Dennis Osadebe is a talented Nigerian designer who is Chairman, D&D Clothing. He started off as a movie producer, then ventured into the construction industry and later D&D Travels and Tourism agency in Dubai. But with the growing trend of fashion in 2018, he turned his attention to fashion and set up D&D Clothing and Tailoring with the main office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Here, he talks about his clothing line and more. Excerpts:
What inspired the birth of the D&D fashion brand?
The fashion industry has always been my passion, I am a fashionista and that’s the main reason why, amongst many businesses, I chose D&D Clothing to specially focus on. After successful runways in Africa, Europe and the USA, D&D Clothing became popular and recognized in Africa and all over the world. I decided to set up my own showrooms across the world and that was how we opened the Dubai office.
Your brand is doing amazing work in pushing African fashion into Dubai. Why did you decide to launch in the UAE?
The UAE is the most suitable place for luxury tailoring service. I recognised the potentials of introducing African fashion to the world and now we are here. I chose to create an African fashion brand in UAE, because it’s unknown there. So, I use this opportunity to reach my brothers and sisters in the world. Remember that Dubai is a tourism hub for business.
Your designs are big on bold African pieces. How much thought and consciousness is put into this?
Africans are bold, especially Nigerians, and I love to represent my homeland in every piece I make. It takes a lot of thinking and creative digging to make a masterpiece. I simply tell myself that nothing good comes easy. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. So, I put 100 per cent of myself in designing and business because I see the future in this and I want people around the world to know about African fashion.
How has the brand’s use of African prints been received in Dubai, seeing that the city is fast becoming the world’s biggest fashion market?
I strongly believe that D&D is more than a clothing line. It is a ‘movement’ that gives each person the opportunity to express himself. My clients in Dubai were very bored of the regular before we launched. That is why they feel so special wearing custom made clothes with creative African touch. Working in Dubai and in the international fashion market, I quickly realised the need to translate our fashion language to the worldwide market to show Nigerian inspired print fabrics, colour combination and modern fashion trends.
Dubai is only the beginning of D&D International Retail. You will hear about D&D Fashion in Milan, London, and New York this year.
How would you describe the growth of African fashion globally?
African fashion is growing and I can say it’s already for the world. You can see an African touch in recent collections of Gucci or Louis Vuitton. Just look at all these influenceable fashion houses, African elements, such as prints are present. Yearly, more and more international runway shows are happening in Africa and African designers are becoming world famous. In fact, their businesses are shining outside Africa and I feel proud that African fashion has such big influence on the world’s fashion trends.
What are the factors responsible for this growth?
First, African fashion is beautiful. You cannot take this away. Secondly, the thought and process that is put into it makes it a project close to the heart. A lot of people want to connect with something esoteric and African fashion has so much soul in it. Also, the industrial and cultural revolution in Africa is positively affecting the fashion industry. With competitive labour costs, Africa has the potential to claim a much greater share of the world’s apparel and textile manufacturing output. But to achieve this, significant international investment is needed to build the industrial infrastructure required to compete with the likes of Asia.
Now, we can see that South African fashion is growing and heavily influenced by Nigeria. Kenya is catching up fast too. I already can see the massive growth of African industries in the nearest future.
As a fashion brand, what major milestones have you hit in the international market, including runways and collections?
We have 12 collections a year, because each month our clients want to feel stylish, new and different. So, for them to know the latest fashion trends, we make runways all over the world. You are going to see us in France, in New York and other fashion cities. I can say that from 2019, D&D Clothing will be everywhere. In our strategic plan, we have more than 18 countries to launch this year. I am not sure if there is a brand that has done that in one year. We don’t know if any fashion house has four collections a year and will want to blaze the trail.
As a Nigerian designer, how would you describe the influence of Nigerian fashion in African fashion globally?
Going back to history, African print textiles, which were actually inspired by batik or wax-resist cloth from Indonesia, have been used to dress the people of Central and West Africa from the 1800s to present day. From traditional attire to modernized African-inspired dashikis and dresses, the various print designs and range of colours of African textiles have had an influence on the fashion industry. It is amazing to watch this influence as the world seems to have suddenly realised the beauty of African fashion. It is now a strong part of global pop culture and it provides more opportunities for African designers to shine internationally.
What challenges have you faced as an African designer in the international market and how are you combating them?
I love challenges and I was ready to start from the beginning in a new country, although I knew it was going to be hard. When we started, nobody knew our brand. But you have to keep pushing business to each African person and now we are proud of our growth. At least 50 African customers visit our showroom regularly and the numbers keep growing. We also have Europeans and Arabs who love our products and are intrigued by the beauty of African fashion. And we have the same uniqueness on our newly launched online store. We are so proud to be shipping our clothes all around the world. Even the last custom-made wedding dress was shipped to Australia.
Our brand has grown in terms of scale, working now all over the world with agents and distributors, and we are trying to grow with the addition of new categories like accessories, for instance. I have learned over time that it is really important to stay true to our values and maintain the same handwriting in every business.
With your experience in the international market, what are the lessons for the Nigerian fashion Industry?
Africa is home to seven of the fastest growing economies in the world and about 70 percent of the continent’s population live in countries that have experienced average growth in excess of four percent over the past decade. Although the statistics are interesting, the African fashion industry currently contributes only a small fraction. So, to grow to the international level, Nigerian fashion designers should bring their styles abroad and actively search for international representatives to tell the African story. We always should dream big and work hard to make our plans real. That is the only way to make your brand popular and successful.