Begin early! Find your niche and take charge of it, for time waits for no one. Growing up, this was every mother’s favorite rhyme.
Like most of us, Banke heeded the golden advice but much too early. At age 5, she already knew what path her destiny was shaped and so she went after it fiercely. She loved knitting and wouldn’t lose an opportunity to draw patterns on dresses and make efforts to actualize it.
Today, Banke Kuku, is the chief executive and creative director of Banke Kuku Textiles, a fast growing textile industry based in the UK.
Born in Lagos, Banke left Nigeria at the age of eight and moved to the United Kingdom where she eventually studied textile design at the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College in London and the Chelsea College of Art and Design. Following stints at Burberry and Matches fashion boutique, the leading lady landed a job at Jasmine Di Milo fashion house where she improved her textile skills, and earned the nickname ‘The Queen of Colour’.
You know what they say about a man’s gift?
In 2011 Banke went on to establish her own textile brand, to create fabric designs for a host of fashion houses including Duro Olowu and Jewel by Lisa. She published the book, ‘The Unwoven Threads of Nigeria’ in 2010, which was an assessment of the state of the Nigerian textiles industry.
A few years later, the textile queen took several steps further to launch a label in interior designs. But she insists that she didn’t switch from fashion design to interior, rather, she focuses on creating designs for both fashion designers and interior decorators.
Banke has a growing list of fans from Roksanda Ilincic, Franca Sozzani, the Italian Vogue Editor, and even FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, and she has featured in numerous publications. It’s no wonder she tries to maintain professionalism and creativity in her work.
In 2014, Banke won the Women in Making competition which is organised by Triumph International, a global lingerie brand with sales of over a billion dollars. The annual competition seeks to celebrate female creativity.
Eventhough many consider her success exceptional, Banke still knows where the shoe pinches. But despite her frustrations and challenges, she stands strong still. She points out that as a young business, one can get rather impatient especially when it seems that things are not moving at a pace one desires.
“As a new and young business, the learning curve is steep. Sometimes one can get impatient at how long things take but I am generally pleased that we are heading in the right direction. Some of my products are produced in larger quantities, mostly my retail lines which I stock in stores globally and online. We also have a bespoke line, where individual pieces are tailored to a client’s specifications,” she explains to This day
And despite the hitches she has experienced in the Nigerian and indeed African textile industry, she sees hope and potentials and believes that things could change for the better if the government paid more attention to the industry. She believes that the key to success for African designers is perseverance and understanding of their products and customers much of which is learnt along the way.
Banke’s designs have been featured on catwalks in Milan, New York, Paris and been showcased in Vogue.com and other many other publications.
Despite the mounting activities on her daily To-do list, the leading lady still finds time to relax and maintain a healthy balance.