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LagosXParis Accelerator As Launchpad for Designers, Fashion Entrepreneurs

Influencer,Enioluwa Adeoluwa; French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann and Guinness World Records Title Holder and Chef, Hilda Baci
At a cocktail party held in the lush garden of the creative hub, Miliki in Victoria Island, Lagos, a handful of creatives were gathered to share the experience of the ten selected entrepreneurs in fashion and design who make up the 2023/2024 cohort of the LagosXParis accelerator project.
The project provides mentorship and travel opportunities for selected brands in fashion and design to showcase their artistry internationally. Initiated by the French Embassy in Nigeria through the French Institute in Nigeria and Creation Africa, the LagosXParis-Fashion & Design Accelerator is a created as a launchpad for emerging creatives.
Tunde Owolabi, the founder of Ethnik Africa and one of the 10 awardees recounted his eight-year journey into the programme after transitioning from a lucrative career in advertising to become a fashion entrepreneur.
As a Yoruba guy, I got fascinated by aso-oke and the entire Yoruba culture including the name, oriki and the whole concept of osun, ifa. All the stories that we hear about how the Yoruba people and the tradition have been the inspiration for me. I thought of aso oke as something that should be accessible to everybody and not something that should be worn for only ceremonial events. That’s where the whole inspiration came from- to make aso oke accessible to everybody and something that a lot of younger people would love to wear.”
While reflecting on the criticism against aso oke fabric as being too heavy to be worn as an everyday wear, Owolabi argued that fabrics like denim and jeans have the same weight.
“We started to think about sustainability because if people are not wearing aso oke for weddings and other occasions, how do weavers get jobs? We started making sneakers, bags, blankets and clothing. That’s where we started from.”
He explained how his brand has retained the authentic African quality despite the multiple sources of pre-production materials and processes.
“A lot of people are impressed by the work we have done with aso oke. Some of them are made here in Nigeria. The sole and lining are sourced from abroad. But we buy leather from here. We also source aso oke form Iseyin in Oyo state and Ilorin. We put in our best and we thank God that we got chosen.”
The French ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann, expressed her delight at the fruition of the fashion and design initiative which was launched earlier on this year.
We are here this evening to launch the Lagos x Paris Fashion Accelerator for fashion and design. Actually, we obtained some new fundings in order to support cultural entrepreneurs in different sections such as fashion design and dance, animation, video games and so we aimed at partnering with young entrepreneurs in cultural and creative industries to give them the push for their businesses and to support and help them expand their activities internationally. We are convinced that in Nigeria, there is so much talent and that it is really important that they become known globally.
“There are different aspects to this programme. The first one is the accelerator. We launched a call for projects in August and we received about 128 applications which is quite a lot. The jury is composed of African and French experts designated 10 beneficiaries/awardees and six of them are in fashion, two in design and the other two are for accessories and all of them are quite known in Nigeria but I thought they could use the extra help to expand. The accelerator has different components that include training for the entrepreneur and management skills to set up business and how to increase and expand it.
“There are also masterclasses, training and different kinds of activities around how to brand and export, how to curate projects for international markets and festivals or shows. There are going to be different stages throughout the year. Hopefully, by the end of the year, they will start to show their creations in French fashion shows.”
She revealed other collaborations in the pipeline that would help more creatives gain international spotlight.
We are going to partner with QDance Company,” she continued. “The founder, Qudus Onikeku is a choreographer, and he is already working for us in creating dance companies for professional dancers. The third component is the animation to help creatives with their businesses and sponsor Nigerians to the biggest animation festival.
“The whole idea was conceived by the French President Emmanuel Macron who has always been fully convinced of how important it is to support Africa. He did a six-month internship in Nigeria and he liked it here. That built the foundation of his interest in the continent. We are also launching in France, Creation Africa to support and promote cultural creatives in Paris. We are sending 15 Nigerians to Paris.”

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