What is the concept of Doin Sumthin Positive for Africa?
Doin Sumthin Positive for Africa is a youth inclined NGO I started two years ago; it basically reaches out to disadvantaged youths and the less fortunate. For the past year we have been working on a programme for the physically challenged at Isale-Eko, we hosted a charity show which was more like a Christmas party on December 23, 2007, and that was just to raise awareness for the disabled and also help raise money so they could run their own projects, too. It was quite successful. This year we are going to do a project with "These Genes", which is Tosin Bucknor’s outfit, and we are partnering with her project to raise awareness on sickle cell and try to bring people together to help sicklers and give some kind of support system because, unfortunately, that is what is lacking in Nigeria – having strong support system and infrastructure.
And the vision behind it?
It was just a conversation my dad and I were having, and we felt like people in Nigeria are not considering the youth in the development of Nigeria; the adults are doing whatever they want, forgetting they are going to move on and the youths would be left with all the chaos and problems. So, I thought if we have a project for the youths they can relate with, then I can try and start getting them involved in projects that would develop their level of responsibility and leadership skills so that later we can build a group of young professionals who can say "I want to run Nigeria" or other positive aspirations. That was the main reason for Doin Sumthin.
What has been achieved so far?
I am not really focusing on what the achievements are; I have created the awareness of what Doin Sumthin is all about, created the awareness of the physically challenged in Nigeria, but other than that there is still a lot to do. So, I am not really counting any of these little things for now because it’s still new. Though we have been nominated twice at The Future Awards, which is quite good, but I think I am still looking ahead to see what is going to come out of it.
What has been your source of support?
We have set up a DSPA board, which has my father, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), it also has Victor Banjo of Virgin Nigeria, and Opeyemi Agbaje. So, what happens is that if there is a project we want to run I speak to the board and they give their input, they give their support and then tell other people they are affiliated with and that is just how we get support. As the years go by we are looking to get support from government and other corporate organisations and intergovernmental organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO). If only I could get the support I need, I think DSPA would move a lot further, but I believe there is time for everything. What I mean is that there are not many females who do this, or should I say, not many females I know in my age group are doing this and so when I talk to people about this and they meet and find out how young I am, they are normally very surprised that someone as young as I am is doing this, but I do this because I enjoy it. I think it is important to give back to people. Also, my parents support me in anything I do as long it makes sense, and it is not bad or hurting anybody, they are fine with it. They give me moral support and tell me this is right that is not right. I ran the disabled persons project and they liked it and told me to go for it.
Are there any criteria for joining DSPA?
You have to have a good balance of being fun, being formal and informal; you have to be a go-getter. With me, I am quite aggressive when it comes to marketing, I market my brands, DSPA and Dakou; you have to be a strong person and willing to listen to criticism. Of course, if you have lived abroad then you are open to a new culture, so you will learn other things people here might not necessarily be open to, but that is not a criteria to be part of Doin Sumthin, because I am the only one who actually is abroad, the rest of the team – Temi, Olamide and Dapo – all live and work in Nigeria.
Who do you partner with to realise your objectives?
We have partnered with Now and Friends of Disabled Society, we have also partnered with These Genes, The Sickle Cell Project, and there are other projects we support with the universities in London, but I think for now, we are just limiting it because it is easy to build a one on one relationship when the projects aren’t too much and we do not stretch ourselves too thin and become ineffective. So, right now it’s just two main bodies – These Genes and Friends of the Disabled.
What are DSPA’s plans for 2008?
We have a disabled persons project we want to run and we want to have a two- day programme maybe at the University of Lagos, we intend to bring together young professionals and young people who are disabled and create an opportunity for them to live a normal life because, unfortunately, here in Nigeria, people see disabled persons as useless people or a waste of space, which is wrong. I have worked with them and I absolutely love them; they are funny and intelligent. I mean last year they modelled at a fashion show and nobody knew they were physically challenged until I actually said, "hang on, this guy has a hearing issue, he doesn’t speak," and people were really shocked. That is the kind of impact we are trying to make. One of the things we plan to achieve this year is for companies to recognise that it is not only able-bodied people that can get jobs, physically challenged people can get the same jobs; they might not be as quick, but I think they should be given an opportunity.
