The African fashion industry is booming and Uduak Oduok, the founder of Ladybrille, is keen to tell the world. A “blogazine” that brings African fashions to the Western masses, Ladybrille champions the vibrant, spectacular creations that are coming out of the continent but are often ignored by the popular media. Dynamic and driven, Uduak is a model, lawyer, journalist and businesswoman, using her many skills to shine a much-needed light on a fledgling industry. Here she explains what’s good on the African fashion scene.
Q: Tell me about Ladybrille Magazine? What’s it about?
Ladybrille, which means brilliant lady, brings African fashions and its fashion industry directly to Western consumers. The site, through its “blogazine,” is a one stop spot for Africans and non-Africans to discover fresh and innovative African luxury and affordable fashion brands. We do this by shining a spotlight on cutting-edge African fashion products, fabrics, fashion weeks and trends, designers, photographers, music, arts, style icons, beauty, events, fashion news, celebrities and celebrity interviews. We are also very much about the business of fashion so we empower fashion professionals through informative and entertaining articles and news on business, law, finance, retail, marketing, media and public relations. Our popular Ladybrille Woman of the Month feature highlights entrepreneurs in the fashion and entertainment world making brilliant things happen!
Q: Why did you decide to set it up? I saw a void in the global marketplace when it came to representing and showcasing sophisticated, cosmopolitan yet urban African fashions to the world’s fashion industry and fashion-forward consumers. I also felt I was the right voice, based on my heritage [African and Western] and career backgrounds [fashion, law and media] to best interpret two worlds in a language Western consumers could understand and act upon. I also wanted a way to give back to my local and African communities by inspiring young women to dream BIG and embrace the path of entrepreneurship towards financial independence.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve with the mag? 1) To de-stigmatize the image of Africans in the West through fashion. 2) To show fashion-forward women they can enjoy the sexy designs coming out of Africa, own it and use it to express themselves, and 3) To instill a strong sense of pride in Africans as well as African-Americans about where they come from. The negative images perpetrated of Africans hurt Africans and African-Americans too.
Q: Your tagline is “Where the West Meets Today’s African Fashion Industry.” What can African fashion add to the current European and American-dominated fashion mix? I got tired of “East Meets West” and everyone meeting West but the West. The world has changed and is changing. For once, the West can and should Meet Africa. As to what African fashions can add, a whole lot. For starters, a unique and refreshing perspective on fashion, more spunk and excitement! Today’s fashions are mass produced, lack spontaneity and creativity and are just plain boring. The African fashion brands featured on Ladybrille.com, in the Blogazine section, puts the “F” back in fashion!
Q: What are the issues surrounding promoting African fashion? Where do I start? Consumer Education: Africans themselves are the issue. There are a handful who take pride in who they are and embrace the fashion revolution. However, a lot want to wear only the Pradas and the Guccis and would not be caught dead in an African brand even if it ranks on the same level. This mindset needs to change because it hurts the industry and makes it hard for African designers to compete with the strong presence of foreign brands within their respective countries. African Celebrities: So called red carpets in Africa are full of the worse fashion faux pas ever. African celebrities really should know better! They need to re-package their image and make it easy for Western media to begin talking about them. African photographers: the quality of photos could be much better. I am thankful to Simon Deiner, a photographer out of South Africa, whose photos are definitely and consistently up to par. Technology: No websites, no contact information, no maintenance of sites and it’s sometimes not clear how to purchase these designs, especially those wanting to engage in e-retail. We try to be extra picky with who we list on our site because that is what we are there for so our readers don’t have to go through all that drama. They should get on our site and know exactly what is being offered and what stores to purchase if they like what they see and contact info. Media/PR: There are some PR firms who service Africa’s fashion industry and do a fabulous job, but we still need huge training of industry professionals on how to market and present themselves.
Q: What are the latest trends in African fashion? Out of Sanlam South Africa Fashion Week, we liked Lebo Mash who offered wide legged pants, pencil skirts and fitted jacket. Her smart combination of creams and reds we predict will be a trend. Artistic Soul also had some delicious designs for men. The more exciting trends, however, came from Audi Joburg Fashion Week. Machere was divine! She had super sexy silhouettes in bold colors such as yellow with plunging necklines shaped to move so fluidly on the body while some of her other silhouettes hugged every curve on your body. Stoned Cherrie also gave us some fun trends such as silk chiffon pleated, above the knee, dresses similar to what we’ve seen Nigerian designer out of New York Lola Faturoti do.
Q: What up and coming African designers should we be looking out for and why?
Within the States, L-Shandi out of DC impresses me. I like what she’s doing with the African voile lace. She makes these cocktail dresses that drape very well on the body, young and flirty. Sika Designs & Ituen Basi, their work speaks for itself. Established designers like Oumou Sy – couture at its finest; Deola Sagoe – superb design details; Gavin Rajah – use of color and design details also strong; Stoned Cherrie, Sun Goddess, Mustafa Hassanali – way too many strong designers to list so please visit the blogazine and check them out.
Q: You have quite a diverse background. How does that help you with your business?
It helps tremendously. I use my legal experience to understand laws applicable to the industry and then interpret it through various articles and feature for our audience. The business part helps a lot. I have learned so much running my law firm that it’s easy to apply it to Ladybrille and also share the knowledge. My media/PR/marketing experience is helping me get the word out to mainstream media which is significant and hasn’t really been done before. For the most part, African publications have always targeted and only been about Africans. It is rare that they extend to non-Africans although now I am beginning to see publications recognize the need to educate others – not just Africans – about Africa.
Q: What’s next for you and the Ladybrille brand?
Taking it to the top! At the end of the year, we expect to roll out a fully integrated online magazine that we believe will continue to amplify and position us as the authority on African fashions and its industry in the West. Long term, a parent company set up with successful subsidiaries. By early next year, I hope to publish a book, which I’m currently working on. I believe the sky is the beginning for what Ladybrille has to offer.
(Photo Credits: Will Taylor and Ladybrille)
To learn more about Uduak Oduok and Ladybrille please visit www.ladybrille.com