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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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Hip-Hop’s Next Billionaires: Richest Rappers 2019

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Back in 2007, Jay-Z made a bold statement in song about both his lyrical prowess and his future financial fortunes: “I’m already the G.O.A.T.–next stop is the billie.”

Sure enough, Forbes declared him hip-hop’s first billionaire earlier this month. The news caught the attention of observers around the world—not only due to the breadth of Jay-Z’s financial achievement, but because of what it means for others looking to follow in his footsteps.

“Jay-Z’s entire life is the real blueprint,” says hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy, longtime host of the show Yo! MTV Raps. “He’s one of the best examples in our lifetime of one who’s truly achieved the American dream and billionaire status.”

Naturally, Jay-Z tops this year’s ranking of hip-hop’s richest stars. Who will be the next billionaire from the rap world? The answer is almost certainly one of the names below.

richest rappers Drake
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5. Drake

$150 million

The 32-year-old Canadian is the youngest on this list by a decade, but he’s quickly gaining ground on hip-hop’s elder statesmen. Drake’s fortune grew 50% over the past year, boosted by holdings ranging from real estate to his Virginia Black whiskey, as well as a lucrative tour and new residency at the XS Nightclub in Las Vegas.

“Every year, we just want to get more prepared and better at touring and better at things that make money,” he told Forbes in 2013 (his average gross has since surged from $500,000 to more than $2 million per stop). “That’s pretty much my objective every year, other than making good music.”

richest rappers Kanye
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4. Kanye West

$240 million

A onetime protégé of Jay-Z, the superproducer has been making headlines recently for his Sunday Service, an invitation-only get-together mostly in Southern California that is reportedly frequented by the likes of Courtney Love and Tyler, the Creator. He took the show on the road in April for a Coachella service on Easter Sunday featuring appearances by Chance the Rapper, DMX and a gospel choir—while hawking socks and “holy spirit” sweatshirts. But selling church clothes alone won’t be enough to push West into ten-figure territory.

Despite declaring himself $53 million in debt and beseeching Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion to fund future creations in 2016, West makes his debut on this list thanks to a another patron: Adidas, which lured West and his Yeezy shoe line from Nike several years ago. Our accounting of West’s wealth is almost entirely predicated on a conservative estimate of that brand’s value. As it continues to scale up, he could one day join his sister-in-law, Kylie Jenner, as a billionaire.

richest rappers Diddy
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3. Diddy

$740 million

“I started my business career at age 12, delivering newspapers,” Diddy explained two years ago in our centennial issue, where we named him one of the world’s greatest living business minds. “Since then, I’ve always understood that if I give the customers my best and service them differently, whether music, clothing or vodka, I’ll get a return on my hard work.”

The artist formerly known as Puff Daddy dips to No. 3 on this list as industry trends weigh on some of his holdings, including cable network Revolt and clothing line Sean John (though Diddy has sold much of his stake in the latter, he retains a sizeable piece). But Ciroc, the main driver of his fortune, is growing again after case volumes fell from all-time highs in recent years—making the impresario perhaps the most likely candidate to join Jay-Z in the billion-dollar club.

richest rappers dr dre
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2. Dr. Dre

$800 million

It’s been five years since Dr. Dre proclaimed himself a billionaire, but Forbes still doesn’t agree with the assessment made in the wake of Apple’s $3 billion 2014 purchase of his Beats By Dr. Dre headphone line. The superproducer owned an estimated 20%-25% of the company at the time; of the $2.6 billion Apple paid upfront in cash, another $295 million was earmarked to cover debt payments, leaving Dre with a little over $500 million.

Even with the vesting of his final slug of Apple stock last summer, Dre hasn’t quite made it into billionaire territory. He has spent heavily over the years on property (he paid $40 million for Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen’s Los Angeles estate) and charitable donations (along with Beats cofounder Jimmy Iovine, he gave $70 million to start a school at USC). And with his formal involvement at Apple seemingly wrapping up, Dre will likely need to get back on the festival circuit—or start a new company—if he’s to make good on his 2014 declaration.

richest rappers jay-z
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1. Jay-Z

$1 billion

Though he’s hip-hop’s first billionaire, Jay-Z’s lead on the rest of the pack is even larger if his entire family fortune is taken into consideration: He and wife Beyoncé are now worth a combined $1.4 billion. So much for the notion that music is a dying business.

“To convince artists that you can’t be an artist and make money … was the greatest trick in music that people ever pulled off,” Jay-Z told Forbes in 2010. “I think the people that were making the millions said that.”

