Not content with putting the final touches on his online store and designing his new collection, Berlin-based designer Bobby Kolade has added to his ever-growing accomplishments: being on the final jury panel of the latest African fashion initiative: Africa Designers For Tomorrow (ADFT).
What is the ADFT I hear you say? A competition set up by Waridi Schrobsdorff- a former Kenyan top model, based in Berlin. Under her company-FA254- ADFT plans to give emerging African designers, ‘a door to the European market’.
Founder, Waridi Schrobsdorff
I caught up with Bobby Kolade to learn more about his involvement with the project.
MFSL: So how did you get involved with ADFT?
BK: A couple of months ago, I got an email from Waridi and in it she explained the project and asked me to be part of the final jury panel. I was very interested in the concept and things went from there.
MFSL: What do you feel sets this competition apart from all the many African fashion designer competitions?
BK: Well this competition is mainly for Eastern Africans. It also has a formidable panel which includes Christiane Arp (Chief Editor of German Vogue), Melissa Drier (German Correspondent, Women’s Wear Daily) and Nina Puez (eBay Director Fashion and Lifestyle). Furthermore, the fact that the winner’s collection will be put into production by Ebay is something that rarely happens at fashion competitions.
MFSL: What will your role be when you fly over to Nairobi in November?
BK: The ADFT event will be from the 3rd to 8th November and my role will be to talk to the designers and share my experience in the industry. More like an exchange program. I’ll also be talking about building a coherent collection.
I’ll also be using my design experience to advise the designers, and of course select the winner of the competition.
ADFT in Kenya
MFSL: What have you done as ‘jury’ so far?
BK: In order to get to the final selection, a pre-selection was made in Kenya. That pre-selection was then transported to Berlin. The Jury panel then had one day to look through all the collections and make the final selection.
MFSL: That sounds like so much fun!
BK: Actually, it was a lot of fun. I got into it really quickly, and it was very interesting to look at the various designer’s collections and portfolios.
MFSL: What is the most common mistake you saw designers make?
BK: A few of the designers fell into the trap of making one strong piece and then losing focus.
MFSL: What was the ‘X Factor’ you were searching for when whittling down the designers?
BK: I was looking for something contemporary and fresh: something that is ‘African’ without being overtly traditional or trying too hard to look ‘African’.
MFSL: What are you looking forward to most about going to Nairobi for the event?
BK: Meeting the designers, being in the sun in November, seeing more of the Kitenge… I’m also really curious to find out what it means to be a fashion designer in Nairobi.
MFSL: What does that mean? Because there are loads of working designers in Nairobi.
BK: I mean how and do they produce? Are there a decent amount of African-based customers buying their pieces? I am also curious to find out what materials they work with, how they work and so on. I grew up in Uganda but at that time fashion was really not in the equation for me, so I have no idea about this.
MFSL: And what everyone wants to know: what does the winner get in this competition?
BK: There are going to be three category winners (Apparel, Accessories, Home Decoration). Each of the category winners will have the opportunity to develop and produce their product on an e-commerce international platform (Ebay, Urbanara and Monoqi). The winner’s collection will be presented during Berlin Fashion Week 2015. Also he/she will have the opportunity to produce their pieces with internationally renowned fashion companies.
MFSL: Who is sponsoring the event?
BK: One of the sponsors is eBay Fashion, who is the exclusive distributing partner of the apparel category winner.
MFSL: OMG, that’s huge, that shows Waridi has great business acumen: Thank God!! I am so fed up of all these bloody ‘African Fashion’ competitions popping up everywhere and half of them have no proper business plan in place. So there is this great and glitzy fashion show, and then the designers are left high and dry with no buyers, production assistance, business plan etc.
BK: Yes, Waridi really pulls it off here. I can’t wait to go!
MFSL: It’s going to be great! I’m looking forward to you coming back and giving us the scoop.
To learn more about ADFT, click here.
For more details on Bobby Kolade, click here.
Bobby Kolade ’39’ Collection. Harling & Darsell Photography