In many ways, the culture of Africa influences its fashion. With a wide variety of fabrics like ankara, aso-oke, adire, and the likes, indigenous designers have so much to work with. One fabric that fascinates many and is generally seen as ceremonial wear is the aso-oke fabric. This hand-woven material is beautiful in so many ways and a true Nigerian fabric.
This week, our spotlight was on Ethnik, a sustainable fashion accessories brand that promotes Nigerian culture through the use of the aso-oke fabric. Since its inception, the brand has been able to preserve and tell the African heritage story while giving back to the community. From a thorough study of Ethnik, we have come up with ways that you can take your brand on a different path from others and promote the African culture. Let’s take a look at the brand;
How Ethnik was born with aso-oke at its heart
An artist, photographer, and fashion designer, Tunde Owolabi founded Ethnik in 2015. While doing some research for his art exhibition, Owolabi fell in love with the aso-oke fabric. Seeing Yoruba women adorned in beautiful head ties made from the fabric piqued his interest and made him look more closely into it. Thus, he became fascinated by the fabric, its colours, weaving techniques, and rich history.
After his exhibition, he started to think about the sustainability of the fabric and ways he could use it more widely. From there, he got his first aso-oke fashion idea – sneakers. Since then, the brand has created many footwears, bags, and hats using this versatile fabric. This way, Ethnik has transformed the way people see aso-oke and made it more accessible to fashion lovers.
Ethink is, therefore, a “contemporary Afrocentric brand that is disrupting the norm”. The brand, Ethnik, aims to promote the Nigerian culture and give back to the community. It does this by hiring local artisans to weave the local aso-oke fabric in a conducive environment. This way, it has consistently delivered true Afrocentric designs that tell the African heritage story through patterns and colours woven into fabrics.
Signature aso-oke designs by Ethnik
Ethnik designs highly stylish fashion accessories that are inspired by culture. Its product offerings range from footwear to bags, bucket hats, and throw blankets, each serving a differing purpose.
A culturally focused brand, Ethnik’s pieces are contemporary works of fashion inspired by the African culture and are a nice fit for the fearless individual. The brand is associated with lots of colours that bring out the beauty in each piece.
For its pieces, Ethnik uses mainly two materials – aso-oke and leather. This unique blend of materials stands the brand out from the crowd in so many ways. Also, whether in footwear or bags, it creates a wide variety of options for its audience to pick from.
How Ethnik has changed the norm in the fashion industry
Having been worn by various celebrities like Kemi Adetiba, Sound Sultan, Bez, and Adekunle Gold, Ethnik has shown that being different is good. For the past 6 years, the brand has taken a local fabric and made it contemporary in every way. This has helped it change the norms of fashion and create a unique niche and customer base for itself. Let’s take a look at some of the steps Ethnik has taken to disrupt African fashion.
1. Branching out of the norm
To become a truly innovative brand, you must branch out of the norm. This is the only way to address a pain point no other brand is focusing on yet. In the fashion industry, we have seen lots of fashion accessories made from leather and ankara but no so many from aso-oke.
They say business is a risk and Ethnik took that risk which is paying off now. Following its core focus, the brand has transformed the aso-oke fabric and used it in many ways we never quite thought of. With this, the brand creates a wide variety of footwear, bags, and other fashion accessories. This creativity has attracted the culturally minded fashion lover who wanted something different.
2. Using quality fabrics
From its locally made aso-oke created by skilled artisans to its locally sourced leather, Ethnik does not compromise on quality. Each of its pieces is made with the best type of material which gives them durability that is hard to find.
The brand’s choice of quality materials ensures that its audience has every reason to come back to it. This means that it stands as an authority in its niche and leaves little room for others to overtake it.
3. Sourcing expert help
The aso-oke weaving technique has been passed down from generation to generation in the Yoruba land. Knowing this, Ethnik decided to source the help of these artisans that grew up learning it. This way, the brand preserves not just the aso-oke’s integrity, but, also the techniques behind it.
With these artisans, Ethnik has passed across the African heritage story rightly. Also, empowering more artisans with these skills means it will never run out of skilled hands to make its products. This way, its products will consistently remain high quality.
How you can use this information right away to create a unique niche for your fashion accessories business
As a fashion designer or fashion accessories designer in Nigeria, here are some ways you can use all this information to create a niche for yourself.
- Always think out of the box and experiment with new fabrics and techniques.
- Once you find the niche you want to dominate in the fashion industry, seek expert help. This way, you know you will stand as an authority and the go-to brand in that niche.
- Never compromise on the quality of your materials just like Zashadu.
Even with the saturated fashion marked in Nigeria, Ethnik found a unique niche for itself. Through innovation, creativity, and knowledge, the brand now stands in a league of its own.