Adebola Akerele, the Creative Director of Janet Dede Cole fashion outfit in Nigeria, is co-designer at Caesar Couture. After studying Law at the University of Ibadan, a little brickwall in her job hunt drove her to her passion where she is making waves. In this chat, she takes KATELEMI CLAUDE through her experiences and vision as a fashion designer
How did your fashion talent sprout?
After Law School, I decided to work in a corporate organisation first before pursuing my fashion dreams. But God had it planned differently. So it was Procter and Gamble for me. My mentor kept ringing it in my head that I was a P&G material, that I belonged there because my sales skills are top notch. After passing several stages of the recruitment process, my weakness in maths made that dream impossible. That was quite a dark time for me. I felt inadequate, not good enough, not smart enough (sighs).
Finally, I moved on from the self-loathe and found my way to a tailoring space to learn how to sew, just to keep busy and have an idea of the sewing process, while I brush up my maths and re-apply to P&G.
My life changed on a certain Sunday afternoon when my cousin told me that a designer was looking for a personal assistant. From the interview, I knew I wanted to work for Caesar Couture. I asked the creative director about his vision for his brand and his reply aligned with my vision.
So, I began this journey, where I design, sell and style the best-tailored men’s suit. This was what inspired my brand, Janet Dede Cole. One day, I soliloquised ‘I am going to design the best suits for women. Men look so powerful in suits and women should too.’ I pictured Beyoncé in a music video wearing my suit and that vision keeps me going. The vision gets clearer daily with every piece designed and the smiles I see on the faces of the women in Janet Dede Cole pieces.
As the creative director of Janet Dede Cole, what has been your experience so far?
It has been a roller coaster experience so far. Sometimes things go smoothly, customers are satisfied and delivery is speedy and hitch-free. Other days are not as bright. Logistics is still a huge problem for Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria. So many other issues here and there. But in all, the future looks promising.
What is your driving force?
First for me is the promises of God that in whatever I do I shall prosper. In all I do, I cannot deny the hand of God. Also seeing my boss/mentor, Esosa Ogedegbe, succeed in his male suit business is a continuous source of inspiration for me. Then the fact that suits will always be in demand. They have been here since the days of Coco Chanel and will continue to be in fashion even when I am gone.
What is your vision for your brand?
The vision for Janet Dede Cole is to be the biggest female suit brand worldwide. I want international and local artistes to wear my brand. I know someday Beyoncé is going to wear Janet Dede Cole. The brand is going to have stores in major fashion cities in the world, from Lagos to New York, London to Paris and Tokyo to Milan.
How is the acceptance and patronage to your brand compared to foreign ones?
People who know quality know that Janet Dede Cole competes even with the suits tailored in Italy. The finishing is excellent. Once a customer, after wearing her suit, said, “Gucci no do pass this one.”
How do you cope with clientele challenges and marketing?
Knowing exactly what a customer wants is key; and this is achieved through proper communication.
As for marketing, I am always at every notable event in my product. Also, every customer serves as a marketing personnel because while they wear the piece, they model for the brand. Social media also helps.
You said it is hard to catch you off-fashion. How have you been able to do this, going by Nigeria’s economic situation?
Fashion is my biggest form of expression. It is the first thing anyone who knows me would tell you about me. It is not really about owning the most expensive pieces, but about having the fashion essentials and wearing them differently. An oversized white shirt is a must, tailored pants, a few pieces of well-tailored Janet Dede Cole jackets and jeans. Play around these pieces with heals, sneakers and you are good for the slay.
What is your projection in the coming years, and your overall goal in life as a creative mind?
My projection for the coming years is to serve at least 1,000 new individual customers yearly and a number of corporate clients. It is important to me that my customer base increases and I get corporate contracts from airlines, hotels etc.
My overall goal as a creative director is to not only design for Janet Dede Cole, but for House of Chanel. The likes of Karl Lagerfeld did it, designing for Chanel and also his personal label.
Have you ever participated in Nigeria’s fashion show? If not, how soon do you intend to?
Janet Dede Cole is yet to participate in any fashion show for now. But we are looking at GTB Fashion Week and Heineken Fashion Week for 2021.