Bella Adeleke Speaks About Her Life As A Creative cont’d
BLANCK – FASHION EDITOR
For a brief time you were the fashion editor of the digital magazine ‘Blanck’. Having worked as a stylist and creative consultant for many years, why did you decide to move into the publication field?
It’s always something that I’ve wanted to do as well. It’s always been part of the plan and what best way to start by learning under someone that has experienced it all? So, when the idea of me being a fashion editor arose, I took the offer with open arms. A magazine to me is like a voice. when you have a voice, you will most certainly have an audience, and your audience will listen consciously or subconsciously. How do you want to influence your audience? Do you want to influence them positively, or negatively? Or do you want to influence them through what you believe can be great.
I’m Nigerian, I’m African, I want to be able to open up a magazine and see a beauty editorial that relates to the kind of makeup that I would wear. I want to be able to open up a magazine and see like African designers that I can actually afford or see clothes that I can relate to, or go out to the stores to buy, and that was one of the major reasons why I wanted to work in the publication industry. Also, opening a magazine and read about topical issues that affect the African youth, the African culture, be it trivial, fickle, vanity, is still a topical issue. It’s still an issue that I can address. OK, “ Why am I bleaching my skin?” “Is DM (direct message) the new way of getting into relationships?”, “ Are social media relationships real?” these are factors that affect my community; “ You coming from America or the UK, does that make you better than someone that has a degree in Nigeria?” So, I felt like that could be an avenue to tackle those kinds of issues and that’s why I literally jumped at the offer.
All of this actually is beyond the context of being a fashion editor, but I’m a very passionate person, and my passion always makes me want to do more, and I thought I could do that in ‘Blanck’. That I did to a certain extent until I left.
How were you able to balance being a stylist and a fashion editor at the same time?
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Laughs) it’s not been easy, I’ve lost friends and my social life is dwindling, a little bit. But what I do brings me joy, what I do gives me a certain set of fulfilment, so I enjoy what I do. Sometimes I don’t see it as work; I can sit down and think about ideas for photo shoots. I can sit down and think about different designs; how to do this, how to do that. I can sit down and think about strategic plans for marketing, for Giddimint, for a clients brand, a campaign for a clothing line. I can sit down and do it all day. So, to me, it does not feel like work; until I get home and I can’t move, or my voice is disappearing. And that’s when I know “ OK, you’re tired. You need to relax”. But I have to work to be able to afford to pursue my dreams. If I don’t work, I don’t have the capital to do a lot of things. It’s like a catch 22, until the creative side is strong enough to stand on its two feet, I have to be wise or smart and understand that I still have to earn a living. So I have a job and I have a business, and at the moment there’s a symbiosis, where I have to do other gigs. I have to work as a creative, I have to work with an agency doing luxury retail styling jobs . Because that money feeds into my business as capital, feeds into my independent projects that I do, and into me doing tests and other projects with others. It’s a circle at the moment, and it’s not easy, its hard work; I breakdown sometimes. But I feel that in this day and age that we’re in, we cannot afford to be lazy, or think things will just fall into place, we have to actively work hard towards the future. Because with the way the economy is going, nothing is certain except your hustle, and if you’re smart. I don’t have a 9-5, so I have to hustle.
Did the two roles complement each other? Or was it sometimes challenging?
Technically, they are challenging don’t get it wrong. But they do complement each other, because everything I do is in the context of fashion. I work in luxury fashion retail, for example I just told you I work as a stylist for Harvey Nichols and Liberty. That means I get to play around with expensive garments and see how they fit on real people and not just on models in runway images. I’m the kind of person, I feed off vibes, I feed off things I see. So when I’m surrounded by clothes, by inspirations, you can’t help but see bigger pictures or think to yourself “ Why don’t I do this for a shoot?” so in a way, they feed off each other.
A couple weeks ago, you took to your Instagram page to announce your departure from the magazine. After a year of being with ‘Blanck’, why did you feel that it was now the perfect time to leave the publication?
I don’t think it was the perfect time. I just think it was something that I had to do. ‘Blanck’ has been amazing opportunity for me; I can’t thank Franka (Chinedu) enough for taking a risk with me, saying “ You know what? Let’s give this girl a try.” And seeing my ideas transform into reality, and then seeing people react positively to or seeing people paying attention to me speaks volumes, it kind of like certifies the fact that I actually know what I’m doing. I had to leave, because like I said “ You leave one thing to do another and it makes you stronger for when you come back” and I felt like I had to take a step back to have a better picture of what my future should look like. Because this is not just a hobby for me, this is something that I want to look back in 10 years and be like “ Yes, I built my world over this. My kids can go to Harvard, or go to Yale, or go to Dartmouth from this money or go to Oxford to study archaeology” or something ridiculous or go and study French. I don’t know who’ll go to Harvard to study French (well not from an African background), however, if my kids came to me and say “ I want to go to Harvard and study French” I want to be able to say “ You know what, I’ve worked hard enough and earned enough money from being a creative” for them to do so. For me to be able to stand the test of time, and make the right decisions and build strong formidable brands and businesses and establish, sometimes you need to take yourself out of the picture and re-strategise. And that was the reason why I left ‘Blanck’.
