Young Nigerian talks about starting out in the fashion industry

Akintola Akindele is a 25 year old business administration graduate and the founder of Bandit Urban Clothing – a new, youthful fashion brand in Nigeria.

Akintola Akindele

According to Akindele, the company is focusing on building its brand to become a household name, and while currently marketed at the Nigerian and West African consumer, aims to become an international player. In an interview with Akindele, How we made it in Africa finds out a little bit more about the company.

What inspired the decision to start Bandit Urban Clothing?

Well I guess I wanted to create something different from what’s the norm. Okay, take a Nike, Gap or Levi T-shirt for example … it’s basically a plain shirt with the brand’s logo or name on it. It’s more of an advert for the brand rather than a tee designed to suit the taste of the customer. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just certain there are people out there who want their urban clothing to reflect their moods and personality and it’s that ‘need’ we intend to satisfy at Bandit Urban Clothing.

Briefly tell us about your clothing

Bandit Urban Clothing is an indigenous clothing company with a global outlook – we might be starting out from Nigeria but we intend to take it global. And we shall deal in everything that is urban clothing from tees to polos, under garments, shorts, casual shirts, casual shoes, etc. But right now we are taking it one step at a time with working on building the brand until it becomes a household name and globally accepted, so we are using our T-shirts which we have in stock to open the door and create a demand for other products. Bandit Urban Clothing is my baby but it’s going to be huge – a company that will make every African proud to be associated with it because it belongs to us.

How did you go about getting your initial financing?

Like every person with a business background knows (I studied business at university by the way) the initial finance of many start-ups comes from personal savings and friends and family

So I started out with personal savings and help from my family and friends. Recently an aunt invested in the business, so we have now moved the production of our products to China where other top brands all over the world get their production done. We want our products to maintain international standards.

I’m yet to go to the banks or venture capitalists – not that we will rebuff any if it’s mutually beneficial to both the brand and the bank/venture capitalist.

What opportunities exist in the Nigerian fashion industry?

Opportunities abound in the Nigerian fashion industry. Think of the employment potential from models to make-up artists, cobblers, jewellers – high end and urban fashion. And it’s still growing and evolving especially since my sub-sector of the industry, that’s urban fashion, was not so popular. I guess most folks do not believe that Nigerians will patronise indigenous brands and pay good money for their work. Well we are here to challenge that notion.

In terms of clothing brands, who are your main competition in the region?

I will not call them competition because we have different goals and strategies to achieve our objectives, but I respect Nack clothing, Virtue Clothiers and the Amakipkip brand. They are urban clothing companies that have a shot at going global.

What is your competitive advantage?

The quality of our products are top notch and of an international standard. We think outside the box. Take for example our Motherland tee due for release next month with a couple of new designs. At first glance the artwork depicts a map of Africa with pictures of men in it, but what it really signifies is that the great men in that picture – from Nelson Mandela, to Awolowo, Fela, Martin Luther King, etc – all have a common bond: we are the children of Mother Africa. No matter where we are, we have that bond.

Do you have any advice for other young Nigerians looking to get into the fashion industry?

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal recently about the Japanese fashion mogul Tadashi Yanai, founder of Uniqlo. He said something that caught my attention; that what’s holding Japan back is “conservatism and cowardice”. Luckily those are qualities the average Nigerian youth does not possess. We are creative and resilient so all you have to do is believe in yourself because there will be times that it’s that self believe that will keep you going until victory is yours. So chin up.