How did Dakou clothing line come about?
I thought of Dakou about a year and a half ago; I wanted to do something with myself, and what I want to achieve in my future, because that is very important. I just thought about going into fashion. I know it sounds really silly, but that is basically how it happened. I created the name out of my family’s name – D for Dumebi, A is for Amaka, K is for Keke, O is for Olisa and U is for Uwanne. So, that is how Dakou came about and I do not want to be like other designers. I do not want to create heavy pieces or too fashionable pieces or too trendy pieces. I just wanted to create simple, chic, trendy clothing that is comfortable and which everybody can relate with. That is what Dakou is all about. Dakou is for the everyday woman, you find pieces in Dakou and it is simple dresses with good detail, good finishing and when you wear it, you are like okay, I am wearing a Dakou outfit; it’s simple, chic and ideal for anybody. Anybody can wear a Dakou piece, I don’t limit it to the high class; Dakou is for the masses. I want Dakou to be a brand, a household name for university students, for young people, young kids and young professionals.
How is the journey so far?
It’s okay; I mean I am still learning, because there is still a lot of things to learn, but the first one I had was part of the Doin Sumthin ball, which was in 2006, and that was quite okay and was very well-planned. The main fashion show we had here was mainly about Dakou and I think it turned out very well; people loved the clothes, they loved the experience. It was a dance and fashion show. It wasn’t just a straight runway back and forth; it was more about creating the experience and the environment of Dakou.
What was the guests’ reaction?
It has been really good, it’s been few days after the fashion show and my phone has been constantly ringing with calls of ‘oh, I like this piece, I like that dress or I want this dress, it’s really comfortable and trendy’. It’s been very good so far and I am quite happy. It has given me encouragement and the boost to carry on, because normally, when you start something new, you are still a bit unsure whether it’s going to work or not, but given the response from people, I think I can carry on. So, I am going to have the clothes placed in different boutiques on the Island and the Mainland.
What influences your designs?
I am influenced and inspired by flowers, life, culture, and family. I do not necessarily have one particular thing, wherever I go I could get this energy or I look at something and it inspires me. But my family inspires me most because Dakou is derived from my family’s name. I don’t just use it, I take each person’s personality and make use of it, so I add my personality to my clothes. I take my sisters’, my mother’s and my father’s personality; put all together and create the Dakou line. Also, I travel a lot; I go to different places and watch a lot of fashion programmes. I like all the big American and Italian designers, but I also like Nigerian designers like Deola Sego and Henry Dapa. I do a lot of research, I am constantly doing research online and I buy a lot of fashion books and read a lot of fashion magazines. I find out what people like because everyday you see what people are wearing and what colours they like. Also, I look at colour palettes and choose the colours I’d like to work with. In terms of fabric, I go for fabrics that stand out, but it must be soft. I do a lot of chiffons, a lot of soft lace; I also go for soft organza, soft silk and things like that. Culture has also inspired the kind of fabrics I choose, so when I travel to places like India, I look at the way Indians use sari and I say ‘okay, I can use a bit of that in my clothing line.
What are the plans for your clothing line?
Lagos, London and Accra, but it is not limited to these places. After our show, people were like why not South Africa or even America, so I was just getting all sorts of suggestions from different people, so it’s certainly not limited to Lagos, London and Accra. These are the three places I have been to and like working in; that is why I chose them, so maybe in the next few years I will reach out to other places.
Are your prices affordable?
Dakou clothing is affordable to university students and young professionals; I mean the age bracket I discovered during my research is something like 18 to 35. The basic pieces like young trend pieces sell for about N6,000 and that is just a simple shift dress, more embellished dresses are N10,000, and the more detailed highbrow pieces like lace and organza are N13,000, so basically, it ranges from N6,000 to N13,000. Anybody can get it and I believe it is still reasonable compared to what I have seen with other designers and I think it’s reaching out to the masses.