RELOCATING BACK TO NIGERIA
You have lived in the UK, London to be precise for many years, and you plan on relocating back to Nigeria soon. Why have you decided to relocate?
Nigeria is my home. They say “ Home is where the heart is” and I feel like I left a part of my heart in Nigeria, as a teenager. And I need to go back to Nigeria to get it. If I’m this passionate about where I come from and I actively want to make a difference, I need to go back home and be inspired by my environment and make a difference. There’s a part of me that truly belongs to London, this is weird, I’m a Nigerian, but also a Londoner at the same time. I love London, it’s culture, I’m grateful to the country. Without me being in the UK, I don’t think I’ll be as much of a creative thinker as I am right now.
Nigeria gives you the will to grind. The West the zeal to be whatever you want to be. So, you being able to merge both can only be a positive thing. I’ve learned a lot from being here, I grew into a woman in this country, I was a child in Nigeria, I wasn’t exposed, and I didn’t know anything. I attend college and university in London, I grew up in London and most of my teenage years was in London. It exposed me to different cultures and people. London is a very cosmopolitan city, today your best friend can be Jamaican, and tomorrow your best friend can be Colombian. Next thing you know you’re sitting next to a Pakistani in university. It’s very diverse. And the diversity, if you let it in, is the most amazing thing. And I’m so glad that I’ve experienced it.
But the Yoruba people say ‘ Ile l’abo isinmi oko’. “ It’s time to go home and make a difference” nobody will do it if we don’t.
What are the challenges you’ll think you’ll face in the Nigerian fashion industry?
It’s funny you ask that, because I’ve never really lived in Nigeria as an entrepreneur or a business woman, so I wouldn’t know. It’s just going to be the typical textbook, different economy, different nature of business or environment; I definitely know chain of production would be different because Nigeria doesn’t really favour manufacturers. Especially textile and fashion design manufacturers.
Is it a nervous feeling to start a life in a country that you’re already familiar with, but haven’t stepped foot in for so long?
I’m petrified and excited at the same time. I’m petrified in the sense that I’ll be venturing into the unknown, even though it’s familiar grounds, it’s unknown. Nigeria has advanced so much, but at the same time it’s still the same, so you don’t know what you might encounter; and that scares me. But then I’m excited because it is a new environment, a new playground, a new reason to hustle. I think the heat will wake you up into that reality that “ This is not London”. There’s no red bus to pick you up at 3am if all else fails, there’s no electricity all the time and there’s certainly no Southwark Council to save you if you lose your house lol. I feel like the rawness and the country being unpredictable, it’s kind of a recipe for an entrepreneur. Nigeria can either make you or break you, and I’m ready to be malleable.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I think I’m fascinated by knowledge. Every day, I love conversations, speaking to everyday people fascinates me. From geeks, artists, sculptors, painters, writers, to photographers, everybody’s take on life or creativity, or on a particular matter is so different and far and wide from what you think is so normal. And I sit back and I’m like “ok. That’s interesting”. You can sit down and have the deepest conversation about a glass of water and you’re just like “ It’s just H2O” things like that fascinate me. Somebody can just tell me about the history of a button and I’m like “wow”, and then someone can sit down and we argue about politics and life, and I’m just like “Oh well, it happens.” Random things fascinate me, but facts and history and life in general, peoples view or outtake on life, kind of makes me wonder, it’s interesting to see life from another person’s perspective.
Other than ‘Mr Garbe’ which brands do you personally like to wear?
That’s a hard question. I wear anything and everything from Primark to Giambatista Valli (laughs)
Ok, name your top 5 daily go-to-brands that you like to wear?
Ok, that’s very easy. High street brands, firstly ‘Zara’, I think I’m a Zara poster child and that’s embarrassing. ‘H&M Studio’, is pretty amazing. ‘Cos’, ‘Miss Guided’ – it’s amazing the little things you find on ‘Miss Guided’ especially their midi-skirts, I’m going through a midi-skirt faze and I’m loving it, it’s pretty dope. Let’s just add ‘Zara’ again for good measure.
What is the vision for Bella Adeleke in the coming months/years?
I would say in the coming months is growth; growth as a businesswoman and as a woman in general. You go through a transition of knowing that this is what you want and then you trying to make sure that, which is the goal and not getting sidetracked. Trying to build a creative brand that transcends from styling, magazine production to campaign production, trying to make sure that I nurture my first child, ‘Mr Garbe’ to grow into phenomenal and inspiring heights, nurture myself as an entrepreneur and be the best that I can be.
Interview by Mobolaji Lamidi for Guardian Life Nigeria