF, we believe that, by creating an agenda of the most pressing issues faced by the fashion industry and then inviting thought leaders to share their perspectives, we can gradually begin to develop a semblance of structure for creating sustainable change in the industry. Our goal is to effectively capture, engage and connect with a diverse demographic of industry players, contributors, stakeholders, fashion cognoscenti, policymakers and potential investors. We achieve this through [the] Fashion Business Series.

She continues, “Our vision for SHF Trains is to increase the number of skilled workers in the garment manufacturing sector, positively impact job creation and generate additional sources of income. We are very passionate and committed to education. We train people around the clock. Part of the goals is to ensure that in the apparel and garment-manufacturing sector in Nigeria, people have access to a pool of people or a workforce that they can hire, employ and work with. For a country of Nigeria’s size with such a huge youth and women population, providing demonstrable and employable skills has become critically important.

The apparel and textile sector in Nigeria when combined, have the capacity to provide wage and self-employment to millions of people; as well as the ability to transform rural economies if properly linked.͟The Nigerian fashion industry faces a lot of challenges today, which range from challenges with infrastructure and production to access to funding, education and skills development. Akerele is well aware of these problems and the negative impacts they foist on the industry. “We have lack of access to textiles, lack of access to even something as basic as information—research and data. We don’t have access to that to help educate the investors on what the potential of the industry is. So, we have a myriad of problems.”

“The industry is so fragmented [that] there is no connection between the textile industry, the retailers and the production companies. Everything is just in bits and there has to be an understanding that it takes all of those tiny elements working together properly for us to survive and for us to actually make a success of this.” However, Akerele is positive that the fashion industry can outlast its problems and become more profitable. The task of repositioning, she insists, must be done collectively by all stakeholders.

“They are all issues that can be solved but the question is when? If we wait for a perfect enabling environment for the industry to thrive before we jump in, we might be here for a long time,” she says, adding that “It starts with a commitment and it starts with everyone wanting to be an agent of change.”

That commitment, she acknowledges will reposition African fashion brands to be able to compete with other brands on a global scale. She says, the ͞The world has become a global village and African fashion brands must strive to create brands that can compete globally from Lagos, Nigeria.͟Like many women who are pushing boundaries, Akerele tries to pull herself out of the box of limitations society has tried to put her in.

In a world where gender parity is currently still decades away, Akerele is purposeful about ensuring that being female does not stop her from achieving her goals. “I’m incredibly blessed to be married to a man who shares the same beliefs. My husband, Tokunbo, and I are very deliberate about how we raise our daughters. We raise them to believe they can achieve everything they set their hearts to do regardless of their gender.

It’s very important to us that they live fearlessly female but consciously determine to soar above barriers and restrictions that being female can sometimes impose.” Using her platform, SHF, Akerele is an advocate for social issues regarding women and children. SHF has constantly supported Bethesda, the Freedom Foundation-owned child support development agency. “Supporting the foundation comes naturally to us because education is fundamental to the work we do at SHF. Bethesda schools provide opportunities for children in lower income communities to have access to both primary and secondary school education. Last year, we lent our voice to the Warif Initiative (Women at Risk International Foundation) targeted at ensuring that young girls and women live in a society free of rape and sexual violence.”

Guardian Life

12 hours ago
It’s the 63rd anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule and ears are perked up for music - both old and new - that reflect the current state of life in the beloved motherland.
1 day ago
In a significant development nearly three decades after the tragic murder of legendary hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, Las Vegas police have charged Duane "Keffe D" Davis with his murder. The rapper was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996, and the identity of his killer has remained a mystery until now.…
1 day ago
Following the series of inquiries over the death of Nigerian musician Mohbad, SamLarry whose name has since popped up has alleged "I know nothing about how the musician died". Lagos socialite Balogun Olamilekan Eletu popularly known as SamLarry was picked up by the Nigerian Police in their ongoing investigation into the death of Mohbad a…
1 day ago
Dudu Emmanuel’s solo exhibition, which opens at Nomadic Art Gallery, Victoria Island, on September 30, is bound to evoke strong emotions judging by the multi-faceted approaches he has employed.
1 day ago
On September 27, 2023, police reportedly visited Britney Spears' home in Thousand Oaks to conduct a wellness checkup, after receiving a call about a "disturbance." The call came after Spears posted a video on social media of herself dancing with knives. In the video, Spears is seen spinning and twirling two large knives, seemingly unaware…


3 days ago
Amada Goodness, also known as DC Poundzy, is a talented singer and songwriter. He was born and raised in Ughelli North, Delta state. Speaking to newsmen today, DC Poundzy opened up on why his fans often get emotional when he sings. He said: "As an artiste, I see music as a way of expressing my…
4 days ago
Although it’s easier now than ever to successfully make it as an independent artiste, one cannot deny the many perks of being signed to a record label. The perks of being signed to a record label are too many to mention however an artiste has to be mindful of whatever contract he/she/they sign. Many artiste…
23 Sep
It’s very rare to find a 19-year-old today, as musically gifted as Nathan Otekelu-Aje, professionally known as Azanti. With three evergreen compilation records in his arsenal, he confronts the status of an emerging act.
23 Sep
For Oluwarotimi Samuel, growing up in an Anglican family and watching the church choir treat worshippers from different backgrounds and denominations with their hymnals, discipline, regality, and coordination fuel his love with music.....
23 Sep
As a way to encourage and foster cross-cultural creative exchange between Nigeria and the United States of America through hip-hop music and dance, the maiden Next Level programme, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State, has graduated its first set of 46 participants.


3 days ago
An exclusive screening of the highly anticipated Swedish/Nigerian film "Charlie And The Boys" held recently at Silverbird Cinemas, Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja, Nigeria. The event was attended by an illustrious array of guests, including cast members of the film, prominent dignitaries, and esteemed members of the entertainment industry. Among the dignitaries and distinguished guests present…
4 days ago
Kunle Coker, a quintessential and consummate actor, is a man of all ages who could aptly be described as a bridge-builder between the ancient and modern of the entertainment and film industry. In a chat with TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA, the University of Ibadan-trained award-winning actor takes a kaleidoscopic insight into his journey in Nollywood and…
22 Sep
Fans of the popular British teen dramedy "Sex Education" are in for a treat as the show returns to Netflix with its fourth and final season. This time, the students of Moordale Secondary School find themselves in a whole new place: Cavendish College. Cavendish College: Where Amsterdam Meets Space Cavendish College, the new setting for…
9 Sep
Critically acclaimed drama series, Shaka Ilembe has returned to the screen following the resounding success of its first season, which garnered a devoted fan base and widespread accolades.
9 Sep
BAP Productions has released the biopic on Nigerian heroine, ‘Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti’ at the Silverbird Cinema,Victoria Island, Lagos. The cinema run started yesterday. This landmark film marks a new era in the company’s illustrious journey and showcases its passion for creating captivating movies for global audiences.