Home Lifestyle People How Nigeria’s Mai Atafo Became the new Face of Africa’s Fashion Industry
People - Profiles - November 9, 2020

How Nigeria’s Mai Atafo Became the new Face of Africa’s Fashion Industry

Born in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Ohima Atafo spent his early years in Lagos before moving to Benin City for his elementary education at University Staff School, Benin.

Afterwards, he proceeded to the Federal Government College Ido-Ani, Ondo state for secondary school, before moving to the university.

Speaking during a recent interview, Atafo disclosed that he gradually grew into his love for fashion. “I got into fashion out of love of clothes. Since I was growing up, I always loved wearing good clothes. I did home economics in secondary school so I used to sew aprons and stuffs with my hands, and fiddle with my mom’s sewing machines. I broke a few needles, made myself a few knapsacks in secondary school but I never
thought it was anything because I enjoyed doing it,” he said.

Long before he Became a Fashion Icon

As an undergraduate, friends came to understand that he loved to make clothes. He
was always helping friends to get clothes at the market in Onitsha and this helped him to better understand clothes and the business of clothe making. He has always had an eye for good quality and whenever he saw a clothing item which he wanted but could not afford, he would make it for himself.

After bagging his first degree, he travelled to the United Kingdom where he earned a Master’s degree in Information System and Technology from the City University of the United Kingdom before returning in 2002. In retrospect, he said that England exposed him more to fashion, giving him a deeper understanding.


Leaving Corporate Nigeria to Focus on African Fashion

Upon his return to Nigeria in 2002, he got a job with British American Tobacco Nigeria and occupied several positions in the marketing department, before moving to Guinness Nigeria in 2006 where he spent 4 years as Brand manager.

Atafo’s journey as a bespoke designer started while he was still at Guinness. He recounts it thus; “I started by making aso-oke waist coats for weddings for a couple of friends. Usually, the brides had their colours sorted out but the guys could not afford to get a new purple or lilac suit. So I thought we could still do
something with the colour of the day. I specially ordered lilac and purple aso-oke with which I designed the waistcoats. Everybody looked good on the day and people really liked the outcome. I did it for about six other weddings and that was the beginning of Mai Atafo Inspired”…

Read the complete article in the latest edition of Business Elites Africa magazine here: Find it on pages 16 & 17.

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