Our Story So Far
Cultureville was born from a desire to connect to our African heritage. Our family migrated to the UK from Nigeria when Adeola and I were 12 and 9 respectively but as we assimilated into British society, we began to lose touch with aspects of our culture. African fashion wasn’t “in” at the time so we struggled to find African print clothes in designs we could easily integrate into our day-to-day wardrobes.
As we got older this need became more critical. As active members of our African Caribbean Societies we would search relentlessly for African Print clothes however no high street stores catered to this need. Following university, Adeola moved back to Nigeria to reconnect with the culture and what she discovered was a treasure trove of gorgeous garments crafted by highly skilled artisans in an array of stunning African prints. Whenever she would visit, I’d be in awe of the dazzling dresses and spectacular skirts she would showcase, occasionally stealing a few for myself. I wasn't the only one who took notice, our friends and family frequently complimented her outfits and the requests soon started to pour in. We took notice of this demand and it became the first block in building Cultureville.
We wanted to test whether building a brand around African fashion was viable, so following a suggestion from a friend we listed a few items on Depop and the response was overwhelming, we had orders from Italy, Spain and America! Off the back of our Depop success, Adeola began building a network of talented tailors, suppliers and artisans in Nigeria; developing personal relationships with them and spending time at the markets to learn about their craft while back in the UK I worked on our marketing.
In 2018 we finally created our own website and officially registered the business, thus Cultureville was born! Setting up the business was incredibly challenging, we were both working full time while balancing the demands of founding a company that operated in different continents. Adeola relocated to the UK and was building her career as a lawyer while I was working as a Software Tester and though neither of us had a business background we each brought the skills we had to Cultureville. Despite the many obstacles we faced, the wins far outweighed the losses: we were awarded Manchester’s Young Trader of the Year in 2019 and had appearances and features on the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV.
As Cultureville gained momentum, the demands of the business increased exponentially. We expanded our production to Abuja, Lagos, Accra and Kumasi but it became obvious that we could no longer sustain working full time jobs while managing Cultureville. By the end of 2019 we decided to go all in and quit our 9-5 jobs to pursue building the brand full time. Many people, particularly our traditional African parents had their doubts however we had faith that our dream could be realised.
We poured everything we had into building the brand: hosting showcases, pop ups, fashion shows, eventually culminating in the launch of our Freedom Collection.
Not long after we released the Freedom Collection, the pandemic hit and it hit Cultureville hard. We could no longer host the physical events and pop-ups that brought in the bulk of our revenue and we questioned whether or not to remain open. Rather than giving up, we changed our strategy, moved all our operations online and focused on keeping our customers healthy and entertained with our “Stay Safe with Cultureville” initiative. We gave away free African Print face masks and created fun content to keep our audience connected during the global lockdown. This inadvertently had the effect of bringing people to our website and our sales began to soar.
As with any business, we experienced our lows as demand for our masks declined and after more than two years in a pandemic we are finally regaining a sense of normalcy and discovering our identity in this new landscape. To represent the beginning of the new era of Cultureville, we are recommitting to our values, redesigning our website and launching a brand new collection.
Ultimately, our goal is to make African prints accessible to everyone. We want to change the narrative about Africa from being a continent that needs saving to one that has immense talent and beauty to offer the world. We are doing it for the girls like us who want to reconnect with their roots and for those who are just discovering the beauty of Africa. Our vision is to see our African prints in stores while also benefiting the communities of talented artisans and suppliers from which we source our products.
If you want to know more about the places and people we work with, click here to find out more.
If you want to work with us, contact us here.