“My name is Funmi Fagbemi and I live in Lagos, Nigeria. I grew up in London before moving to Nigeria. I’ve worked all my life in fashion and hospitality. I am quite loud and colourful and I am also a single mother”. This is how this fashion PR who has worked with Burberry, DVF, and MARNI introduces herself. She has also worked as a stylist, styling the American Rapper Eve, Tiwa Savage, Dija, Ladipoe and many more. We had a conversation with her.
You are the founder of a fashion PR Agency. Tell us more about the agency and its activities. What exactly motivated you to take up such an initiative?
VR CREATIVE AGENCY is a Fashion PR Agency that represents Nigerian emerging brands and pushes these brands to the African and International media and press. The agency actually started with menswear designers. We recently signed our First women’s wear designer, Abiola Adeniran-Olusola. At the moment, we only deal with clothing brands. In 2014, during the Lagos Fashion and Design Week there were emerging brands which were showcasing their collections. I noticed that after the show designers didn’t know what to do with their collections : how do they get more press attention, how do they get their pieces to the right stylist, how do they get into stores and so on and so forth. That’s when I noticed a gap in the market and I decided to have the First Fashion PR Agency in Nigeria that focuses on emerging brands.
You work predominantly with African creatives within the African fashion industry. How do you scout around for emerging brands and do you look out for any specifics? If yes, what exactly?
Yes, I do, and my goal is to be able to get these brands to fashion presentations during International Fashion Weeks all over the world. For now, I only represent Nigerian brands and I mostly do my scouting via Instagram. Once I spot what I love, I get in contact with the designer. We meet up and I check the collection. The quality of the clothes is very important to me and I got disappointed a lot with the quality but then, I have been able to scout some amazing brands which I have signed under my PR Agency. I also get a lot of emails from brands and everything depends on the quality of their pieces. So, the number one thing I look out for is the quality of the brands’ clothes.
How would you classify your clients?
We work with based and made in Nigerian brands. We consider ourselves a menswear PR Agency but we are very flexible. If we see a womenswear brand that ticks all our questions we sign them on for example, our first women’s wear brand by the designer Abiola Adeniran-Olusola.
Do you provide media coaching especially for emerging brands?
Oh yes, building the right digital content for a brand is very important to us. We have signed some brands and told the designers to delete all photos from the brands’ Instagram pages because we felt the photos were not properly representing the brands. After that we start afresh with the brand, getting the content right.
How would you describe a typical collaboration with a client and how to you measure your results?
As a fashion agency, we don’t do collaboration as a whole but our brands collaborate with more established Nigerian brands. Collaboration is therefore a big part of the agency. For example, our client brand BLOKE who is a menswear knit designer has collaborated with established Nigerian brands like MAXIVIVE, TOKYO JAMES (for South African Men’s Week) and FUNDUNZI (for South African Men’s Week). This collaboration gives the emerging brands much confidence. The collaboration with more established brands also gives my brands a great African and International publicity which leads to the emerging brand becoming more popular. All the collaborations have made into press like Wonderland Magazine, GQ South Africa, Elle South Africa and many more. So, I tend to measure the results with the degree of press coverage and also sales.
The fashion industry is a highly competitive industry. How do you manage to stay on top of or to say the least keep up with current events and trends?
I studied fashion business at the London College of Fashion. I did a six months internship with Premiere Vision in Paris where I learned trend forecasting. Therefore, my brands are always ahead of trends. I also keep up via social media as well as trend fashion companies like WGSN, TREND FORECASTING and many more. But I also keep an eye out for Street Fashion all over the world.
What challenges have you encountered so far? In your opinion, what can be done to ameliorate the situation?
There have been so many challenges especially when starting up a niche business in Africa in a country like Nigeria. A lot of the brands we represent don’t necessarily have the fees to pay for PR services so because of the love for what we do, I decided to come up with the À LA CARTE price list where brands choose PR services to tailor their needs at an affordable cost, rather than paying a monthly retainer. We strongly believe that unless Nigeria comes up with a better system for the NIGERIAN FASHION COUNCIL things will continue to be difficult for emerging brands and businesses like mine. But I have always believed in persistence. The agency and our client brands continue to reach for higher heights.
Where do you see VR Creative Agency in the next few years?
I see VR CREATIVE AGENCY in a few cities flying the flag for Nigerian emerging brands. My dream is to have showrooms in South Africa, London, Paris, New York and South Korea.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs especially those hoping to be part of the African Fashion Industry?
My advice would be, be ready to FALL AND FALL AND FALL AGAIN but then make sure you stand up and keep moving. Also, you must LOVE what you do and also realize that it is a Business. Run it like a Business! Be prepared to make mistakes but also be prepared to enjoy your success no matter how little it is. It is not an easy road but it is definitely a beautiful road.