VENTURES AFRICA – As the second biggest economy in Africa, Nigeria is perceive as a goldmine by investors. Aside from the country’s over 150 million population, its resources, from oil to agriculture and minerals et al are a delight to investors and entrepreneurs. Currently, the crave for entrepreneurship in the country is at a high, and the fever of enterprise is ever present amongst its youths. Budding entrepreneurs trying to creatively present the African brand to the global world are rampant across the streets of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub. The craftsmen range from Fashion designers to shoemakers, bead makers and the likes. Ventures Africa caught up with one of Nigeria rising entrepreneur, Akintola Akindele, founder of the bandit urban clothing company, he had some experience as a rising entrepreneur in the Nigeria market to share.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your brand?
My name is Akintola Akindele, founder of the Bandit urban clothing company. I am a 25 years old Business administration graduate of Bowen University. I was born and bred Lagos. Bandit urban clothing co. started out as a hobby and a sort of personal challenge. Every day I go out and see brands with big name churning out monotonous and uncreative design, basically the only things on their products where logos, so I thought about it, why spend money on clothing with just logos, I believe I have something better to offer.
What prompted the creation of bandit urban clothing?
The first reason – I was tired of the monotonous designs in circulation and secondly I wanted to build an indigenous urban clothing company that can compete at the global level, an urban outfit that can be in the same store with the likes of Polo by Ralph, Tommy Hilfiger, and Gap.
Why the name “Bandit Urban Clothing?”
The name Bandit came to me because it’s revolutionary different not bound by the norm, and that’s what we are at the Bandit clothing company, our imagination is definitely outside the box.
What will you say is unique about Bandit Urban Clothing?
Bandit clothing is unique because its dream brought into reality. Although, it is still evolving but we stand out in our designs and a fact that we are getting to be known for our designs. We are conversation starters, something to break the ice and when we introduce all our range of products we will still be different. Not different as to be shocking but in a refreshing way, we intend to change how people see urban clothing especially coming from an African brand that intends to go global.
Your target market?
Our target audience varies but they must be hip and young at heart, so age is not a barrier. But if we are to peg, I will say from ages 15 to 45 and in that age demograph, we have different designs targeted to different types of people: the nerds, the fun lovers, creative folks and the proudly patriotic to name a few.
What does your brand have to offer the African market?
The first thing is Pride, we are Africans and we are a very creative race. Take the pyramids for instance, we built that Africans built that and yet we do not have any urban clothing company competing at the international level. I intend to launch Bandit urban clothing company to the international market.
When you say ‘Africans do not have any urban clothing line competing on the global scene’ is that a fact?
I do not have much facts to back this, but to be candid the concept of an indigenous urban clothing company is pretty new to the design scene. Although we have a couple old timers like Hypno ,O Shady and Marco Martinez, the only one on that list that’s still vibrant is Marco Martinez and he’s not competing on the International scene. The Ama Kip Kip brand is good too, strong presence on the African scene but yet to blow out, until we have designs and urban clothing company’s out of Africa that can go head to head, with Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Ecko etc we still have a lot of work to do.
Who are your mentors in the fashion industry?
Amancio Ortega founder Of Zara, really inspirational story there. Ralph Lauren, and P Diddy aka Sean combs founder Sean Jean because really if there’s something known as the male fashionista that will be Diddy and Mai Atafo not as a mentor more like an admired colleague. I like his jackets.In Africa, Well I will say I like Deola Sagoe, Mai Atafo and Uche Nnaji of Ouch – I admire what they are doing for the fashion industry.
Any challenges starting up?
Well apart from having to provide almost the basic infrastructure needed in production by myself, the toughest challenge was getting people to accept the work of an upcoming designer but we are getting past that.
How was the clothing market like, starting up?
The fashion industry is made up of various types of people but one thing I’m pretty certain and we can all agree on is that the fashion industry is fun and that’s one of the greatest benefits of being in such an industry where your work is fun. The people here are always helpful and ready to lend a hand,
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from everywhere. I could be taking a stroll and see something interesting, I work with it, add a few touches and voila! its ready to wear– or from conversations with people. That’s why I have a very mixed circle of friends, we all have different perspectives.
Who are your favourite designers and what have you leant from them?
My favourite designer of all time will be Amancio Ortega, the founder of Zara. Do you know he opened his first store at 27/28 and he was a shop attendant from age 14? What have I learned from him? - Perseverance and the power of belief. That’s a man who triumphed against all odds from a lowly beginning in Spain to secure a place among the first on the wealthiest Forbes list.
What are some of the most rewarding experiences and the biggest challenge you have encountered as a business owner/fashion entrepreneur?
Well my most rewarding experience, sometimes I’m in a random location and someone comes in wearing one of my designs, it makes me so happy that I had a part in it and someone thinks its good enough to be seen in. My challenges will have to be infrastructure and the fear of piracy. You labour over a design, you create it and someone steals it to undermine your original design. Also financing of the business could be a little tricky.
How do you get people to know more about your brand?
We are partnering with various syndicated individual and online stores at the moment, and that is helping us cut across varied market demograph.
How is your sale/ delivery market like?
It is pretty good but could be much better so we have partnered with different stores and online franchises like Jumia.com and 3stiches.com and we are working on a couple more as we speak – Traclist, Gidimall etc.
How do you get materials for clothing?
All clothing materials are sourced internationally, so as to ensure our products are up to the international standard.
How do you source materials internationally?
We want our T-shirts to be of international standard, so we buy them in bulk from Europe and also most of the materials used for our illustration comes from the united kingdom. And the next set of designs that we shall introduce into our collection shall be produced from china where most of the other international brands produce their clothing.
What is the cutting edge you think Bandit Urban Clothing has above its competitor?
The quality of our products are top notch and the contributions of our ever valuable creative and design team.
What is Bandit Urban Clothing up to now?
Right now we are into expansion. We have carried out our preliminary market awareness, so right now we are ready to expand all over Nigeria and Africa next year. We are searching for reputable partners to work with.
Where do you see Bandit Urban Clothing in the near future?
As a top urban clothing company not only competing with the very best but accepted by all internationally
Philosophy or favorite business quote?
I will like to quote Henry Ford.” Unless you have courage, a courage that keeps you going, always going, no matter what happens, there is no certainty of success. It is really an endurance race.”
Advise to other young entrepreneurs coming into the business?
Work hard, believe in yourself, it will not be easy but it is very rewarding and fulfilling. Also avoid the dream killers, you can do it.