•Talks About His Fashion Outfit, ARISTOCRAT
One of the leading fashion brands in town that extremely stylish men who are passionate about looking good are now talking about is Aristocrat. This is because their designs are unique and looks gorgeous on the man who knows what suits him and how to wear what suits him. Aristocrat’s ready-to-wear pieces are simply elegant. They give men that dashing look they have always desired to achieve. You can pick them up in all Twice As Nice outlets and most of the shopping malls within and outside Lagos.
The flourishing fashion outfit has been in business for just about six years, yet it has made such remarkable impact that only competing brands that have been in existence for well over a decade can boast of. And it is owned by the stylish, quiet yet fiercely focused journalist turned fashion designer, Kayode Alfred. Aristocrat and Kayode Alfred were recognized a week ago at the 3rd City People Fashion Awards held in Lagos as one of the leading and wave-making brands in the fashion industry. Shortly after picking up his award, City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) spoke with the Aristocrat CEO and got him to share with us his transition from journalism to business and the sort of influence his big accomplished brother, Lanre Alfred, who himself started out as a journalist before delving into business and now SA to Governor Dapo Abiodun on media and publicity, had on his success story.
Share with us your thoughts at this time, how do you feel receiving this award?
I think it’s the best award so far. It’s a great feeling when you’re being honoured from your own constituency. It means a lot to me. I am very grateful to Dr. Seye Kehinde and the management and staff of City People magazine. I pray God continues to bless the company and elevate it to become one of the best media organizations in the world. It’s not common to see people of his status celebrating one of their boys, it’s really a big one and I really appreciate this. God will honour him too. I also thank my big brother, Lanre Alfred for his support and also my former bosses, Mr. Kunle Bakare and Mr. Mayor Akinpelu for their support. I thank my wife and kids too for giving the peace of mind to be creative.
Take us through your transition from journalism to business. All together how many years did you put into journalism before delving into business?
I started journalism in 2004. I started with the Breeze under the leadership of Jide Oshokoya and from there I headed to Global Excellence where I spent two years. After leaving Global Excellence, I moved to Encomium where I spent five years. It was at Encomium under the tutelage of Mr. Kunle Bakare that I learnt the rudiments of fashion because that was when we started our fashion magazine, E-Lifestyle. I remember I was one of those who started the magazine with Mr. Kunle Bakare. I did a lot of the major interviews for the magazine with Abiola Aloba. From there, I joined The Nation newspapers where I spent 9 years. Presently, I still write for ThisDay newspaper because I have no plans to leave the media.
How was it for you evolving from being a journalist to a fashion designer and businessman?
Well, one of the advantages of being a journalist is that you have an idea in every sector. So, it was not hard for me to diversify. And besides, I didn’t leave journalism full time, I just feel that this is a passion. My mum used to be in the fashion line before she moved into super market which my brother is also into. I have always loved fashion from my younger days and I knew that one day I would end up doing fashion. I started Aristocrat in 2014. I was in the United States, New York to be precise. I travelled with my brother for a fashion show and from there the feeling became even stronger for me, that I too can do this. And so I gave it a shot.
Who were the fashion icons that also influenced you at the time and encouraged you to give fashion a shot?
Ade Bakare was one of those that influenced me greatly. There’s a unique style about Ade Bakare. His style is not on the shelf, not common, and I love him for this. I also love Ralph Lauren. I follow these guys. I don’t do what they have on the shelves, I always check their runways to see their exclusives. So, fashion for me has been like, if I do not do it at the end of the day there could be some deep regrets.
So, you started in 2014, that’s about six years ago….
Yes, and I had a crash course at London College of Fashion where I did a course on Craft and Design Management.
How has the business experience been for you in the last ten years…
I have been in business for ten years. I have a laundry business that’s been in existence for ten years now.
