Ese Aigbogun's Allen & Fifth is capturing and projecting Nigerian experiences to the world in a fresh, positive and enlightening manner.
Interview by BellaNaija.com
BN Making It!kicks off withEse Aigbogun of Allen & Fifth. Ese shares the roots and inspiration for her business as well as where she intends to take it in the future.
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and I’m currently based in New York City. I hold a BBA in International Marketing from Baruch College, City University of New York. I love music, traveling, learning new things and I enjoy blogging and lounging with friends.
I have a love affair with art (when I was 8, I represented my primary school in an art competition, I didn’t win though) and so the idea of Allen & Fifth simmered for a while. It sprung in 2005 – the Nigerian Independence day parade in NYC was around the corner and I wanted a really cool tee that told a story about me so I thought, why not make one? That idea in 2005 came to fruition in the summer of 2008 with my first collection of t-shirts that capture Nigerian experiences.
Allen & Fifth represents two distinct cultures, Lagos (Allen Avenue) and New York (Fifth Avenue), both fast paced cities with so much life and energy to tap from. My tees are designed to strike a chord of nostalgia and curiosity but more important to enlighten people about what Africa and Africans have to offer.
Signature designs include; ‘Efiko’, ‘WaZoBia’, ‘Aso Rock’, ‘Chop Knuckle’ and ‘Do You know Who I Am.’
Spring/Summer collection out right now. I am so excited about what’s coming soon; it’s amazing (if I may say so myself) so prepare to be blown away.
Can you please provide some more detail around how you got started from a business angle?
I always knew that I wanted to run my business. I knew I had great t-shirt ideas. The timing was right, the opportunity availed itself and I took the plunge.
Did it require a large start-up capital?
No, not really. I was able to research cost cutting options and this came in handy in helping reduce start-up expenses.
How did you obtain startup capital? Savings, loans, investors?
I saved! Luckily for me I have a full time job that helps finance Allen & Fifth.
Do you also have a 9-5 job or is Allen & Fifth Full Time?
Yes, I have a full time day job. I consider Allen & Fifth my full time night job. As soon as I leave work I shift to Allen & Fifth mode.
What sets Allen & Fifth apart from the truckload of Tee-Shirt designers (Nigerian & International)? Allen & Fifth is unique in that I make use of subtle inferences that represent Nigerian experiences and pop culture on every design. Each design has a story behind it. For instance I have a Korean customer who got the Efiko and Lepa Shandi tees. She knows what they mean and she is so excited that she knows 2 Nigerian slangs. Allen & Fifth is not just about “green white green” or “naija for life”; there’s more to offer.
Has the global economic downturn affected your business so far?
It hasn’t – at least I don’t think it has. People are always going to shop in a good or bad economy especially if they really like a design and I strive for designs that people are going to really like.
What are your future plans for Allen & Fifth?
I’d love to see Allen & Fifth carried by retailers worldwide. I just want to keep growing.
Advice for other young entrepreneurs: Brace yourselves. Starting a business isn’t a walk in the park but if you enjoy what you do, it is so worth it.
Click to visit the Allen & Fifth Site –www.allenandfifth.com
Photos by @ZirePhotos