The convener of the African Fashion Week, Princess Ronke Ademiluyi is one of the wives of the Ooni of Ife, in this short interview, the fashion designer, a great grand-daughter to Ooni Ademiluyi traced her background and why she fell in love with the present Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi…
What’s The Usual Life In A Palace For An Olori?
My great grandfather was Ooni Ajagun Ademiluyi, he was the 48th Ooni of Ife, so I’ve always been used to royalty, I’m a blue-blood. I’ve always known everything about the palace and royalty. Now that I’m married to the 51st Ooni of Ife, for me it’s just normal because it’s something I’ve always been used to. Waking up with duties, doing my work as well, doing my cultural duties, bringing everything together is just something I do effortlessly, because I’ve been used to it from a tender age. When His Majesty ascended the throne in 2015 I had that opportunity to be a part of the whole thing, so I’m kind of grown with him and he is being someone like a mentor, he mentors me a lot.
How Did You Adjust To Life In Ile-Ife Compared To The City Life In Lagos, Did You Miss Anything?
To be honest, I don’t really miss anything because I don’t like the traffic in Lagos, we all know how hectic Lagos can be. Living here is more like an escape from the city life. I have my work that I do here as well, His Majesty established an adire factory for me where we make adire and train people, we work with students from the Universities. For me it’s another life aside from the one in Lagos.
There is a change in your dressing, as a Queen are there some clothes you are forbidden to wear?
My position comes with my appearance as the wife of a king, you can be called at any time to do anything, so you must keep up that appearance because you are representing your husband wherever you are. If you are dressed in jeans or not dressed in a proper way it would have an adverse effect, people will start talking. People would feel that I even being a princess I supposed to know better.
In a royal setting there is usually polygamy and Kabiyesi exercised this recently by marrying you and five other wives, how do you cope?
First and foremost I must say polygamy is part of the African culture. If you look at all the Oonis, from Ooni Oduduwa they all had many wives, even my great grandfather, Ooni Ademiluyi had 47 wives. It comes with the throne and its part of the throne, polygamy is an African culture and part of the throne of Ile-Ife. My husband’s predecessor, Ooni Olubuse had 11 wives, that’s the culture.
Why Did You Marry The Kabiyesi And What Was The Attraction?
I can tell you I fell in love with him because of our culture, for the upliftment of our culture.
What was your childhood like?
I had a very privileged background as one of the only children of Prince Adebolu Ademiluyi, I have three brothers, I’m the only girl. I was born in London, precisely the Paddington Hospital where the royals in the Uk are born as well. I lived in Sussex Garden while growing up before we moved back to Nigeria. I did a bit of my school in Nigeria, my primary school was Adrao International School and then my mum who is from Akure decided that we should go over there to also learn from her people, so I was in boarding School at Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School, Akure. I went back to London for my A’Levels, later I went to London University where I studied Law, despite always wanting to spend all my life in fashion and textile.
Why did you study Law?
Fashion then was frowned at. They see it as the lowest for those who are not intelligent, unlike now where African fashion is now a huge thing. I’m in love with western designs but I look into Africa for inspiration. They call it ethnic fashion, tribal fashion, African fashion, there s no name they haven’t given it, but the bottom line is that it is African. Africa has like 3000 tribes and each tribe has its own unique fashion culture. No matter how close your borders are, when you see kente on someone you know maybe this person is from Ghana. In Nigeria we have about 500 ethnic groups and we have our different fashion. Regarding African fashion, i think we are still scratching the surface, we haven’t started yet. Fashion wasn’t lucrative when I was growing up, so I wasn’t allowed to study fashion. My mum’s sister that I stayed with was a retired Judge, so I used to go to court with her, it was from there tht the inspiration came to study Law, but I never practised, after stdying Law I went straight into fashion.
For someone who had given a lot to fashion, what has fashion given back to you?
Fashion has given me a lot. I showcased about 2000 designers from about 26 African countries and I have been the success story of the most emerging and successful African designers. For me I’m happy, I’m fulfilled when I listen to testimonies of what others have been able to gain from what I started. Fashion has given me fulfilment and it will continue giving me.
Your store Rukiz in Lagos was popular then with the high-heeled and the most urban, what happened to the business?
Rukiz was a chain of store I had when I moved back to Nigeria in 2001, it was actually Rukiz that exposed me into the fashion industry. When I was in school in London I used to do a little bit of fashion but after my studies I decided to move back to Nigeria and that was when I established Rukiz. I had a chain of 5 stores, two on Opebi, one in Surulere, one in Lekki and one in Lagos Island, they were all doing well, but when I decided to move into African fashion industry I decided to close Rukiz because I couldn’t get a proper management structure. With the African fashion I was all over, I was in the UK and around different African countries. So, the management of Rukiz store was lacking and that was why I closed it to focus on African Fashion.
I started African Fashion Week in London in 2011. African fashion wasn’t popular then and people were like why do I have to call it that, I was advised to change the name but I went with my gut-feeling and established the African Fashion Week London. The venue we took then could only accommodate 700 people, but we had a turn-up of 4500 people and that was when I knew the world is hungry for African fashion and its been growing since then and this has inspired so many African fashion around the world, there is hardly any city in the world that doesn’t have an African Fashion Week which was based on the success I achieved.