Folake Oladipupo Okunaiya has a diploma in law and BA in English from Olabisi Onabajo University .
She is the Creative director at Belle signature for 13years and the Convener of Milliners Network Nigeria and Founder Milliners Association of Nigeria.
Milliners Network Nigeria , is a platform created to bring Nigeria Milliners together to forster unity , strengthen our industry and give Millinery in Nigeria a global recognition . It was created in April 2018 and became a registered group with the federal republic of Nigeria as an Association which is now call Milliners Association of Nigeria.
The platform started with 14 milliners here in Lagos , Nigeria and Over the years we have been able to extablished 5 states we are actively involved including Lagos , Abuja , Akwaibom, Ogun & Oyo state chapters . With other Milliners in about 11 other states including Nigerian Milliners in Ghana are all members of the platform.
In this Interview with Oyinlola Sale, Folake Okunaiya explains how Millinery in Nigeria has grown to become globally recognised in the world today.
The Millinery Sector in Nigeria has become globally recognised because of the bold step you took to create a platform that has grown beyond your imagination, now tell us what inspired you to create it?
As a Milliner for 13years I have watched the industry grow over the years with no particular platform or structure for me or my colleagues, I knew we could achieve more as a tribe than working alone in our space and my passion for my craft and creativity inspired me to want to create and industry that could be exposed and brought to global recognition as I could see a lot of creative Milliners doing awesome things that the world should know about .
Milliners which are also hat designers have become innovative, looking back at when you created Belle Signature, what has changed, in terms of the industry?
I can boldly say a lot have changed in our industry starting from the Millinery material we’ve had a whole lots of new options in terms of materials to work with which as also expanded our rage of beautiful creations , when I started there were not much acceptance with young people doing business but now it’s different now we have young, vibrant and inovative Milliners in the industry also most people would rather buy imported hats and Fascinator but now there is a lot of acceptance to our creativity locally and internationally we are paving ways. How we all know the world is a global village now and with the use of social platforms as a marketing tool Nigeria Millinery as taking a new leap
To be a hat designer, you must think relatively outside the box, how do you get that inspiration?
I get my inspiration mostly from the concept of event , colours also inspires me to create beautiful pieces, the choice of materials to be used to create a piece also inspires me. I like to work in a empty space and this actually help me tap into my imagination and it’s guides me to create lovely pieces
The Hat Exhibition is just around the corner and based on your past experiences, it has been a success, so what should we expect to see at this year’s event?
This years Hat Exhibition promises to be bigger and better , we have invited dignitaries from.all works of life , Government officials / ministry who are related to our line of business , we expect representative from LCCI , BIO , banks , business tycoon, media houses , CEO fashion houses and most importantly Millinery lovers
Looking at our tradition in Nigeria, the idea of wearing hats or fascinators , is a western culture, so how do you infuse the African style?
I would say wearing headwears is actually part of our culture as our woman in most part of NIGERIA have there headwears as part of their dressing however , with beautiful and creative displayed by Nigeria Milliners we have headwears design in our local fabrics we have beautiful turban, scafinators etc
What did it take for you to establish Belle Signature?
I would say it took me , passion , hardwork , consistency , understand times and seasons in my business and staying focus.
The economy is unstable and yet you import most of the materials you use for hat making, how have you managed to survive over the years?
Nigerian Milliners as we have extablished are very innovative and creative and with what the economy is saying now we have been working more with locally sourced materials , we are learning to improvise and get more creative using available materials at our disposal and I must say this does not reduce the standard and quality of our work but rather helped us to see and appreciate the available resources / materials around us and this as helped us to look inward and appreciate our locally exhiting available materials and limit on the imported things
As the Convener of Milliners Network Nigeria,
What do you hope the platform will achieve in 5 years?
In five years I’m hopeful that we can convince all Millinery and fashion lovers to buy made in Nigeria Millinery pieces
I’m hopeful that Milliners in Nigeria will be better appreciated in their craft and paid premium for our craft
I’m hopeful that in five years Milliners in Nigeria will have global recognition and be exposed but locally & internationally
I’m hopeful that in five years we would have more Nigeria Milliners exhibit there works at international fairs
In five years I’m hopeful that the government will also recognize our industry and give supporting such as grants to our members
Now, let’s look at your contemporaries in the industry, which hat designers are driving the industry together with you and are also placing the sector on a global map?
We have quit a number of designers in the industry driving and placing the industry on global map we have Milliners like Graces hat with over 40years in the industry , S.Mofenik , Ab Debonair, molly hats , kiki concept and bridals, wonderz craft ( Ogun state) ellamoore Millinery , Adornedbylisa, HATtire , , Royalty craft , Tommy hats ( both in Abuja) Perfect fit Millinery ,ID Millinery ( both in Akwaibom) U9ice Millinery ( Ibadan ) to mention but a few . It’s important to mention that every Milliner under the umbrella of the Milliners Association of Nigeria are all driving the vision of placing Nigeria Millinery on global map.