•Founder, Tells City People
His real name is Kehinde Olayiwola but everyone calls him Kenny Jones. He is a twin, who is blessed with a lot of gifts. He is a Lagos Tailor who goes around with his tape rule all the time. He is a fashion designer too, He creates great designs for his customers. He sings also. He drums and he is also a Minister of God. He is the guy behind the popular Kenny Jones Designs, on Obafemi Awolowo Way Ikeja, Lagos. He also has a showroom in Abuja. And he has been churning out great designs for the past 27 years. So good is Kenny Jones that he has won the heart and confidence of many great men of God, who wear his designs all the time.
Though he will not tell you when you ask him, City People can reveal to you that Kenny Jones has an impressive clientele list. He sews for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. He sews for big men of God like Bishop Oyedepo, Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo, Pastor J.K Kalejaiye, Pastor Wale Adefarasin, Pastor Femi Paul, Pastor Tonny Akinyemi, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey, to mention a few of his long list of clients. Kenny Jones, who made his debut in the fashion world in 1992 has grown his fashion business phenomenally. He started off sewing suits and formal wears but he has now grown so big to sew natives like Kaftans, Buba and Sokoto and well embroidered Agbada.
Let’s quickly inform you that he is also a gospel musician, his twin brother, Taiwo also sings and handles the talking drum with dexterity. He is into furniture making too. He runs Taiwo Jones Furniture Company at Shasha Road, Lagos. This creative designer springs up each day with unique styles of clothing. He is a believer of an age-old colourful tradition, which he translates into many layers and complexities of his remarkable designs. Kenny Jones’ celebration of the African glamour and earned have gained him international fans to the extent that gospel singer, Chief Ebenezer Obey, who is one of his clients refers to him as “Kenny Jones of the Universe.”
He never stops telling anyone who cares to listen that he is from a humble background. “My brother and I, Taiwo come from a very humble background. We didn’t come from a privileged background. We don’t have wealthy parents who could easily finance our education but we developed ourselves through the teaching we received from Evang. Ebenezer Obey and Bishop David Oyedepo. And these helped us to re-shape our lives,” he said. Our works speak for themselves. We are also giving back to Nigerians through our programme, “Praise God with the Twins’ which has been on for a couple of years now… he revealed.
Last week, City People’s Brands Editor, DAMILARE SALAMI 08155134152 met him at a very classy wedding where he proudly represented his brand with his outfits and at the event, he opened up on his Kenny Jones brand at 30 and the journey beyond the 30th-anniversary celebration. Below are excerpts from the interview, enjoy it.
We know you are a veteran designer but let’s walk down memory lane together. How did fashion designing start for you?
When we started, we didn’t know that we will grow to the level that we are today. The only thing I can say is that as a starter, you shouldn’t let money be your drive. You should let your passion for the job drive you. You must love what you do because if you don’t. it cannot generate funds for you. Whether you are paid or not, you must love what you do. My first 10 years of starting the Kenny Jones brand was not half-shaped because, in those days, we didn’t have social media to publicize what we do as we have it today. We started in 1992 and to the glory of God, we will be 30 years in the industry this year and we are going to be having a loud celebration. When we started 30 years ago, we allowed our passion to drive us and not what we are going to get from the business and that has paid off. I remember that when City People started in those days, we don’t usually pay before we run adverts, we were allowed to pay later but today that the brand has grown, that cannot happen again. You have to pay before your adverts can fly. That is the power of passion and consistency that I was talking about. Some time ago in London, I observed that the way City People is being sold in Nigeria is the same way it’s being sold over there too. And this is because your boss is passionate about his brand even though he started very small. I just want to encourage our youths, you cannot start a business and expect to start making money from it immediately; it may not be sustainable that way. Go and ask City People when they started or come and ask Kenny Jones when we started, it wasn’t like that.
30 years down the line, what has the experience been like?
Well, the experience has been interesting and palatable. A lot of things have changed, the way they learn the trade now wasn’t the way we learnt. You know that fashion is dynamic and time-bound, it changes with time and as a designer, if you want to stay relevant, you have to keep up with the trends. That is one of the secrets of the Kenny Jones brand. Take a look at the designs on my clothes, this one is computerized while this is a monogram design. When we started, there was nothing of such. Take a look at this part of my shirt, it is designed with stones. In our days of learning, there was nothing like the application of stones to fabrics for men, it was strictly for ladies and not even this kind of fabric. If you expect me to still be sewing and designing with the patterns I learnt when I started in 1988, it will definitely not fly, I will become obsolete and irrelevant. So today, there are new challenges and we are keeping up to the challenge to stay relevant. It’s a whole lot of new experience for us and we are enjoying every bit of it because of the passion we have for the job. When I started, I started with making suits for top ministers of God, the likes of Pastor E.A. Adeboye, Bishop David Oyedepo, Baba Kalejaye, Baba Ebenezer Obey and many more. Later on, we added ladies wears and today, the trend has moved to kaftans and this kind of wear.
The Kenny Jones brand is going to be 30, I’m sure it’s going to be a big celebration. What should your customers and fans be expecting?
Well, we have a lot in the store; I have realized over time that we hardly celebrate the people that deserve celebration in this part of the world. We are looking at celebrating people that have achieved a landmark in their businesses. 30 years is not a joke, we are looking at celebrating those who have spent 30 years in their various businesses and have been successful at it. We want to encourage them and even give them awards. When society is celebrating touts and giving them awards, our young ones would like to become touts too. Whoever we celebrate will receive the focus of the people and will become a reference point. Before anyone can spend 30 years on a particular business for 30 years, it means that such a person is passionate about the business. So our focus is to celebrate those that have demonstrated passion in their line of business for the past 30 years.
Looking forward into the post-30-years era for the Kenny Jones brand, what more should we anticipate?
There’s a Yoruba adage that says if there’s an idol that is hidden from children, such an idol will soon become history. In other words, there is continuity when you involve the younger generation in whatever you do. We want our youths to be involved in this successful journey that started 30 years ago and we want it to be a lifelong transaction. We have a plan to bring some of our youths into this line of business. We are building a big factory and an institution where we can train professionals. Right now, a lot of our youths are stranded; some of them don’t even know what is next for them so we want to use this platform to cause a change for the next generation. If you look at many of our youths today, they are busy doing nothing and an idle hand is the devil’s workshop; so we want to get them positively busy so that they can make something meaningful out of life for themselves. Many of our youths are empty, they are not loaded and anybody that is not loaded is not needed. That is what is driving us to create the Kenny Jones School of Fashion for our people and it will become a reality in the near future.