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Introducing: Allen and Fifth

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Hey readers, hope you are having a good week so far. Are you suuuuuper excited about Valentines Day aka Friday?? Lol, happy Valentines Day! Remember if you don't have a date it's not the end of the world, just have a great weekend instead!

Anyway, as you can probably tell by the different posts on this blog I like being inspired by different people, places and things. Something that always inspires me is entrepreneurship- people that have decided to take their creativity, talents and skills and turn them into a business.

A growing business that I have definitely been keeping my eye on is Allen and Fifth. Founded by Nigerian Ese Aigbogun, Allen and Fifth is a US clothing brand whose designs cross African-inspired imagery with New York street style.

Their T-shirts have made their way into various music videos, and have been given positive reviews YouTube. So you know I was curious and wanted to find out more, and who better to ask than the founder herself?!


Welcome Ese! Happy New Year! So tell us about yourself, who is Ese Aigbogun and what is she all about?

"Hi Tomi! Happy (Chinese) New Year to you too!

Ese Aigbogun is the creative director of Allen & Fifth. She is all about making the best of every opportunity."

Allen and Fifth has been going for around 5 years now, what inspired you to start the business and how did you make it happen?  

"Allen & Fifth wasn't exactly thought through; it was one of those “just do it” projects. I started the business because I was seeking a certain style of Nigerian/African tees that at the time no one in the business had to offer. I saw that there was a void that needed to be filled and I took on the challenge to fill that void. It also helped that I’m also into artsy type stuffJ."

How much business experience did you have prior to starting up? Was the process tough?

"My business experience came from watching my mom run her businesses growing up but it’s a different ball game when you are running a business by yourself so I think it’s fair to say I had premature business experience. As a matter of fact I learn new things everyday!"

"The process wasn't tough; I run a good chunk of operations out of New York City and to be honest it is a great city to run a start up.  Compared to the hassles of running a business in Lagos, I can’t complain."

Looking back, I'm guessing you have had many highs and lows. Tell us about your best highlight and your biggest learning curve.

"Tough question. I think the best highlight for me is when I realized that I wasn't connected by any degree of separation to people who purchased Allen & Fifth tees...you know, I didn't know these people and they are buying these t-shirts because they genuinely like it. It’s amazing and it is a privilege that I am ever grateful for. I have a responsibility now to maintain the standard, I can’t 'ef' this up."

"Biggest learning curve is getting a good handle of Allen & Fifth’s brand purpose, as everything we do should roll up to our brand purpose. When a brand has a solid purpose it’s easier to make decisions because it is clear under what parameters you operate."

Your apparel has a really distinctive style- clean and clear statement designs. The UniTees, ‘Dobale’, and ‘Chale’ tees are almost like brands within the brand, where do all your design ideas come from?


"Design inspiration comes from pop culture; Western and African. My mind roams a lot so I can’t say there is a process. What I can say for sure is that when I actually sit down to think of designs I get a headache and it’s the most frustrating thing. So I am learning to let the ideas find me; this is why I always carry a notepad with me.  That said, how I choose to translate an idea is heavily influenced by my aesthetic bias. I love clean and simple lines."

"The “CHALE” design is actually the brain child of fellow t-shirt designer duo Ivory + Ebony. Ivory (half of the duo) is a good friend of mine and she shared some parody t-shirt ideas. I fell in love with CHALE and we worked together to come up with the final creative that you see on t-shirts today" 

How do you turn those ideas into reality?

"I do a rough sketch of the idea on paper, and then transfer the idea to photoshop. If I can’t do it myself, I work with illustrators that help me bring the idea to reality. Once I have the artwork, I create mock ups to see how it actually looks on a tee."

You once said that you run Allen and Fifth whilst working a full time job! Is that still true?  

"Yes. That is still true."

How would you describe a typical day for you?

"I like to think I have 2 full time jobs from Monday to Friday and 1 full time job on the weekends.
On a typical work day I go to work and do an amazing job over thereJ; then I come home and do an amazing job with Allen & FifthJ.  I am not saying that it’s all fun and games but I am very fortunate that I enjoy what I do. Both jobs allow me the freedom to flex my creative muscle."

Allen and Fifth is all over social media (including a blog of your own), and has been featured in a number of music videos. How much has this helped to grow the brand? Is it a major marketing approach for you?

"Social media is important. Social media cannot help you sell a wack product. My number 1 marketing priority is making sure that Allen & Fifth is putting out designs that people actually like. Social media is a vehicle to spread the gospel to a larger audience." 


    

And finally, I’m sure you get asked a lot, but what advice can you give to anyone running, or wanting to run their own business one day?

"Always do your research but don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. Just do it."

Thanks Ese, it’s been great speaking to you!

"Likewise Tomi. Thank you!"


See more from Allen and Fifth right here: www.allenandfifth.com 

Thanks for reading, look out for more interviews in the future! xx

photo credit: allenandfifth.com, bellanaija.com


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