For our Founder Wednesday series- a regular live stream on Instagram where we invite fashion entrepreneurs and founders of direct-to-consumer businesses and we talk about how to build strong, sustainable, and profitable businesses, we went live with Samuel Ade, co-founder and CEO of Ilana.
Ilana means pathway in Yoruba and that’s exactly what the brand and its people exist to do. It is a store for black-owned fashion brands and a platform for fashion designers to gain expertise, connect and collaborate. Currently, Ilana has over four brands from Nigeria and Ghana and is constantly onboarding more.
"A mother's dream should never have to go unfulfilled. From as young as I can remember, my mother always desired to be a fashion designer, spending hours sewing through the machine and working on her designs. A dream that went unfulfilled. So we created Ilana- a platform for fashion designers to sell, connect and collaborate. To ensure those who dream of fashion, never have to give up on their dreams."
Having been an entrepreneur for over many years, Samuel has co-founded a youth-led organization for budding fashion designers in which they train young people in garment printing skills, and often meet designers that long for knowledge and want to grow their brand and make it sustainable. So Ilana was created to serve them.
During the chat, Samuel discusses the impact of Brexit, challenges up-and-coming fashion designers face and how Ilana helps them build stronger businesses, and more.
Speaking from years of experience in the industry, the founder says that there has been a drastic change from what the fashion industry used to be to what it is now. People are starting to make more conscious choices. It is even more difficult to start a fashion brand in this day and age. In order to be successful now, or even get recognized, one needs to bring something really unique and valuable. It is an already saturated market and there are so many readily available options.
"The key to stand out is to stay authentic."
Samuel suggests that one true way to make your brand stand-out in the pool of others is to be authentic and stay true to why you started. Each and every one of us has a story and that is exactly what we need to bring out. It is one of the reasons why people partner with other people, why people support brands. Every brand should have its integrity and values. More importantly, a story that people can resonate with.
Recalling the time when he first decided to bring in a co-founder, Samuel says that it is very important to make sure your values and vision align with each other. Then it all makes sense. It also helps if the other person brings those skills, elements, or aspects to the table that you might not originally possess, in order to complement each other in a better way, just like pieces of a puzzle.
Check out the entire conversation to know more about sustainability, future of African fashion and more.