One of Africa fashion’s key aims is to bring a spotlight to fresh, new design and entrepreneurial talent from Africa. Baffs certainly fits the bill as a brand and the company’s founder, Ade Durojaiye, is a great example of what can be done with a cool idea and a lot of drive. Africa Fashion caught up with Ade to understand more about ‘How to build a new African fashion brand in the 21st century’.
“I heard about the plight of the cotton industry in Africa and the damage being done to the local markets by various trade policies and the influx of imported cotton”, Ade explained. “The more I learnt about the problems affecting the industry, the more I wanted to do something about it”.
“Here at Baffs, we source our t-shirts from the African Continent, making sure the cotton used is also of African origin and that the farming methods used by our suppliers are kind to the environment”.
Why start with t-shirts?
“I saw the t-shirt as a staple item in everyone’s wardrobe, a platform that could be used to promote Africa, its people, culture and way of life”, Ade told us.
“I wanted to create t-shirts that had African references, but were cool at the same time – and always with the underlying aim of supporting the local cotton industry”
“In the future, we plan to extend the brand to other products – we’re in the process of evaluating some other options at the moment”, he said.
Baffs is a great name. For Africa Fashion readers who might have missed our original article on the range he sells at The African Market, we asked Ade to explain its origins.
“I first heard the word when I was in my early teens”, said Ade. “Baffs is a Nigerian slang term for fashionable clothes. Back then, when your friends said ‘I like your baffs’, that meant they liked what you are wearing. That’s where the name came from and the idea for a fashion brand originated”.
The brand is doing well, surely too much work for a one-man operation?
“You’re right!”, he exclaimed. “My partner, Katia Kerekesova, helps me with the social media side of things and also on market days – which I am grateful for. She is also a fashion design graduate, which helps a great deal when it comes to bouncing ideas off each other”.
Ade mentioned Katia going to fashion school, so we asked him for a little more on his own background. What kind of person does it take to launch a brand into today’s competitive fashion market?
“I am actually a construction project manager by profession and that is what I still do as my main job”, he explained. “Before Baffs I run a timber export business for a brief period, then a haulage business, but I have always been interested in fashion. It goes back to when I was a child”.
“I used to go to the markets with my mother, when we lived in Nigeria, and I still prefer markets now”, he explained. “The local markets are where life is, it’s where I get inspiration and ideas. I don’t really do Shoprite and so on”.
“When I am in Nigeria I want to go ‘local’, to ride on the buses and eat in the local joints. Otherwise it’s like going from a shopping centre in London to a shopping centre in Lagos – what’s the point?”.
“Baffs came into being in 2010. I wanted to maintain a business link with Africa, but also wanted to do something that could really made a difference. It’s important for me to keep my creative juices flowing”, said Ade.
What about the future? Who will be involved in the designs and where will you sell?
“Outside of the UK, we already have a small customer base in France, German, Greece and Italy. Naturally we would like to extend our brand exposure and customer base to the rest of Europe as well as Africa”, Ade told us. “In terms of design, I come up with the ideas and use a graphic designer to create a visual representation of those ideas. We are also open to collaborative work, so there could be more people involved in the Baffs creative process going forward”.
Before we let Ade go, we wanted to know a bit about his personal preferences and if he has a message for young African designers that want to build a brand.
“I love visiting Ibadan, it brings back a lot of happy childhood memories – of visiting my granddad and the rest of the family”, he said. “I’d also like to visit India”.
“My message to young designers is to make their dreams real, to take action, enjoy the process and keep going. The fun and reward is really in the journey and knowing that you did your best to realise your dream”.
We thank Ade for taking the time to speak with Africa Fashion and we encourage you to find out more about Baffs for yourself. Alternatively, The African Market happens in Old Spitalfields every 4th Saturday of the month – and it gives you a chance to see Baffs up close and personal!