Ebenezer Kilani, the young and talented designer behind Big Ben Kilani, has proved that he knows his onions as far as male designs are concerned. He has continued to churn out lovely wears from his brand. His works have received tremendous applause in five years he started business. He is now set for the international market.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with him about his experience in the industry.
Can we meet you?
My name is Kilani Ebenezer. I am a designer. My brand name is Big Ben Kilani. The journey started in 2011. I have been designing for five years. We do basically men’s wears for now.
Why just men’s wears?
It is not that I can’t do ladies wears. I am just growing in business. I want to gain ground in men’s wears before I venture into women’s wears. If you don’t get women’s wear right, they will fight you.
Where did you get the training for what you do now?
What I do is raw talent. I never had formal training from any institution of learning for what I do. I trained myself.
How did you come about Big Ben Kilani?
The Bible says, ‘What I hear you say is what I will do.’ I want to be big in the industry and generally. That is why I thought of using big. My name is Ebenezer. I abbreviated it and got Ben from it. Kilani is my surname.
Five years down the lane, how will you describe the experience?
Designing has been awesome. You will find things easy once you are talented. It is when the talent is not there that people will get tired of you. As a designer, you have to create things that will strike people and make them to desire your brand.
People are edgy and stylish, most especially in Lagos. Fashion lovers want to look outstanding.
Who are the people you look up to in the industry?
Locally, I admire Okunoren Twins. They have been doing the business before we started. They are very good at it. When it comes to creativity to the peak, they are good at it. They come up with creative things for their fashion shows.
I admire Mai Atafo’s creativity too. He is also very good. International, Tom Ford, Gucci, Prada.
What kind of wears do you make at Big Ben Kilani?
When it comes to designing, I use all sorts of fabrics depending on what I am designing. The concept behind Big Ben Kilani is to stand out. People should shout whao when you appear at an event.
I got the idea from myself. Everywhere I go, people always admire my style and want to wear what I wear. Most of my clients are celebrities. They always attend events and people see them. All the comments I get about the wears I make for them are always positive. That has been the propelling power for me. If you design and nobody appreciates it, the spirit will die and one will be discouraged.
Can you tell us some of the celebrities you have designed for?
I.K Ogbonna, Alex Ekubo, VJ Adams, Ice Prince, Iyanya, a lot more.
Your 2015 collection showcased more of suits, it gave the impression that you specialize in suits?
No, we also make agbada and kaftan as well. Uti opened the African Fashion Week with agbada while IK Ogbonna wore suit. Big Ben Kilani is known for creativity.
2014 collection as well as 2015, I came up with a tassel suit. In the history of fashion, no one has ever done that. It was Alex Ekubo and IK Ogbonna that wore them for the fashion show.
There is always a theme behind every collection, what inspired your last collection?
What inspired last year’s collection was my trip to Ghana. I saw so many colourful buildings. When I came back, I decided to do justice to what I saw by using those striking colours. Last year’s collection was tagged Bold Men.
How do you draw inspirations for what you do?
I get inspirations from anywhere. As I am looking at this rug, I am thinking of the colours that can go with it. The fashion industry in Lagos is crazy. They always want to see something new. You just have to be creative.
Have you always wanted to be a designer?
When I was growing up, we were known for dressing well. I could remember that I came over to Lagos from Ogbomosho to buy baggie jeans. It was what was reigning then. If you don’t dress well back then in my street, people will look down on you.
We used to wear Prada way back. When I came to Lagos, I discovered that people always want to wear whatever I wear. I started with shirts. I took them to Ice Prince. He is my friend. They bought all the shirts and that was how the business started.
I went for a show in 2010, Lagos Fashion Show. I killed the show. The collection was showcased in a movie. From then, people started calling for my service, they wanted outdoor shoot. I am going for a show, I want you to style me, etc. I am on an international platform now called Vain. It is an international platform where you can get local brands all over the world. We are working on that.
Aside the talent, creativity, what will endear more people to your brand is your price, how price friendly is Big Ben Kilani?
We know that the dollar rate has gone up. I believe it’s just for now. Things will improve with time. We might not be too friendly because of that but averagely, we want everybody to be able to wear Big Ben Kilani. You can get affordable wears at Big Ben Kilani.
What are the fashion items that will be in season in 2016?
Colours are coming back strong. Striking colours are coming back. All you need to do as a fashionista is to know how to combine those colours. Our traditional attire is coming back. Though Dansiki is gone, it was highly molested. But agbada is 90 percent in. gladiator sandals are in, that depends on the way you rock it.
As a designer, which of the international runways are you eyeing?
I am going for Africa Fashion Week London. I have done Africa Fashion Week Nigeria two times. I need to get there too. When you know what you are capable of doing, there is no need limiting yourself and your ability.
What is your take about the fashion industry?
Four years ago, nobody cared about what you wore. There was a T-shirt that has colourful buttons I had some time back. My girlfriend used to tell me I was wearing a female T-shirt. Over time, my friend started understanding the fashion scene too. She started combining colours for me.
My sister who is working with me is like a religious fanatic. She was the one that did 80 percent of my last collection. She is now very good at it. So, the fashion industry has evolved. There are fashion police everywhere. If you are not well dressed, they will book you.
You have been in the business for five years, where do you see yourself in another five years?
I want to be everywhere fashion is striving. I want to break even in the Italian market as well.
– SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN and TINUOL A JOSEPH