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The Custodian Of Orange Culture

The Custodian Of Orange Culture

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From the spotless skin to the colorful silky outfit, Adebayo Oke-Lawal looked like a walking billboard for the fashion industry. Even more fascinating was his warmth and eagerness to share the best of himself with you, our avid audience. Enjoy his reflections on starting out, staying in the game and stepping up as an example to a young generation.

By Damilola Oyewusi

The Man

My name is Adebayo Oke-Lawal, a fashion designer. I own and run an androgynous menswear brand called Orange Culture. I graduated from the University of Lagos with a finance degree and Northumbria University in England with a masters in international business management.

From the green bills to Orange Culture; the journey from finance to fashion.

I always knew I wanted to get into fashion but I also wanted to be educated. Fashion education didn’t really exist in Nigeria at that time so I decided with the advice of my dad to go into finance because every business needs finances to survive. I worked for a few years and realized it was added knowledge but not something I wanted to dedicate hours of my life to. So I dumped it. And after years of interning while in school and while working, I decided to launch my brand in 2010/2011. It was the scariest and riskiest decision I made as a young person in Nigeria; investing all my savings and started off the brand.

Challenges starting out

People had no belief in what I was trying to do. It was different and that didn’t go well with many people that should have supported me or invested in the business. What was normal back then was to own a fashion company that made Suits or Agbada. Casual wasn’t a thing in Nigeria. But I knew what I wanted to do and continued nonetheless. It wasn’t easy but Orange Culture is not only still running but we’ve been featured in magazines and in fashion shows across the world.

Finding the balance between creativity and business

That is one of the hardest things ever. I’m beginning to work on getting a business manager because it literally is so difficult. I think what helps is knowing that the only way my creativity can be explored or fueled is if there is a strong financial backing behind it. Knowing this and the fact that we are self-funded, forced me to make smarter and more balanced decisions for the brand for longevity sake.

Mistakes aspiring or start-up entrepreneurs make today

Ah. There are a lot. Many of them are not interning – or acquiring pre-knowledge of some sort before launching. They also want to start big. I always advise that you start small and then build up. Then we have those who try to replicate brands that inspire them instead of being original.

Not planning is another one. A business plan is so important. You also find fashion startups without a definition of their customer and market concentration. Most new businesses also lack creativity because of the urge to make money. But creativity and profitability are not mutually exclusive. You’ve got to plan for both.

Keys to success in the Nigerian fashion industry

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Avoid making those mistakes I mentioned earlier. It’s a very difficult industry, so be willing to learn, be passionate and stay focused. Look at the gaps we need to fill and build your business based on those gaps.

Hopes for the Nigerian fashion and style industry

An accredited fashion education system comes to play. It is vital and will help fix a lot of our foundational technical industry issues. I also envision the industry further opening up to a division of labour. We need more than just Fashion designers to build sustainable businesses. It is my dream that we become a fashion capital in the world. Thanks to shows like the Lagos fashion week, this is happening already.

Advice for an aspiring entrepreneur in your space

Be diligent and resilient. Celebrate your differences and how you create.

Giving back and empowering young people

I enjoy talking with teenagers and young people, especially now when Social Media is where they look to for validation. They need to see good examples of people living beyond the moment and start dreaming big. I’m always open to partnerships for anything that has to do with inspiring or teaching young people.

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