Methodology

In order to compile our ranking of the richest rappers, we use the same procedures employed in the calculation of our annual billionaires list: poring over financial documents, valuing major assets, and consulting with analysts, managers, attorneys and other industry insiders.

Cover photographs: Getty Images (Dr. Dre: AP Images)

-Zack O’Malley Greenburg; Forbes Staff

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The Creative In The Numbers Game

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Desmond Blackmore has solidified his presence in Ghana’s afrobeats scene and is one of the few musicians to turn into a successful entertainment mogul.


It’s almost impossible to attend a party or wedding in Ghana and not be treated to one of Desmond Blackmore’s ubiquitous chart-toppers.

With hits like Personal Person, Vera and Seihor a must-have on any Ghanaian DJ’s playlist, the 32-year-old rapper known by the moniker ‘D-Black’, has managed to solidify his presence as a leading emcee in Ghana’s afrobeats scene in less than a decade.

And it isn’t just about churning out party anthems and catchy lyrics. Blackmore is also a sharp businessman, who has been building his larger-than-life stage persona into a brand that now extends to a night club, live events, apparel, content production, media and advertising.

His story is the stuff of movies. His father, a businessman who made his wealth importing agriculture machinery, had 10 children with five different women. By the time Blackmore was a teenager, his father had lost most of his wealth through bad investments.

READ MORE | ‘If You Are An Artist, You Need To Be Out There As A Healer’

Blackmore, along with his mother, a civil servant, and his little sister, moved to North Kaneshie, in Accra, in search of a livelihood. With a life devoid of any comfort, Blackmore had to depend on his wit and creativity to make a living and pay his own way through school.

Cue the summer of 2007. Opportunity came knocking and Blackmore decided to take it. Aphrodisiac, a night club and advertising company Blackmore was working for as an errand boy, had shut down operations and as he was leaving the office, he received a call from Coca-Cola, looking for advertising services.

The previous owner of the business advised him to take the deal if he felt he could deliver. He decided to take the chance. He registered his own company within a week and secured his first big contract with the mammoth brand. 

“I have always been entrepreneurial at heart. I like numbers and I am a creative as well, so putting those two together was natural to me,” says Blackmore.

That deal paved the way for the then 20-year-old entrepreneur and exposed him to corporate Ghana. With the proceeds from the deal, he bought his first car and invested the rest into his music.

Blackmore’s is a story of dogged determination. He has gone from being homeless to becoming one of the most successful entertainers in Ghana. Case in point, in 2014, when Guinness Ghana Breweries Ltd (GGBL), a subsidiary of Diageo Plc. U.K., were looking for their official brand ambassador in Ghana, Blackmore was the only name on the list.

“D-Black is one of the few brands in Ghana’s music scene that embodies the Cîroc Vodka brand. The brand is championed by global megastars like P Diddy so we needed someone who matched the ethos of the lifestyle, flamboyance and entrepreneurship that the brand evokes and D-Black was the perfect celebrity partner to further enhance the luxury profile of Ciroc in Ghana,” says Nathaniel Ansong Manu, Head of the Luxury Brands portfolio at GGBL.

With a degree in fine arts and music from the University of Ghana as well as a brief stint studying economics at the University of Cape Coast, Blackmore had found the right combination of knowledge and talent to make his dreams of becoming a solo artist a reality.

READ MORE | African Music Platforms Soar As Spotify And Apple Snooze

With his cash injection from his first deal, he set out to be Ghana’s next big hip-hop artist. He decided early on in his career that he wanted his music to have international appeal and as a result, opted to rap in English, a move that was risky at a time where most of the chart toppers were singing in the local dialect.

“I met someone called Kweku T after university, who was rapping in English too. So we started recording together and we didn’t have enough money to shoot a video or anything, so we decided two pockets are better than one. We put together money and created a mixtape project and we shot three videos,” says Blackmore.

That partnership paid off. Blackmore received nominations from the prestigious Ghana Music Awards, as well as international acclaim from awards in South Africa. After a year and a half, the pair decided to go their separate ways with their individual projects. Then in 2010, he released his first solo album and embarked on a nationwide tour in Ghana.

“I won the hip-hop song of the year at the Ghana Music Awards for the first time in history as well as nominated for the BET Awards for Best African Artist. I went to Los Angeles but I didn’t win and came to New York, bought my own studio equipment, went back to Ghana, opened my own studio, then I dropped the biggest song in the country right after called Vera and the rest is history.”

Blackmore has broken boundaries in his young career as a music artist. He is one of the few musicians to transition smoothly from a successful rapper into an entertainment mogul.

