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Mai Atafo: From Corporate Desk To Bespoke Tailoring

The creative director of one of Nigeria’s top fashion brand Mai Atafo has built a premium lifestyle brand using his experience in marketing and branding and his love for fashion to create a perfect synergy for his business.

Firmly rooted in the Nigerian creative space, Atafo exudes a sartorial elegance that makes him a model for upcoming fashion brands in the country.

Atafo’s recognition as a Nigerian fashion icon did not happen overnight. It was a product of a series of gradual movements that inched him towards eventual fame and success.

In his words, “I was already doing fashion for three years before I left Guinness, so I was combining both before I left. It was when I resigned my job at Guinness in 2010 that I decided to also take a role in Genevieve because I thought it would be a nice opportunity… At the same time, I had a job in Spice TV and I was working on my brand… I just wanted to get my hands into as many pies as possible and build up my experience.”

Not to be distracted from his goals of creating a space for himself in the fashion industry, he had to dump some of the pies: he resigned his job as a Brand Manager at Guinness Nigeria for a job as the Fashion Editor of Genevieve magazine.

Afterwards, Atafo kicked off his business making Aso-oke waistcoats and everything that came his way. While doing this, he studied other prestigious brands, using their business strategies and learning from their mistakes in a bid to redefine his brand.

He sets up his first atelier after he left Guinness.Atafo got his second factory in Yaba but only used it for three months before he had to move all his employees to Falomo, Lagos. And after which he moved to Lekki, Lagos because the Falomo Shopping Centre was demolished.

Regardless of the level of success he enjoys today, like many other Nigerian fashion brands, Atafo still has to deal with production headaches. Being a jack of all trades was not part of his plans but there is an acute shortage of specialists in the different sections of clothesmaking. Hence, there came the need to understand the different aspects of his trade.

He enlists in the Savile Row Training Academy to hone his skills. The London-based academy is renowned for training aspiring tailors to the highest attainable standards.

In an industry where many brands struggle to survive and stay relevant, Mai Atafo is one of the few brands that have successfully dabbled in different areas of fashion. His “Weddings by Mai” line is highly-regarded and his bespoke traditional line is very much distinct.

As the world evolves, so has the African fashion industry more creative designers and entrepreneurs are embracing the originality of our culture into contemporary designs.

Mai Atafo has proven that when chasing your dreams , consistency and empowering yourself with the skills is necessary. His switch from being a corporate personal to an entrepreneur speaks volumes of creativity and excellence through his timeless design.

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