From Passion to Powerhouse: The Remarkable Story of Samuel Ade and ILANA's Fashion Empire
I'm beyond thrilled to kick off this interview with an absolute trailblazer in the world of entrepreneurship - Samuel Ade, the brilliant mind behind ILANA, a platform that is transforming the luxury fashion industry. As I delve into Samuel's incredible journey and the captivating story behind ILANA, get ready to embark on a fascinating exploration of fashion, creativity, and the power of community.
ILANA is not just another platform; it's a vibrant and dynamic ecosystem that nurtures both luxury fashion brands and emerging designers. It's a place where talent flourishes, ideas are exchanged, and connections are made. And who better to guide us through this fashion-forward journey than the visionary himself, Samuel Ade.
What inspired you to create this platform for fashion designers?
My mum was an aspiring fashion designer who wasn’t able to make it in the fashion industry so Ilana is dedicated to her memory to ensure ethnic minorities have a better chance of succeeding in fashion. The idea formulated in 2020 after seeing an influencer complain about wanting to find black brands she could spend her money with, my response was it would be great to have a platform dedicated to black fashion brands so we built it, however as a result of the niche we are focusing on I knew it needed to be more than a marketplace but also a community that can equip designers with the necessary expertise required to take their fashion brands to the next level.
Can you tell us more about your background and how it prepared you for entrepreneurship in the fashion industry?
What is the special meaning behind the name of your brand?
Ila-nor means pathway in Yoruba, we exist to create a pathway for emerging talent.
How do you select the luxury fashion brands that you feature in your store?
We look for luxury brands that already have a reputation of trading excellence and want to expand Internationally.
What sets your platform apart from other resources available to emerging fashion designers?
Our community is like nothing in the market, we offer a community for fashion
designers to join and receive fashion consulting on their garment life cycle through a simple four stage process. Helping designers regardless of their background gain the vital knowledge to start and scale their fashion brands.
Can you walk us through the process that fashion designers go through to gain expertise on your platform?
Once a designer joins the community they are partnered with a fashion expert who will offer feedback on their Sketches, Cad Design, Toile, Samples and final collections. Designers can also join our membership which provides them with additional resources through video tutorials and content for a monthly fee.
How do you measure the success of your platform in terms of helping emerging talent break into the fashion industry?
We measure it in two ways, one is the amount items we sell of the brands our store and secondly by the amount of designers who join our community. We have 200 designers signed up and aim to increase that to 10,000 over the course of this year.
What challenges have you faced in creating and running this business, and how have you overcome them?
So many, solving one problem identifies others and we are still looking for the best
solutions to tackle them. One of them being to do with the duration it takes for our
customers to receive an item when they make a purchase. The brands we work with are based in west Africa and make items to order so it can take anywhere between 3-4 weeks for the item to made and shipped depending on the workload of the brand. We are looking at ways to reduce this timeframe by exploring working with the brands on a wholesale basis which in turn can create other challenges.
What new projects or initiatives do you have planned for your platform, ILANA?
Can’t say too much but we will be soon launching a new kind event based on our
community that enables designers to experience the 4 stage process in person. Watch this space.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the fashion industry?
Keep the end in mind and remember your why, Fashion is a hard industry to
penetrate and requires a lot of capital, time and resources. Your personal
motivations must be big enough to overcome the challenges when they inevitably arise. Build a network, have a community, it’s invaluable and provides inspiration.
How do you see your platform evolving in the future, and what new features or initiatives are you considering?
We have a lot in store for the future, one is launching version two of our platform which will make it easier for our designers to engage with the work of other designers and share their projects outside our platform.
Finally, what do you hope to achieve through your platform and your store for luxury fashion brands?
To be a leading e-tailer for black fashion brands and hub for fashion designers. We would like to see black designers thriving in the industry without any barriers to entry. Helping designers regardless of their background gain the vital knowledge to start and scale their fashion brands.