He owns a record label Black Avenue Music to find fresh talent in Ghana. In 2015, he started Live Wire events, an event management company delivering corporate events, celebrity soccer matches, large concerts as well as festivals for the Ministry of Tourism in Ghana.

His early years working for Aphrodisiac gave him the experience he needed to also open his own lounge and night club, Onyx, in Ghana’s plush residential hub of Cantonments.

He also started a media and advertising company, Volcano. But Blackmore did not stop there. Spotting an opportunity in the content world, Blackmore also launched Black Avenue TV that produces movies and TV shows for some of Ghana’s biggest TV networks.

“All my companies are in the entertainment space because I wanted to provide brands with a 360-degree solution. If you want to do concerts, we have experience doing big stadium concerts or niche events, if you need a club or a lounge, you can use mine and when you need to advertise, we have a solution for that as well.”

However the hustle is not just all about making money.

“I started a record label to help those who still had not found a way to break through. It was a way of giving back to other people. So I was thinking if I spent $500 of my own money to help someone come up, it was a blessing.

“If I make my money back, great, and if I don’t, it was still a blessing. Sometimes, just providing studio time, paying for a music video to be shot by an artist who cannot afford it, will go a long way to help an artist and that is how I saw it. I have never made profit from any artist I have signed yet, it is always just about me helping them out.”

And that has been Blackmore’s greatest achievement so far, paving the way for people just like him to achieve their dreams through music.

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‘If You Are An Artist, You Need To Be Out There As A Healer’

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An artist and theater owner who interrogated his own cultural story.


When culture meets art at the revived Dance Umbrella Africa Festival, a rapturous applause offers the stamp of approval to the cast of Ubizo, The Calling who take their bows through the exaggerated plumes of smoke at the South African State Theatre.

Under the theme, Figure-ring – the state of dance in Africa, the annual festival which shut down a year ago, has been rebranded to incorporate a continental approach.

With over 54 shows performed, over 100 artists were given a platform to showcase their work from March 31 to April 7.

A diverse program celebrating narratives from beyond South African borders, the new home of the annual gathering encompasses a variation of dance genres, ranging from the local dance popular in townships, Isipantsula, to diverse classical contemporary performances.

READ MORE | ‘There Will Always Be A Need For Live Art’

A tribute to Africa performed by the Inkaba Theatre Productions, Ubizo, The Calling enticed the audience with a riveting set.

 A man dressed in a white and blue cassock wails on his back, as he stretches his arms to the ceiling, his rhythmic movements emphasized by the sounds of wind created by a plastic pipe.

He is pleading to his ancestors for a son.

The show was directed and performed by Sibusiso Mbokazi, the artist from Durban who came to Johannesburg to pursue a career in theater. Unable to explain to his father that the arts are a recognizable career, Mbokazi was left to fend for himself in his first year of studies in Johannesburg.

“I survived with a two-liter coke and a loaf of bread for a week. It was that hard, but my mother saw the passion and love. Today, every time I go back to KwaZulu-Natal, every high school wants my attention because they have that understanding that I worked hard,” he says.

Today, he owns a theater company with the focus of raising awareness of the arts in his hometown and communities across the country.

 With Inkaba Theatre Productions, learners are given a platform to showcase their talent at a much younger age than he was at the beginning of his career.

A performance alongside South African entertainment personality Somizi Mhlongo changed his parents’ perception of the arts.

“We need to invite our parents; we need to be open with them too,” he says.

 Mbokazi’s work is deeply embedded in spirituality which speaks to his personal and artistic life. He says art shouldn’t only be created for money but for passion.

Ubizo, The Calling by Sibusiso Mbokazi. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

“One thing you lose when you create your craft for money is the focus of your creativity. You will lose the audacity of your work. You will lose the understanding of who you are in your craft work. If you are an artist, you need to be out there as a healer…

“We create work with a storyline and a motive but the audience may read it differently.”

Performed for the first time in 2013, Ubizo, The Calling, amalgamates Christianity and African spirituality in order to interrogate misconceptions around rituals.

“When you are called by your ancestors, it becomes a calling. I realized that people think being called by your ancestors is stigmatized. If you trace it back, you will be told that religion and ancestry has not been separated,” he says.

He feels African artists need to go back and interrogate their own cultural stories in a way that will celebrate the authenticity of the continent.

READ MORE | Executive Travel: Nomzamo Mbatha’s Kenya

 It starts with remembering, he says.

“We are running out of an understanding who we are because we do not have [a place] where we are teaching and giving the understanding of our own culture. To embody and remember them, is something we need to start teaching,” he says.

Mbokazi argues that a lack of self-love is what stands in the way of the future of most black artists.

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