Wow, that’s impressive. But Aristocrat is just six years and you’ve made such a remarkable impact within such a short time…
I would say it’s God and dedication and of course people like you. It’s important to have people around, professionals who support you and advice you. People may not appreciate journalists, but I think that journalists are one of the most important people in the world. We are knowledgeable and we know what counts. We might not be the best business people around, but I can tell you we know a bit about almost everything. Whether its oil and gas, whether its politics, we know a bit about these things and these are some of the things that shapened me. I have interviewed all the major fashion icons in Nigeria and abroad. I have travelled to many fashion shows abroad and this has really helped me.
How have you been able to hold your own as a businessman? A lot of people believe journalists don’t make good businessmen, so how have you been able to stand out as a journalist turned businessman?
No man is an Island. What I do is that I select a good team. I have a Manager, a factory head and head of tailors, and I took my time to pick some of the best around. So, even if I’m not a good businessman, I can still tell when a guy is good at his job. We have a good team. We have our own challenges as well. There is no business without its own challenges but we thank God. We’re not there yet, my ambition is to have a store on Oxford Street in London and to also have Aristocrat on 7th Avenue in New York, that’s my plan. For me, I do not see myself as doing anything spectacular yet. But I have been lucky to have the media supporting me. There are many people doing great stuffs out there that people do not recognize, so I really appreciate this honour being given to me today, it’s one of the biggest moments of my fashion career. And I will never take it granted.
Take us through the thrust of your fashion line. What are your areas of specialization as far as men’s wear is concerned? And of course, what stands Aristocrat out?
We do bespoke, we do ready to wear. We are in partnership with Twice As Nice in Nigeria. All the Twice As Nice stores in Nigeria and abroad, you will find our ready to wear there. And we do bespoke as well. Bespoke is tailored to fit. We do that as well. What stands us out is our finishing. Back then, while interviewing people, I ask them what they think about Nigerian designers and they say their major problem is finishing. So, for me, finishing is key. It’s the most important part of the process and my staff are all aware of this standard. They know I won’t accept anything less than quality finishing. That’s why, after I finish sketching and hand over to my tailors, I tell them, do this job like you’re actually handling wears meant for governors, senators, kings, presidents, etc, and you know the kind of quality this class of people wear. I tell them, nothing stops you from being the next Tommy Hilfiger or Versace if you work hard for it.
Tell us about your clientele, we hear people say Aristocrat is for the high and mighty
The thing is, when you’re starting business, you aspire to attract those high up there. Even as a journalist, you aspire to interview the A-listers, the powers that be and stuffs. Yes, we have the top clients but Aristocrat is for everybody. That’s why we have our ready-to-wear at the malls. The malls are there for everybody, you can buy our ready-to-wear and you can shop Aristocrat online. It’s for everybody. I want to enter into offices and see people wearing my brand, Aristocrat. That’s my dream. My mission in the fashion industry is to train like a hundred people in the next five years and take as many youths as possible off the streets. I was talking to my friend, Victor Gonzalo, a PR and sports marketing person, and my brother, Lanre Alfred, I said God has blessed you, lets come together and take youths off the streets. So, we’re planning next year to train them in different crafts. Even if you have a degree, its important to have a craft.
Next five years, where should we expect to find Aristocrat?
I want to see on Aristocrat on Oxford street in London and 7th Avenue in New York where Nigerians and foreigners can walk in and buy our ready-to-wear. That’s what I’m working towards and I’m praying that God should answer our prayers.
I know that your big brother, Lanre Alfred, has been of enormous influence in what you’re doing, how much of a support system has been to you?
Lanre Alfred is not just my big brother, he’s my father. People close to us in the industry know this. We lost our father when we were very young, so, he’s been like a father to me. After God, its Lanre Alfred, I will never take his love for granted. Lanre Alfred is everything to me. He is like a pillar I can rely on anytime. Lanre Alfred is like a prophet, he tells you do it like this and you will get this result, do it like this and this is what you get and he’s always right. When you have Lanre Alfred behind you, it’s like having the whole nation behind you.