Perhaps, little did he know that his flair for fashion will bring him to limelight when he started way back in school. Prince Akanni’s journey as a designer, trainer and a businessman, began as a student in 1982 when he emerged the best student in a class of eighty eight.
He gave up his job in 1993 as a lecturer in fashion designing and as a designer. He was managing both for a fashion house-Mac in those days. Mac’s institute of fashion and beauty which after 20year he was called back to manage. Mac is a bridal one-stop shop which was at 400 Herbert Macaulay, Yaba, Lagos. His wealth of experience in the profession has transformed Mac’s bridal shop to a foremost shop of choice within the country.
For him, going on to start his own outlet with 11-17 tailors in 1993 was fueled by passion. “Whatever I choose to do, I do it with all my passion. I am always genuine with all I do. It is not about the money, money is important no doubt, It will definitely come but it’s a secondary consideration. The primary thing is the passion you have for it, the love you have as a person. I can go to any length, extra length to make sure you know it”.
Initially, before delving into fashion designing, he wanted to study engineering because of his love for drawing and designing, but he got caught up in the fashion world. “I wanted to go for engineering but at last I found myself doing designing. We have a large family and we used to draw a lot in the family. I played with lots of cartoons, illustrations, drawings etc”.
The fashion guru enjoyed the support of his family in his career choice which indeed paved the way for him. “My father had a garment factory and we were supplying Leventis and Kingsway stores in those days. We produced items like sleep suits, pyjamas, and bedspread. I actually developed interests for fashion from there. When we were out of school, instead of being idle at home, we followed our daddy to his place of work and got attached to a designer who actually trained me” he said.
As is true of every great achievement and achiever in all walks of life, Prince Akanni’s journey has not been without its accompanying challenges. He has shown that where there is a will, there is always a way by creating a niche for himself in the world of fashion. He however does not revel in the euphoria of his achievements. As he puts it, “for me, doing something to affect others has been my priority.
Today I can sit back and see most of my numerous students and protégés if not all of them doing well! This is success for me. People like Kola Kuddus, Modela, One-stop celebration and many others. Take Modela for instance. The day he won designer of the year, I was proud of him because he was my student. I was so happy. Those are the kind of things that drive my joy and of course I am a success story to the glory of God”.
As a proof that this seasoned designer is true to his word, africanpride was pleased to discover that Prince Akanni is into philanthropy and job creation. For instance he runs a learn-how-to-sew-for-free monthly programme absolutely free of charge. Here, intending designers are given free training on how to sew every last Saturday of the month. Many benefit from this gesture every year and scholarships are also given out
According to the Prince, focus was what got him out of the avalanche of challenges to success. He narrated how initially Nobel Afrik was called Noble after his boyhood nickname-I.D Noble. At the outset, it was Noble Enterprise but due to the commonness of the name Noble, he decided to rename the outfit Nobel Afrik
From the beginning Nobel Afrik was Afrosynthic in its choice of styles and wares.
Akanni’s consistency has not come easy. According to him, “I tell people they cannot separate business from the environment. If you want to be successful in the Nigerian environment, you must study the spending habit of the people, the dressing habit of the people and their social life. I firmly believe that for you to be successful in any terrain, you must understand the environment and how it works. You explore before you exploit. Your fact-finding will pave the way for the correct business approach”.
Prince Akanni has grown his academy over the years from one to five branches and aims at doing more with the latest coming up in Port-Harcourt in 2014 with an intention to take Nobel Afric international to more than 18 states in Nigeria.
He opined that young people must believe in themselves and be ready to learn. They must be focused and sincere with themselves because as he put it, “I believe in sincerity first. What you don’t know, you lean on people to learn it. You must be steadfast, you must be ready to start small and you must be prayerful too. I believe that God will bless you in whatever you choose to do”.
INTERVIEW BY: AROWOLO N. OLA