The inaugural visit of the Nigerian Creative Enterprise Support Programme Hub Managers UK Study Tour visit to Glasgow and London was met by the UK’s unpredictable weather but the aim to present a diverse range of experiences engaging with business of fashion and creative entrepreneurship, visit inspirational spaces, present opportunities for the hub managers to forge links with cultural leaders, innovators and influential figures was met.
The tour started in Glasgow, Scotland and was launched with a wonderful industry mixer, which allowed participants and attendees to network with industry professionals and designers to share knowledge as well as opportunities for future collaborations.
The Centre for Advanced textiles was a key visit on the tour which demonstrated that technology can provide solutions for smaller fabric run that are more accessible to smaller brands. One of the main barriers to fashion designers in Nigeria is having access to fabrics, currently importing quality fabrics is not easy and the internal fabric market is not high end enough to allow luxury brands to develop.
The group also visited the Glasgow School of Art, a leading Art School in the UK with a Global reputation. The participants were invited as VIP guests to a Fashion Show to view the work of 3rd year students from the Fashion & textiles departments. The show highlighted the need to allow students to concentrate on their creativity and developing their design skills.
The London leg of the tour started at 50m in Belgravia. Meeting Beatrice Newman, Head of Mentoring Program and the team. The experimental luxury fashion concept store and e-commerce business name comes from the 50 metres of affordable rail space for hire to young and emerging designers. NICE delegates were invited to explore the space and encouraged to ask questions to learn about the business model and the business mentorship programme. This was followed by a trip to East London, to visit Nigerian fashion veteran Samson Soboye, owner of Soboye Boutique Calvert Avenue in the heart of Shoreditch, East London. Soboye is an afro luxe retailer that sells a curated selection of pan African and international fashion & lifestyle products. The highlight of the visit was breaking bread over a candid discussion about the intellectual and practical challenges of being an independent business owner in London and Lagos. So many takeaways! We wrapped up the visit with a Thai dinner at Busaba, a short hop away in Old Street.
Starting early on Thursday morning we travelled south of the river Thames on the top of a tourist favourite, the red double-decker bus. Micheal Burgess at The Africa Centre invited us to visit this key cultural destination. We were honoured to be hosted by Director, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE. He shared with us, its 50-year legacy starting in Covent Garden to its new home in Bankside. An inspiring visit where delegates learned about the centre’s guiding principles of culture, entrepreneurship & innovation, social, education and intellectual leadership and saw the affordable co-working space available to small businesses. They took the opportunity to network and connect with guests including award-winning afro hair care brand Afrochenix and students from the University of The West of Scotland.
Next stop, Rye Lane, Peckham, to and are fondly known as Little Lagos. An enlightening visit to Peckham Palms taught us about the legacy of freelance hair stylists, many of whom area Nigerian, affected by the regeneration happening in the area. Managing Director, Monique Tomlinson shared their mission to empower, support and grow these businesses led by black women to ensure they continue to grow and thrive in the area. Over in North London, one of the best-kept fashion production secrets is Fashion Enter in Haringey. A not-for-profit textile and garment production business. The delegates had many questions for Jennifer Sutton, one of the company’s directors. She walked us through the social enterprise business model. The full scale factory, teaching sampling, grading, factory production skills. We also had a guided walk through the impressive factory floor that produces fashion garments for brands like ASOS. There was so much to learn!
Our final day started with an amazing design focused trip to the Design Museum, close to Kensington Palace in South West London. We were invited to the exhibition dedicated to the work of celebrated Ghanaian architect David Adjaye : Making Memory. Our tour guide, Ameena McConnell, is the museums hugely talented, Curator at Large. The exhibition was a big hit. The delegates were able to get an insight into Adjaye’s creative process. From sketchings to the moodboard space, small scale models to full scale installations. Truly inspiring. After the tour, there was time to meet with Ameena and learn about her experience as a design professional and how she expresses her creativity through her work and her curatorial practice. The next stop was Second Home in Holland Park. The delegates were given a tour around this wellness themed co-working hub housed in a contemporary designed building. As a cultural venue, it showed the delegates how they can incorporate a co-operative ethos that supports its members and the local community. The three-day tour ended on a high at a meeting with Future Girl Corp co-founders Tabitha Goldstaub and Amy Thomson. We also met Anushka Sharma founder of space project NAAUT. This was an invigorating opportunity to connect business dots and problem solve by brainstorming ideas that encouraged the delegates to think outside the box planning their economic empowerment. With the tour at its end. We hope the hub managers are able to incorporate some of the ideas and strategies they engaged with into their business plans and further empower their goals. We wish them all success in their future endeavours!
Words by Alan Dibble, Director, Fashion Foundry (GLA) and Leigh Odimah, Community & Programmes Officer, The Assembly Hub (LON).
Image Credit: Minjuri (GLA) and Cindy Hudson (LON)
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