Evans Akere is the creative mind behind top men’s attire brand, Van Kere. He just returned from a course at the University of Art, London College of Fashion, United Kingdom, where he acquired more knowledge to inculcate into his business. In this chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Joshua Shobiye, Akere explains what trends mean to him…
What is the calendar of your annual collection?
My collection starts in the middle of the year and extends to the middle of the coming year. I don’t like to bring it early in the year, but in the middle and it runs for 12 calendar months.
Does it mean your collections are in bits?
Yes, we just adopted the method now. I don’t want to bring out everything at once. The moment my clients feel they’ve seen the first batch, we then bring out the next batch. So, each collection runs in batches for 12 calendar months.
How do you manage new designs during the period of your existing collection.
I try to inculcate it into the next collection. I don’t alter my collection because of a sudden trend. Remember, our attires at Vans Kere are like art pieces. They take a lot of creative input. It’s not something that you just sit down and say I want to make this design. It takes a lot of mental and psychological work to create a collection. So, you don’t alter those inputs suddenly. What I also do is to study and interpret it in my own way into the next collection. I have a style and core value on how we do our unique clothes . So, to make a sudden change because of new trend is not in our habit.
You just returned from London College of Fashion. What informed that?
When I embraced fashion, I already decided that I’m going to do everything to succeed, and succeeding in it means educating and improving myself. I don’t like to be satisfied with what I had, and then I thought it was time to refresh myself and acquire more knowledge in what I do to take the brand to the next level.
Why the choice London College of Fashion?
I chose London College of Fashion because of its rich heritage, and responsiveness to changes in design practice. It is a prestigious school which has been positioned as a leading global provider of fashion education, research and consultancy. The school is known to have produced top designers all over the world. So, my reason for choosing LCF is understandable. My tutor, Dr. Pascal Portanier, who is a French man, has 15 years experience working as a creative director for top fashion brands, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Lancôme, Chanel, Clarins, and many others. He has vast knowledge also in luxury brand management and product designs. I learnt so much from him. The entire course was fulfilling, the experience was definitely an eye opener, no doubt about that. My course mates came from all over the world. One would have thought since the school is located in London, that majority of the students will be British, but that wasn’t the case, we had students from the US, China, Ukraine, Brazil, Taiwan, Bahrain and many others. I was the only African student. I discovered that there are other departments of fashion that I never thought existed until now.
My plan is to continuously improve myself, so I intend going for periodical courses and seminars in fashion. The vision for the brand is to make it as good as the foreign ones, from manufacturing to marketing and promotion, so the best way to achieve this is to learn from the best. That is exactly what I’m doing right now.
Having returned, what do we expect from Vans Kere?
Now, I’m refreshed with more knowledge to inculcate into my work and see how I can take the brand to the next level. Also, my 2014 collection is still on. The first batch came in July and I’m about to bring out more of the collection now. Presently, Vans Kere is working on other projects that will be unveiled soon.
If any of your loyal clients who really trust your judgment of fashion on men’s attire need a product different from what you do, maybe the client needs corporate attire, how do you handle that?
What I usually do is to refer them to another brand which is best known to us in that particular thing the customer wants. I have few that do things which I don’t do. Frankly speaking, there is this synergy in the fashion industry in Nigeria that works for us. The truth of the matter is that, we all have areas in which we specialise at a particular time. And basically, it’s good that you concentrate on the area in which you are operating at the moment in order not to jeopadise your brand and bring your name into ridicule.
How do you groom your team to be able to meet up with the level of knowledge you’ve acquired at LCF?
It is not going to be easy because it going to take time. Definitely, that will start as soon as I settle down.
Has there been any serious challenge in the course of your business?
Not really. There has not been any one that will make me have a rethink. What I could refer as challenge is synonymous with every other business in Nigeria.