[dropcap]P[/dropcap]rincess Ronke Ademiluyi was born in London to a scion of the royal family in Ife Kingdom in the South Western part of Nigeria. She is a rare combination of beauty and brains.
Princess Ronke is a law graduate and right from her university days in London, she started teaching fellow students on how to utilise fashion resources available to them in order to make better style choices.
She relocated back to Nigeria and started The “Rukkies” set of high street fashion boutiques with branches in Lagos, Nigeria. Her boutiques catered for women and girls of all ages, taking care of their apparel needs from shoes and handbags to formal and party dresses of all varieties. She also represented big name UK brands in Nigeria, such as Fever Collections. In 2010, her passion for promoting fashion business led her into hosting the Boutique Fashion Show, the first ever event of its kind in Nigeria.
She is the founder and Chief Executive officer of Africa Fashion Week London ( AFWL ) and African Fashion Week Nigeria (AFWN).
Princess Ronke Ademiluyi also runs a charity organization known as the “Association of African Designers in the Diaspora”. The organisation recognises the needs and challenges of new fashion designers and seeks ways of solving them through fundraising and special projects.
Below is her exclusive interview with Duchess International magazine:
Who is Princess Ronke Ademiluyi?
R.A: A fashion entrepreneur, a creative philanthropist, someone who is really passionate about helping others grow, someone who derives pleasure in seeing others achieve something and also a single mother of a nineteen year old daughter.
What is the motivation behind African Fashion Week?
R.A: The growth of African fashion, supporting African and Nigerian designers, helping them turn their creativity into sustainability so that they can become employers of labour in future. AFW is about discovering new talents, nurturing them, promoting them and also showcasing them to a global market.
How were you able to get funding’s and sponsors for the event.
R.A: Funding is always a challenge in Nigeria because a lot of co-operate organisations and people do not believe that fashion is a lucrative business or something worth investing in while forgetting that we all wear cloths, we have a population of about a hundred and seventy million Nigerians and we are still growing. Can you imagine if every Nigerian spend ten thousand Naira a year on a Nigerian designer that’s almost one point something trillion into the economy of Nigeria. A lot of people have not seen the benefit of fashion yet but until then we keep on asking for favours, appealing to individuals support the initiative and we have some good people who have supported AFW since the beginning and believe in us.
In how many countries does AFW holds.
R.A: Currently we do it in London and Nigeria but we intend to extend it to other African countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, among others.
What are the challenges you over came as a mother and an entrepreneur?
R.A: Before I started AFW I had my retail stores called “Rookies”, so have always been in the fashion business, have always been a fashion entrepreneur. However, AFW is very different from running retail stores but thank God that by the time I started AFW my daughter was about fourteen or fifteen so she understood and she has always been in boarding school so I was able to manage both.
What motivates you?
R.A: Success and achievement motivates me. When I set or put my mind on doing something, I always make sure I do it. I don’t give up even with this recent AFW 2016, people had said with the economy of the country why don’t you move it, why don’t you not do it. But it came out a huge success despite the economy situation of Nigeria. I try not to take “No” when people say I can’t do something. Even if am going to fail, I still try to do it.
How would you describe your relationship with your mum?
R.A: Am very close with my mum. I would say she practically help me raised my daughter. We have a close mother-daughter relationship and the rest of my family as well. I have three brothers and they always fly to Nigeria for African Fashion Week Nigeria and are always supportive during the African Fashion Week London as well.
What have been your three greatest achievements?
R.A: African Fashion Week 2016 and actually having the first AFW in 2011 the one we had in London. When we wanted to start a lot of people said Africa will not sell in London and the name Africa alone will put people off in wanting to come to the event. But to our amazement we had four thousand five hundred people attend the first AFW 2011 in London. I still intend to achieve more so I wouldn’t call these my greatest achievement but some of my achievements. Also, being a single parent of a nineteen years old, looking after my daughter alone. She’s now in the university and a good child despite the fact that she went to a boarding school in London for her A Level and secondary education. My greatest achievement is my daughter.
What is your take on women supporting women?
R.A: I think women should support women however we can, financially, morally, emotionally. Or though women don’t support women, women try to pull women down and have experience that so many times but I always try to support women. Men support each other, I think women should strive more to support each other. For instance about 90% of my designers and 80% of my staffs are women. I still strive to support women.
What are your fears and what is your take on fears?
R.A: For me my fears, although I wouldn’t really call it a fear is that I think am not giving back as much as am meant to, so I feel that I should give out more and do more things to the less privileged. That’s why this year we’ve signed up in the “Genesis House”, they have this freedom project where they have displaced and young girls and women. And what we are going to be doing with them is that we are going to train them for a whole year in makeup, hair dressing, and garment construction. After training about a hundred of them, we intend to use them for AFWN 2017. So rather than employing outsiders we would use these people that we have trained. We would merge them with our official makeup sponsor, Hair sponsor, Fashion designers and let them work under them so they can show case on the run way. In the future they too can employ other people and the chain keeps going and going. So, my greatest fear is that I want to do more and empower people in the creative industry.
How do you unwind?
R.A: For me I like sleeping.
What Legacy do you intend to leave for your daughter and young entrepreneurs looking up to you.
R.A: When you set your mind on something, try not to give up. Believe in yourself and always try. Especially for young women, they should try and learn that there are no free meals anywhere, you need to work hard. People can contribute to whatever you are doing but don’t expect people to hand out things to you. Also, whatever you are doing you have to be knowledgeable about it and don’t always think money comes first, its knowledge before money. Whatever your goals are keep on trying, one day you will definitely be where you want to be or achieve whatever you want to achieve.