African innovators are capturing the world’s attention through their unique designs –particularly in the fashion industry!
Examples include African designers like Mimi Plange, whose works have caught the eyes of Michelle Obama and Rihanna or Kisua, a luxury African brand that Queen Bey is a fan of!
Amazing shoe brands like Thando’s, are revolutionizing the fashion scene with Africa’s first fashionable, comfortable and foldable ballerina flat that can fit inside a small handbag, office drawer or the glove compartment of a car!
Talk about convenience with style!
That being said, if you are looking to break into the fashion industry or want to harness your passion for fashion – this is one is for you!
Join us on Wednesday, April 25th, for a Facebook Live with Jibolu Ayodele – co-founder, Thando’s, and Chioma Okonkwo – Winner of 2017 Thando’s Design competition, as they share with us all a fashion innovator needs to know about changing the fashion scene through innovative designs.
Location: Register below to get access to this opportunity
She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Jibolu Adeyole, co-founder of @ThandosShoes and Chioma Okonkwo, winner of 2017 Thando’s design competition sharing insights on Transforming the world with African fashion. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join!
Jibolu “J.G.” Ayodele is the co-founder of Thando’s, a Lagos and NY based fashion company that provides a platform for African artists to design for a global audience.
Before co-founding Thando’s, Jibolu led the business development efforts of Viacom International Media Networks in Nigeria, where he co-created partnerships with brands such as Hewlett Packard and Lufthansa. He has also worked with Deloitte, Bank of America and GE Capital.
Mr. Ayodele holds an MBA in Finance, Entertainment, Media, and Technology from NYU – Stern School of Business. He received a Masters in Accounting from NC State University, and a Bachelors in Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Jibolu is married to his co-founder, Taffi Ayodele.
Chioma Okonkwo, is a graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, with a passion for illustration and animation. She recently participated in Thando’s inaugural print design competition, where she won with her unique design – The Akonmi Print.
She used this design to interpret how heavy rains result in flooding that displaces hundreds of thousands of people. Chioma was inspired to illustrate after her internship at an imaging company in Port-Harcourt.
When she is not working at her 9 to 5 call centre job or illustrating, Chioma is busy experiencing new places, cultures and foods.
Chantal Fraser is a fashion designer and house singer based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She started her fashion label Chante Clothing in 2010 as a side hustle and transitioned it to full time in 2014.
Her clients comprise of everyone from local celebrities, to brides and bridesmaids and any young lady wanting to look chic and well put together.
Chantal also works with locally based international brands like Edgars which is part of the Woolworths Group of companies.
Following the family tradition, Chantal finally decided to venture into music in 2017 and released her single Better than Yesterday.
When did you fall in love with fashion?
I’ve always had a passion for it since I was young – like seriously young. My passion started with creating beadwork and eventually sketching fashion ideas.
What gave you the courage to pursue Chante Clothing full time?
Passion full stop! My passion was burning so much that I just could not ignore it. I was miserable, working and doing other things. Even though I was getting paid well, I just didn’t have the passion.
I said to myself, if others can dive into their passions and do it, why can’t I?
What setbacks did you have during that transition period?
Definitely, finances. I was jumping into an unknown business. Yes, I had passion but obviously, I was still trying to weave my way through it.
In addition, I had to patiently grow my clientele which took a lot longer than I anticipated. When people are committed to their designer you know that’s it. It is hard to convince them to try someone new.
Before setting up Chante Clothing, what were you doing and how did it help you later on?
I was doing accounts. I hated it! But for some reason, I’d find myself doing accounts in jobs. But when I did switch careers, I began looking at design as more than just a hobby – but a legitimate way of making an income. This made establishing the business easier.
Do you feel like there are enough structures that help women build a business?
Yes and no. There is still a mindset that it depends on what the trade is. Some people don’t look at design as a business; they still see it as a plaything. But if there are women seeking financial assistance for something like chickens they are able to source funds much easier than us. I believe that there is a bias against fashion to some extent.
Have you had any mentors help you in your entrepreneurial journey?
Yes, I have. I’m privileged to know loads of people in the same business as me. My fiancé has been in the fashion industry much longer than I have. Since we collaborated on C and C Clothing, I have been able to learn a lot from him and his support.
I also have friends who helped me learn to sew. While I did have the passion, I needed to acquire the skill. This led me to camp at a friend’s house and eventually learn how to sew. I really appreciate her for doing that for me.
What has opening a business taught you about yourself?
It’s taught me that I can have discipline when it comes to money lol. Initially, I didn’t think I would be this disciplined, but opening a business had really exposed me to some of my strengths.
What do you want Chante Clothing to represent as a brand?
I want it to represent elegance and style.
It’s about bringing out the inner you. It’s about genuinely feeling confident and beautiful and not conforming to what people say is the latest trend. That’s what my business is all about!
Who are your style or fashion icons?
I really like David Tlale and his tenacity. Dolce and Gabbana are also inspiring as they are a team like my fiancé and I. We look up to them. If they can do it, so can we!
You currently have a single out, Better Than Yesterday. How did you get into singing and why a motivational track specifically?
My parents are actually musicians, they had a band ages ago. I didn’t choose music, music chose me! It was in the blood!
I’ve always had the passion and have been singing from forever. When I released my track, I chose motivational music because there’s a world out there that is extremely confused. A lot of people do not know who they are really.
If media says this is the style everyone moves to that. No one has a backbone to stand on. So, with my motivational music, I hope to inspire people to be who they are no matter what situations they are going through.
The themes vary but basically, it’s about you being you being proud of who you are!
So where did you get your obviously innate sense of confidence?
I think I got it from my parents (Not I think, I know!) and especially my mum. She was a very bold person and I learnt a lot from her.
I was fortunate to have parents that allowed us to be who we wanted to be. No matter what you wanted to do they supported you all the way.
What advice can you give about being true to yourself and following your dreams?
Every child is born with a dream, and as time goes on, people that surround you can slowly discourage you.
Don’t forget what that first love was. Go back to it and don’t allow anyone to stand in your way. Even if it seems hard just keep going, keep at it because at the end of the day, that’s what you were born to do.
There’s nothing as depressing as doing something because it’s a trend or because family is pressuring you. Misery is the most disheartening thing ever. Indulge your passion and you’ll get there eventually.
How do balance two careers (and a personal life!)?
It can get difficult at times. What I’ve learnt to do especially with two careers is put timelines and plan to do specific things within certain time frames. Planning is essential.
I go as far as saying when I get home, there will be no work talk but it can definitely get hectic.
What does success look like to you at the end? How will you know you have achieved your dreams?
Success is when I can look back at my life and say well-done Chanty and I’m happy and I have tried everything. If you haven’t tried it all how would you look back and truly be satisfied?
That’s where I find success even in failure. Failures can be a success because you made the effort. You don’t want to have a what if in your mind. What ifs are horrible!
Success should be about inner satisfaction and being happy. It’s not something that can be equated to a particular amount of money or how many likes you get on Facebook or how many people follow you on Instagram. It’s about self-contentment and being able to say at the end of it I tried it all.
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