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Nigerian Fashion Is Flying

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The end of last year saw a mix of patrons, celebrities and fashion professionals from around the world descended on upscale Victoria Island for the GTB Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2013 (LFDW). In the front row were the founders of luxury retailers Luisa via Roma (Andrea Panconesi) and Browns (Joan Burstein), buyers from Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys, and publications including ELLE, Paper and Grazia. All were there to view collections by some of Nigeria’s most talented designers such as Maki Oh, Jewel by Lisa, Iconic Invanity and Tiffany Amber.

This event is not a first. Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, attended LFDW 2012 and declared: “The time for Nigeria is now. The development of a middle class means that a larger number of people are able to upgrade from basic necessities to luxury brands.”

British luxury department store Selfridges also sent a delegation and hosted the Nigerian fashion pop up, Ndani, in association with LFDW founder Omoyemi Akerele. In her words: “The fashion industry is very much in its infancy here. Ndani gave the designers more exposure abroad, that way they will be better appreciated locally.” The lawyer-turned-fashion consultant established LFDW in 2011 and is riding the crest of the ever-rising wave of interest in Nigeria’s fashion industry.

So why all the buzz? Nigeria has one of the highest growth potential economies in Africa. With a population of nearly 170 million and its youthful inhabitants enjoying rapidly rising discretionary incomes, it should not come as a surprise that there is a large market for fashion. Nigeria’s apparel market is estimated to be worth over $7 billion according to Euromonitor, and it has been growing at 13% per annum. However, many wealthy Nigerians still tend to shop overseas for their apparel needs. Global Blue reported that Nigerians ranked third, ahead of Americans, but are behind Middle Easterners and Chinese in apparel retail spending in the United Kingdom.

There are also many other challenges facing local designers. They struggle with a lack of manufacturing facilities, inadequate infrastructure, textile import bans and very little governmental support. Most find it difficult to produce a consistent product of high standards within the timeframe and price range required to fulfill significant overseas orders. However, some have proven to be up to the task and are quickly developing a name abroad.

“There is a lack of skilled labor, general mediocrity and often a lack of appreciation of our tradition and culture,” says Maki Osakwe, the young designer behind Maki Oh. The label has captured the attention of celebrities like Solange Knowles, Leelee Sobieski and Michelle Obama.

“I am true to myself and am always striving towards perfection while keeping my heritage alive,” she continues.

Her designs are stocked at Maryam Nassir Zadeh, a New York City-based emporium. The local landscape is changing rapidly and there has certainly been an influx of international fashion brands coming into Nigerian malls, a boon to the country’s burgeoning marketplace. Euromonitor estimates that the number of international retailers opening outlets in Nigeria is growing at 36% a year and apparel is one of the leading categories. Lagos has seen the opening of high-end stores Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, MAC and mid-range apparel players such as Foschini as well as mass-market chain outlets like Mr. Price. The much-anticipated Alara, Nigeria’s first concept store, opened its doors in late 2013. Designed by critically-acclaimed architect David Adjaye, the store changed the face of retail in Nigeria by bringing authenticity and world-class aesthetics.

E-commerce is another way many are overcoming the real estate and infrastructure restrictions in the country. There are new online retail models tailored to the environment. Internet retailers Konga and Jumia offer payment on delivery options, since most Nigerians are still skeptical about paying online. Additionally, 5th and Quansah, a luxury apparel and accessory e-tailer, offers personal shopping and styling appointments in Lagos.

“Aside from economic growth, what fascinates people are the colors, textures and newness of the collections shown in Nigeria,” says 5th and Quansah founder, Nana Serwah Kankam about international interest in the Nigerian fashion industry.

“Nigerian women are stylish and trendy, proudly owning their own perspective on fashion. I don’t think you see this so often in the world. They are well aware of the global trends, confidently weaving them in with local influence.”

The apparel value chain is quickly developing and the future of Nigerian fashion seems to be very bright. With thoughtful government policies to support investment in the sector, perhaps the country will see indigenous fashion businesses serving the population and maybe even a Mercedes-Benz-sponsored Nigerian fashion week in the not too distant future.

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Comedian Jim Gaffigan Rakes In $30 Million By Ditching Netflix And Betting On Himself

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Gripping a lukewarm Heineken, Jim Gaffigan hunches his six-foot-one frame over a peeling table in the green room of the An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny, Ireland. Summer nights are never terribly hot in these parts, but this one is warm enough to need some air conditioning, which the theater almost never uses. It’s hardly a glamorous moment. But then again, glamour isn’t really his thing.

“There’s nothing sexy about Jim Gaffigan,” he says, sweat dotting his brow. “I’m not young. I don’t have a full head of hair. I’m out of shape. I don’t talk about having dinner with Kanye.”

