The first thing that struck me on locating the Proverbs Creations outlet at Surulere was how small it was compared to the image of leadership and professionalism that the brand name and its activities conjure. It wasn’t long too, before I found out the reason for this. 15 years strong, the handmade fashion accessories brand has stood itself out with the quality and ingenuity of its range of products – from fascinators and turbans to bead-infused neck pieces, decorated throw pillows, afrocentric handbags and hand-painted fabrics.
The soft-spoken Mrs. Bukola Adenuga is a craft artist, through and through. During her early school days, she would opt for the museum while her mates went to summer school. Starting her entrepreneurial journey immediately after bagging a Philosophy degree, she enrolled with John 3V3 Hats for her national youth service. Here, she acquired sufficient training and inspiration to start her own millinery (hat-making) brand, which has grown to accommodate several other craft forms today.
After hat-making came beaded jewelry (she is very adept at bead and chain fusions, I must say) and fabric design. Of her crafting evolution, Bukola says she is naturally inquisitive and unafraid to try her hands at new crafts. This usually means a lot of trial and error as she learns on the go, but her signature hand-painted skirts for which she had no training, are a testimony to an innate creativity.
The Brand, CSR
Price wise, the multi-talented Mrs. Adenuga classifies her products in the mid-way luxury range, within the reach of both the middle class and a fourth class between the low and middle classes. One thing is certain though and that is, quality is not compromised.
Of growth, Proverbs Creations started “extremely small”, with a determined visionary who designed hats, bridal roses and bows out of her home. Today, the brand is successful by many standards, and this may be attributed to an emphasis on developing its public image and social projection rather than spending on physical structures.
“Less than 20% of our customers actually come here, they interact with us through social media and we ship to them. This is why we have focused on building those platforms till date rather than to have moved to a bigger facility. However, we are looking to expand very soon and plans are underway for our training academy.”
Remarkably, Proverbs has also found a way to give back to the society with a couple of initiatives – “We hold lifestyle choices meetings for teenage girls during summer holidays and in December with some partners”, she explains. “Likewise, a percentage of the sales from our monogrammed Abule cushions goes to helping needy children”.
Sales and Exhibitions
Bukky Proverbs, as she is fondly called, has exhibited in Europe and the US, but yet maintains that her best sales come from home base Nigeria. “Contrary to popular belief, appreciation of high quality bespoke accessories is low abroad due to influx of cheaper alternatives from China; accessories that look so good but fail to hold up after light use. Afrocentric pieces do have better acceptance, but even that is waning as China-made Ankara is now being sold in the US and UK.”
Proverbs Creations organizes Style Plus, a fashion and craft exhibition in Lagos and yours truly was at the last one held at Radisson Blu hotel on Nigeria’s Independence Day. Being a firm believer in partnerships, Bukola collaborates with other creative brands to hold her events and exhibitions in Nigeria, some of whom are Idong Harrie, Flaykes Delight, and Events Plus among others.
Advice for Industry hopefuls
“When we first opened this outlet, we had a lot of people coming for training and they basically wanted to open my brain and download all of the designs in it. They could not quite grasp the part of applying their own creativity to the techniques that I taught to them. As a creative, that is all you need to learn – Techniques! Then you build on those and create your own designs.”
On the other hand too, Bukola recalls having to reject some clients’ copy-cat jobs because she did not want to lose her own creativity.
“There is no overnight success anywhere. Settle down and learn your craft properly, there are already too many mushroom designers out there. Learn to do your finishing well, your products must be able to stand the test of time.”
On Government Aid
With the ban on a lot of imported goods, she opines that creative entrepreneurs need to raise their game to fill the gaps. But the government must also provide an enabling environment for this with infrastructure.
It would also help the industry if the government would look into creating a market cluster for the artisans and crafters. It could become a tourist attraction for lovers of African indigenous and handcrafted accessories.
Bukola is happily married to renowned gospel artiste and songwriter, Pastor Wale Adenuga (remember ‘Today oo..’) and they are blessed with children.
This piece was first published here.