Today, I attended my first ever fashion event organized by the founder of Heineken Lagos Fashion and Design week, Omoyemi Akerele, which took place at Eko Atlantic, Lagos, Nigeria. It is called a fashion business series and my attendance has to be the best decision I have made in a while. We had to sign up on the website and have a confirmation mail be sent to our email addresses. This served as our invite to the event which was free for everybody. Before I start talking about this, I would first like to say if you are a designer of any sort presently residing in Lagos and you were not in attendance, you definitely missed out on a whole lot of information and networking and you are going to be jealous when you’re done reading this. Don’t worry, I’m here to fill you in to the best of my abilities.
If you know me, you know I am a sucker for successful and well-spoken people. Let me expatiate on this a bit. I love to listen to people who speak with strength and intelligence and are very motivational in their speaking. I love listening to the back stories of successful people and hearing the truth about their journey. Sometimes, we get so caught up in their success that we forget that the true knowledge lies within their path to success. It is from this that we can truly understand why we should never give up on our own journey. This event delivered in every form. Only the best speakers were brought to this platform. It had the likes of Mr Cosmas Maduka, CEO of Coscharis group; Mark van Iterson, the global head of design for Heineken; Sissi Johnson, model turned MBA professor and global brand strategist; Mode Aderrinokun, founder of Studio of Mode; Ayisami Gold, international curator and stylist and travel blogger; and Masana Chikeka, sector manager of the design department of arts and culture, South Africa. The event was centered on infusing technology and design since technology is starting to play a very vital role in the growth of the design industry in our developing world. Each speaker had very key information to give. A lot of knowledge was gained from this experience and I would share as much as possible.
The first speaker, Mr Cosmas Maduka, was my top speaker as he provided a vast range of information on his expertise. I think sharing his backstory like he did us might help to resonate with his success and better help to understand his words of advice. He was an elementary school dropout and had lost his father at the age of 4. The loss had caused him and his family to undergo years of difficulties and distress. He had to start an apprenticeship with his uncle where he learned everything about internal compulsion engine but after working with him for seven years, he was paid only a meagre allowance which he was glad to accept as he had finally gained his freedom. He started to work with his elder brother whom he later broke partnership with as he refused to take the risk which made Coscharis. This risk involved outsourcing for partnerships from international companies as he always wanted to build a timeless company that would outlive all of us in its relevancy. He had people laugh at him. The first deal was successful, the second a loss but he did not let it deter him. He kept pushing forward. Today, this elementary school dropout represents many world car brands such as BMW, Ford, Land Range Rover, Rolls Royce just to name a few. This elementary school dropout has graced the front page of Forbes and has given presentations at Harvard University. Here is a list of his advice:
- Create something out of nothing. He would be the second successful person dishing this five word sentence to me. A sign maybe?
- Write down your goals and create a deadline for the achievement of these goals. Read on how to create a vision board here.
- Have a clear sense of purpose and direction. Be determined and competent.
- Commitment is key, you have to stand by your word, do not say you can deliver if you cannot.
- Building a timeless business has to be done by researching, listening, mentoring, spending time learning and developing your skills and a continuous self-improvement. Be willing to learn and have an open mind.
- Many people are quick to push forward without paying their dues; if you cut corners, you won’t go very far. Success is a gradual process, you cannot climb the ladder in one day.
- Money at the forefront is the greatest hinderance to success; if you pursue money, it’ll run away from you. He defines money making as bridging service gap. Money will come as long as you provide consumers with value and quality.
- It is not about the money, it is about learning and understanding the industry you are about to go into. He insists that money is secondary and only takes up 20% while knowledge takes up a full blown 50%. This is the core reason why if he loses everything he has today, he would be able to rebuild himself from the bottom once he has his mind in the right place.
- It is important to understand the industry and play by its rules. Listen to experts in the field. Look at what is done in other places in the world and use it.
- Presentation is key especially if you need to be taken seriously by international players.
- Capital is not all that is required, start small. The things you do open doors for you but you have to be consistent and do it well.
- Do not limit yourself, spread your wings. Always believe that things can be done better.
- Start partnering with people, profit sharing until you build the capacity to negotiate.
- What makes an intelligent man is not his education but his ability to organize his thoughts into productivity.
- Talent is overrated – Success takes more than lip service – Hardwork is key in anything that you do.
- According to him, the youth of our time are steady chasing shadows and are not focused. He asks to push the distractions to the side.
- On technology, he says to make your product accessible to the consumers by finding a way to take it to their doorstep instead of waiting for them to come to you.
Above all this, he does not own a television in his home. He only owns a monitor as he has the power to decide what he wants to view on a monitor as opposed to a television.
Mr Mark van Iterson spoke on the role of technology in design. He explained that the brand Heineken had a progressive open minded innovative attitude and created consumer experience and engagement which makes it so different. He spoke about how many other brands choose to be backward in their reasoning in the sense that instead of rebranding, they base all their focus and energy on brewery. Heineken on the other hand is always pushing forward to satisfy and even surpass consumer demands by being very tech savvy when it comes to the bottle designs. The point here is to continually grow with the industry and put into consideration the ever changing demands of consumers. He also stated that people from different backgrounds have needs that differ, for example, in the Netherlands, small bottles of Heineken are sold but bigger bottles are distributed to Nigeria because Nigerians prefer bigger bottles. If he were to take these big bottles to Netherlands, nobody would buy it. Bottom line is to always cater for individual needs and not assume that the same product would work for everybody. He advises to travel the world, see other cultures to get inspiration. He mentioned to find your own unique approach, find your own identity to become more booming than you already are but if you are going to fail, fail fast. He added that design creates hope. Lastly, innovation can be a small thing that can transform into a huge thing in the long run.
Sissi Johnson said we have entered into the age of transparency. The age where it is now about you and not your brand anymore. She explained that because there is an influx of creativity in the present day, your brand is no longer your market. You are. Consumers want to buy into your back story, into who you are and what you are about, and this is how you would truly sell your products. She asks that we make sure our ‘personal’ brand resonate with people. She advises to be your authentic self online, create good content and be consistent with the message you are creating. Make sure the content is inspiring and very well executed. Own your narrative. Connect with the people in your community and this means on and outside social media. She said that even if you are not tech savvy, it is important to start developing technical skills as this is what top brands and top executives are searching for, someone who can be on the same line as them when it comes to business analytics and so on. She added to try to better yourself by gathering enough skills. One key point she made was that you do not need to focus on trying to get a large social media following but on creating great content as there is a rise now on what she termed “micro influencers”. She explained that most big brands want to be known as the one that discovered person A or person B so they are now focusing on discovering new talent by going through people with less following on social media. Lastly, excellence should be a lifestyle! Unrelated but she writes articles for Huffington post.
Asiyami Gold advises to create from an honest and authentic place and trust in your process. Follow your journey and stop looking outside yourself. Align yourself with people who believe in your work because they are the ones who will be there for you and motivate you on the days you feel down. Make the best out of the things you have around you and when life gets really difficult and stressful, RELAX! Watch a movie or read a book. Step outside your house and let nature be your inspiration. Let life inspire you. Stay true to yourself.
There is one important point I picked out from this event. A woman named Gbemisola who owns a shoe line started her business because most stores were not catering to women with large feet, over a size 42, and she became successful from this. She created an empire out of her difficulties.
I learned so much from attending only one event. I think it may be time to make this a constant in my life. Hope you had a great read and are as inspired as I am Xx!