Fortunately for him, he is funny. Just ask the more than 300,000 people in 15 countries who’ve paid an average of $56 to see his latest routine. For the 53-year-old father of five, it’s been a grueling schedule: more than 75 cities in the past year, including whistle-stops like Letterkenny, a northern community of 20,000 that was once lauded as the Republic’s “tidiest town.”

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They may not offer much sizzle, but places like this are the lifeblood of Gaffigan’s business. He has raked in $30 million this year, putting him at No. 3 on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning stand-up comedians. Half of that was earned by putting “butts in seats.”

The rest comes from spreading his punch lines far and wide. And in this business, if those jokes are funny enough—and your reach wide enough—you can fill a lot of seats with a lot of butts. With the right distribution deal, those jokes can deliver exponential returns. But that’s where it gets a bit tricky.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting,” Gaffigan says. “So you’d better be building a new house.”  

Gaffigan’s been building. In 2016, he agreed to partner with Netflix, the industry’s dominant force and home to original specials from all but one of the comedians on Forbes’ ranking. Last year he cut loose from the kingmaker and placed a bigger bet on himself, pairing up with Comedy Dynamics, an independent producer, to release his next special everywhere but Netflix. 

Gaffigan will star in the first original stand-up special on Amazon, which is going after the streaming giant with a push into comedy. Quality Time goes live today, and it can be shopped on the open streaming market when its exclusive run with Amazon Prime Video is up in two years. And that market is only expanding.

Gaffigan has learned a bit about home building in the entertainment industry. He cut his teeth on the club circuit in the early 1990s, when HBO was the primary destination for stand-up specials and Comedy Central was a fledgling cable network.

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In 2000, he landed what was then the holy grail of comedy success—a broadcast sitcom—which was the source of the fortunes the creators of Seinfeld and Roseanne minted once they had enough seasons on the air and could sell the series into syndication.

Gaffigan’s shot proved to be short-lived, but six years later he scored a second chance and headlined a Comedy Central special called Beyond the Pale. This time it paid dividends, landing him his first theater show a month later. The butts were now coming to the seats, and while his rise was live, in person, with microphone in hand, his breakout was digital.

At the time, YouTube was changing the rules of the game, providing comedians a global platform with unprecedented distribution. Then Twitter emerged, giving comedy bookers a real-time assessment of who was attracting audiences.

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Then came the debut of streaming on Netflix, which latched onto comedy as a cheap and effective way to lure subscribers, while some, notably the now disgraced Louis C.K., used streaming to control their own distribution, making their shows available for fans to purchase directly.

“It was a technological wave that crashed over the stand-up world,” says Wayne Federman, a comedian and professor of the history of stand-up at the University of Southern California. “And we’re still all trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Gaffigan’s first original Netflix special aired in 2017, long after the company had reshaped the industry. It was a promising place to be: Aziz Ansari and Ali Wong were propelled into superstar status through their Netflix specials, while household names like Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld reportedly cashed in with $60 million (Chappelle) and $100 million (Seinfeld) paydays in exchange for long-term, multi-program deals. Gaffigan’s first special, Cinco, sold for a more modest seven-figure sum.

Jim Gaffigan stand up comedy specials for Netflix and Amazon Original
COURTESY

It was more than just a check; it was access to a potential audience of nearly 94 million. Although Netflix’s subscriber base has grown since then, so has its stand-up library. The platform now shops nearly four times the number of original stand-up specials than when Cinco debuted.

That makes it harder to stand out in the scroll. Plus, the streamer often holds onto specials in perpetuity, including Cinco. The up-front money is nice, but there is no ability to earn on the back end. 

Gaffigan used his next special, 2018’s Noble Ape, which was directed and cowritten by his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, to test the waters. Comedy Dynamics bought the rights and made it available everywhere Netflix wasn’t. It had a theatrical release and could be purchased and rented on multiple services, including  iTunes, YouTube and Walmart’s VUDU.

Later, there were short streaming windows on Comedy Central and Amazon Prime. According to Comedy Dynamics CEO Brian Volk-Weiss, it was even syndicated to planes and cruise ships. The up-front payment to Gaffigan from Comedy Dynamics was lower than at Netflix, but the wide distribution allowed him to earn on the back end, bringing in a total of $10 million, according to Forbes estimates.

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And new services are on the way from Apple, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and Disney, any one of which could choose to pursue cheap-to-produce and popular stand-up specials. 

Because of this widening field, stand-up specials may have more life (and revenue) in them, and that could be good for comedians looking to gamble on their success with deals that offer back-end participation. “We have titles in our library that are making more in year 12 than they made in year one,” says Volk-Weiss, whose company also owns specials by Bob Saget, Iliza Shlesinger and Janeane Garofalo.

