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Africa’s Fashion Rising: Isi Atagamen’s Journey from Model to Fashion Mogul – Businessday NG

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Isi Atagamen, the creative director and CEO of Isi Atagamen Fashion and Beauty Lounge, has seamlessly blended fashion, beauty, and art into a unique and thriving enterprise.

Starting her career as a model, she transitioned into the fashion industry to fulfill her dream. She was also driven by a passion for meeting the global demand for African fashion and creativity.

According to a UNESCO report released during Lagos Fashion Week last year, Africa’s fashion industry is rapidly expanding to meet both local and international demand.

However, the report also highlights a significant gap in investment necessary for the industry to reach its full potential.

Currently valued at $15.5 billion in annual exports, the United Nations’ cultural body suggests that with the right investment and infrastructure, earnings from Africa’s fashion industry could triple within a decade.

Fashion across Africa is thriving, encompassing textiles, garments, accessories, and fine crafts—all deeply rooted in African culture. The growth of e-commerce is a significant factor in this expansion.

“Africa leads the world in mobile device web traffic,” according to the US International Trade Administration, “opening more marketing opportunities. In Nigeria, for instance, young entrepreneurs are leveraging social media to launch fashion brands.”

Atagamen recently marked a milestone with the grand opening of her fashion line and business lounge in Lagos. The event drew dignitaries, models, and guests, including Helen Prest-Ajayi, a renowned Nigerian lawyer and former beauty queen.

“This is a testament to Africa’s rise,” Prest-Ajayi told BD Weekender. “With our young population achieving remarkable feats globally, we have much to be proud of. Isi is a shining example.”

Prest-Ajayi also lauded the fashion-prenuer’s dynamic and creative approach, noting, “We are witnessing a blend of creativity—art, fashion, and beauty all in one. This is happening at a high level, and it’s a joy to see.”

Speaking further, she addressed the challenges of doing business in Nigeria, stressing the need for supportive infrastructure and incentives for young entrepreneurs.

“Tax is a duty, but the government should create a more business-friendly environment,” she said. “We need to encourage our youth, who are already achieving so much with so little. They are running without any fuel, just on air, yet, they do so well.”

The grand opening also featured a runway show with models showcasing Atagamen’s collections to the guests.

In an exclusive interview with BD Weekender, she reflected on her journey. “I’ve always wanted to go into fashion. Modelling was my stepping stone,” she said.

Since 2023, Atagamen has focused on incorporating traditional African elements into her designs. “I have a hunger for my roots,” she explained. “I wanted to revisit our African heritage and get people to appreciate our homegrown pieces.”

Sustainability and upcycling are at the heart of her fashion philosophy, aligning with global trends towards environmentally conscious practices in the industry. “We used natural fabrics and dyes, working with materials like adire and aso-oke, which is my way of upcycling,” she said. “We hand-painted and customised each piece to individual desires.”

At the Isi Atagamen Fashion and Beauty Lounge, customers can indulge in a range of services tailored to enhance their beauty and style. From hair styling to nail care and eyelash treatments, the lounge offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere where clients can pamper themselves.

Stating the importance of creating a space where everyone can feel at ease and rejuvenated, she said “I wanted to create a space where everybody can come and relax and feel good. You come into the space, you have soft and calming music, and then you get your hair done, your nails done, your lashes done, and everybody is happy.”

The CEO also shared her vision for the future, aspiring to expand her brand internationally. “We’re already stocking in Lagos and Abuja, but we aim to enter markets in Greece, Ghana, Morocco, and beyond. Within five years, we hope to have a presence in these international locations.”

Reflecting on the current state of Nigeria’s fashion industry, Atagamen is optimistic. “The industry is improving drastically. African designers are embracing our cultural roots, and we need to continue this trend. Our heritage is a treasure trove of inspiration, and we must preserve it.”

“We don’t need to modernize our heritage pieces,” she continued. “Their beauty lies in their origin and symbolism. If the world can embrace our music and culture, they can certainly embrace our fashion.”

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