Joan Adewale, CEO of Agbeke Alaso Oke Designs Talks about Her Passion for Aso-Oke
Let’s meet You?
My name is Joan Adewale. I own the Agbeke Alaso Oke designs. I design Aso-Oke for all occasions; wedding, child dedication, funeral among others. Aside from designing Aso-Oke, I also do other things with Aso-Oke such as phone pouch. I had to look inward and I discovered that there are some little things you do with Aso-Oke instead of celebrating the western designs. I was using an expensive pouch, then I said to myself that I can actually use Aso-Oke.
Apart from that, the dress I am wearing is actually my own design as well, I made it with Aso-Oke and I designed it. The fabric is called ‘olowu’ it is made of wool. There are so many things we use Aso-Oke for asides ‘iro’ and ‘buba’, even interior decoration. Most western people they actually celebrate our cultural wears more than we do. So I decided to work with what we have so that people will appreciate it.
How did you grow interest in Aso-oke designing?
I am a public relations consultant by profession that is what I really do. Aso-oke is just something I picked up along the line. I actually love designing. So I thought, ‘I am in Ibadan, let me try something different’ and that was how I had interest.
How did you start your Aso-Oke business?
My first job experience with Aso-Oke was last year, that was during my father-in-law’s burial and we had to pick a cloth for the ceremony. So I told my husband’s family to let me design something for them that we would use for the occasion. And they really liked the designs, and that encouraged me. And that was how I started, and it was actually my first experience.
What messages do you pass across with your designs?
The message I pass across in my designs is creativity. There is no static way of doing things, innovation is something people should aspire to get, always be creative about things. It is not like I have seen anyone doing it. The Aso-Oke designs were things I really admire, and I said to myself ‘why not try something new with the fabric?’, and that was how I started.
Do you think Ibadan is embracing the Aso-Oke fabric?
Well, the journey of my Aso-Oke would not be complete without mentioning how Ibadan has helped my business. It has been so encouraging, I had to deal with so many people. I met people who encouraged me and also introduced me to people in this business as well, most especially the weavers. And it has really been encouraging I must say.
What has been your greatest challenge so far? And how were you able to handle it?
The major challenge is funding. I started this business with limited fund. I had just like N5,000 when I started this business, and I said to myself, ‘if you have to wait till you have a large some of money you would not achieve anything, but how you can transform that little amount into achieving great things is what really counts.’ And for me I think that was what pushed me into going all out, and when people saw my works they appreciate and give some tips on how to be better. And it has actually opened more doors for me, but if I am able to get more financial funding, I have lots of thing in mind to do with the Aso-Oke fabric.
For anyone who would like to venture into this line of business, what skills or knowledge should such person have?
You have to be artistic. About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to train some people, and I told them that for you to really soar high in the Aso-Oke business, you need to be artistic and creative. If you ask me that which one comes first, I would say been artistic because every thing about Aso-Oke design has to do with you been an artist.
Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
Hmmmm, in the next ten years, I see myself owning a company, and I see myself as a distributor home and abroad. Most of my clients are not Ibadan base. Some people ask ‘how have been to do well in Ibadan? ’. I moved to Ibadan because of marriage. It was based on that I looked around for things I could do, and I thought of Aso-Oke business.
So, for me it is not about where you are but it is about how what you do speaks volume. I was talking to someone the other day, I told her that there is a client of mine abroad that I made Aso-Oke for, and her siblings loved it, then she placed an order for it. I will just say location does not really determine the output, but be consistent with whatever you are doing.
What advice do you have for people who wants to go into this type of business?
The advice I would give to such people is ‘do not give up’. The other day, my students were complaining about capital for the business and shop. And I told them I started from my house with just N5,000. It is the determination that really matters. Yeah, there were challenges like increase in price after I have already agreed with the customer on charges. But passion was what kept me going.
My advice is that no matter how small it is, they should start from somewhere and then the little you start with will speak volume.
You can reach Agbeke Alaso – Oke on 08028851303 and also on Instagram.