Still, leaving Netflix means walking away from a partner that has now established itself as a formidable entertainment company. Netflix has some 180 original hour-long stand-up specials and is singularly focused on exploiting content around the world. Gaffigan, though, is content to keep the bet on himself.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting. So you’d better be building a new house.”

In the stuffy backstage room in Letterkenny, Gaffigan reviews some of the new material he tried out on stage. A joke about Ireland’s nonsensical roads killed it. He stumbled with a bit about the English. The classics played well—“My dad never went to a parent-teacher conference; my dad didn’t know I went to school.”  

And he’s well aware that Amazon’s core mission is to sell stuff, even though it has won critical acclaim for shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Transparent. With plans to deliver three more specials over the next five years, he’s got time to see just how good a partner the retailer might be. Along the way, he may decide it’s time to find a new neighborhood.

“The reason I went to Amazon is to expand my audience,” he says. “I don’t know what they’re gonna do and I don’t fully understand their marketing might. I might be pleasantly surprised. I mean, it’s a huge corporation. They could probably make more selling socks.”

-Ariel Shapiro; Forbes

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Mr Eazi On A Global Campaign To Mentor And Fund African Artists

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Nigerian-born artist Mr Eazi is investing in the next generation of African talent.


He has launched emPawa Africa, a talent incubator program that provides emerging artists with tools, startup funding, and mentorship to become artist-entrepreneurs.

Mr Eazi conceived emPawa Africa in November 2018 as a new model for artist development.

“EmPawa is an initiative I created with one simple mission: Helping new artists reach their full potential musically by equipping them with the knowledge and funding to do so,” Mr Eazi said in a statement.

“It’s something I wish someone had created when I first started making music. Sometimes, all it takes is that one person to believe in you,” he added.

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The program opened submission on August 15 and 30 African artists will be selected to receive a non-repayable grant to fund their first pro-quality music videos, mentorship, marketing services and support to launch an international recording career.

Via Instagram, entrants will have to upload a short video clip of themselves performing to an original song, cover or freestyle, with the hashtag #emPawa30.

These submissions will be evaluated by Mr Eazi and his music-industry colleagues.

African artists from the diaspora are also encouraged to apply.

The #emPawa30 program will include 10 artists from Nigeria, 10 artists from other countries on the African continent and five UK based African artists.

The remaining five spots open to African-born artists in countries around the world, including the US and Canada.

YouTube Music is also partnering with the program to provide support for the 10 Nigerian artists in the #emPawa30 cohort.

YouTube’s Global Head of Music, Lyor Cohen, announced during a fireside chat with Mr Eazi at last month’s Google for Nigeria Week.

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Once selected, the lucky 30 will get to work as part of a seven month mentorship program with mentors such as Diplo, afrobeats producers E. Kelly, Juls and GuiltyBeatz, South African rapper Kwesta, Ghanaian rapper Sarkodie, Tanzanian music superstar Diamond Platnumz, afrobeats veteran DJ Neptune and executives from the African music industry and Mr Eazi.

The final 30 artists will be announced on September 30.

Mr Eazi has generated more than 900 million streams worldwide, including over 226 million plays on YouTube alone.

He has collaborated with international artists like Beyonce, Major Lazor and fellow Nigerian Burna Boy.

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Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank

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South African Comedian Trevor Noah Is The Fourth Highest Paid Comedian In The World. Here’s how he did it.


With earnings of a staggering $28 million Trevor Noah has become the fourth highest paid comedian in the world.

According to Forbes the Daily Show host, “earned the bulk of his income this year through stand-up, making him eligible for our list”.

Forbes’ methodology is using all earnings estimated from June 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019.

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“Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from Pollstar Pro as well as interviews with industry insiders,” they said.

He is signed to host the Daily Show until 2022.

On the show, Noah usually sits down with the biggest headline-grabbers in politics and entertainment.

Noah also covers the biggest news stories in politics, pop culture and more.

Recently he trended after devising a viral conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump is targeting first lady Melania Trump with his immigration policies.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah currently has over 5,3 million subscribers on YouTube alone and has had 1,9 billion views.

But apart from the show, the South African born comedian made more than 70 stops across the world and had his second Netflix special last fall.

His book Born A Crime, published in 2016, is still ranked as No.1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list for paperback nonfiction.

Africans across the globe celebrated Noah’s listing on social media with some expressing how inspired they are by him.

On the Forbes list, Noah follows after Jim Gaffigan earning $30 million, Jerry Seinfeld earning $41 million and Kevin Hart being the highest earner with $59 million.

On the top ten list the only woman on the list is Amy Schumer at the seventh spot with $21 million.

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