Menswear design extraordinaire Mai Atafo is on the cover of the latest issue of TheWill Downtown Magazine.

On the magazine cover, Mai looks extra dapper in a crisp teal double-breasted suit featuring a matching shirt sourced from his brand, as you would expect.

According to the publication:

Not many brands understand the importance of evolving, but one brand, ATAFO, is an exception. The ATAFO brand, formerly Mai Atafo, continues to lead the menswear pack even after 12 years. Could this be from the fact that its Creative Director, Ohimai Atafo, once had a marketing career and so understands the intricacies of moving with the hands of time, keeping his thriving business and personal brand relevant? So ingenious are his designs that many tailors and designers continue to copy them. A move Atafo describes as thievery and in no way flattery as far as he is concerned.

In this interview with DOWNTOWN’s Editor, Onah Nwachukwu, Mai discusses the many challenges the fashion industry in Nigeria faces along with possible solutions as Atafo prepares for his first stand-alone show in 10 years.

On why a business that has stayed over a decade needs to evolve:

Evolving is necessary to remain constant and relevant as a brand. Considering I started the business as a young boy without a proper business plan or understanding of how the brand should work or any of those things, evolution was eminent for my brand name because I have outgrown the names that the brand represented at every point in time. With more understanding of your brand’s business and market, you now know exactly how to place yourself and the brand.

On the buildup of the first alone fashion show for ATAFO after eleven years:

I think the show, Dream Wedding, was a platform to showcase my bridal collection. Because at a point in time, there was no fashion show dedicated to bridal. All you had was Fashion Week; sometimes, they showcased bridal, but it was never received correctly because that was not the audience for the product. So, funnily enough, my first Dream Wedding was the launch of the wedding brand, and two years later, we did the second collection that we did, and that’s how we did Dream Wedding 2.

But I didn’t feel the need to do another instalment of the wedding show after then. I felt like we could showcase the wedding collection in fashion shows or in the Lagos Bridal Week, which happened once. However, since that bridal week, I’ve also toyed with the idea of another Dream Wedding installation because it’s about time to do another one focused on that. We just have to run through the budget because now it would be RIDICULOUS. Knowing what weddings are these days because we re-acted real-life weddings. If we want to do it this time, we have to get the food, the owambe, the small chops.

Everything must be as good as a real wedding. But coming to the fact that I am doing my own stand-alone show, which is different from Dream Wedding, is that when you actually do the normal fashion shows as you did on the platform—Lagos Fashion Week or This Day’s Arise Fashion Week, the difference is that you’re not in control of the narrative.

On the designs and silhouettes to expect from his upcoming bridal showcase:

Interestingly, whilst we will still be showing the bridal collection, it is not a new collection. But it is not something that we have seen on the runway before. It definitely needs some runway life which is what we are going to see at the runway show. There are also some new pieces that people haven’t seen before, but I wouldn’t call it a whole new collection. However because we are telling the story of ATAFO, if we don’t show bridal, then the story is incomplete. We will see traditional wear, a new interpretation of a few things, and men’s wear in the way we know it. There are a few twists here and there, obviously, because I am always projecting for the future.

Read more about the interview here.



Editor: @onahluciaa