Funke Adepoju, founder of an ethical African fashion womenswear brand, talks exclusively to Melan Magazine about her thriving Made in Lagos popup brand.
Funke Adepoju wears many hats. She’s a wife, a mum, creative director and founder of her own self-titled fashion label (Funke Adepoju). Building on these triumphs, in 2022, she also became the founder of Made in Lagos popup, which at time of writing (august 2023), had just concluded a very successful three-day residency in Piccadilly, London.
During a visit to the 2023 Made in London popup, Melan Magazine interviewed Funke to learn more about her fashion origin story, why she decided to create the Made in Lagos popup brand and her thoughts on the burgeoning interest and regard for Africa fashion on the worldwide fashion stage.
Can you tell us how the Funke Adepoju brand came to be?
I can trace my designing origins to at least 17 years ago. It all started while I was at Uni back in Nigeria, and I was looking for ways to make money. While mending my friends’ clothes I discovered I had a flair for “funkifying” their tee-shirts by using embellishments etc to make them look nice. That’s kind of how it all started.
Not long after, one of my friends was having a popup at a networking event and she gave me a stall. I managed to sell some of my clothes during the event. This was around 2009. We have grown quite substantially since then. The response has been phenomenal ever since.
Who are your customers?
Our customers are based all over the world. We stock in Senegal, Ivory Coast. We’ve previously stocked in Ghana, though not at the moment. We have two bricks and mortar stores in Nigeria and our stock can also be purchased via our online store.
An important aspect that our customers love is our bespoke fashion service. Many of our customers also want custom made outfits for parties and other occasions so we cater for them as well.
View this post on Instagram
What’s the background to the Made In Lagos popup story?
The Made in Lagos Popup brand started last year (2022) after I moved to the UK from Nigeria. I saw that there was a gap in the market for accessible Africa fashion, and with Nigerians doing amazing things, fashion-wise, I decided to do an experiment, to get a few brands together, along with my brand, Funke Adepoju, to do a popup in London. I was lucky enough to find a location on Oxford Street and brought the designers together for the two-day popup on 6 August 2022. We had such a positive experience. The feedback was really good, and the designers had good sales. A couple of the brands at our popup even managed to get into new markets, finding buyers to stock their items in other parts of the world. In the UK it was good to see Dye Lab collaborating with Anya Hindmarch.
How important is location in the success of Made in Lagos popup?
We were fortunate to have a great location again this year, right in the middle of Piccadilly. It has always been important to me to showcase Africa, and our fashion, as more than mediocre. We should be able to have Africa fashion stocked in all types of stores; why shouldn’t our designers be stocked in place like Selfridges?
You often speak about Africa fashion, but the popup is called Made in Lagos. Why is that?
Yes, you see charity begins at home. I am familiar with Nigeria so I feel comfortable about ironing out any teething issues with Nigerian brands. Next year I plan to roll out the invitation to our popups to other African designers.
Also, Made in Lagos doesn’t mean that everything is made in Lagos. We’re just borrowing the flair and reputation of the Lagos vibe or as we say “Eko for show”, which describes the flamboyant attitude of Lagosians towards fashion.
Is the Made in Lagos popup brand going anywhere else in the world?
We’re planning to take the popup to America next year, to at least two or three states in America, in addition to London. We’re planning to showcase a range of different African designer brands.
What are your plans for developing the Made in Lagos popup brand?
The plan is to be a global brand, taking our popups from country to country. We want to be seen as a brand that showcases the best of Africa, worldwide.
What do you think about the current love of African fashion in the industry?
I think it is absolutely amazing. I think it’s something that’s always been there, but they [fashion industry] didn’t see it. With the more influx of Nigerians, Africans and even celebrities wearing African fashion designs and styles, it has become something that everyone wants to be a part of. I think that’s a truly wonderful thing. Africa is going places.
What would you say to anyone reading who is an aspiring fashion designer?
I think that for everything you want to do or desire, keep pushing through. It may seem difficult or seem like an unattainable dream as you sit thinking about it in your living room, but if you pursue it, you can go far with it.