From model to fashion assistant to many more fashion jobs and now CREATIVE DIRECTOR and EDITOR -IN – CHIEF at Debonair Afrik
From model to fashion assistant to many more fashion jobs and now CREATIVE DIRECTOR and EDITOR -IN – CHIEF at Debonair Afrik, Emmanuel Ekuban, creatively known as Nuel Bans can truly say that he has seen and done it all in the fashion industry. After over five years of knowing this wonderful creative, I had the honour to sit with him and get the scoop on everything fashion. ENJOY!
Sey (S): As cliché as this sounds, who is Nuel Bans?
Nuel Bans (NB): Nuel Bans is a brand name coined out of my name, Emmanuel Ekuban. Nuel is a lot of things that can be simplified as a Ghanaian born creative, the Creative Director and Editor -in- chief of Debonair Afrik.
S: Let’s talk about Debonair Afrik. What is it and how did it start?
NB: (he laughs) That’s something you can easily answer Sey! You should know better. Debonair Afrik is mainly two things; a fashion & lifestyle publication and a fashion content creation agency in Accra, Ghana. It was created through my attempt to solve a problem that three of my friends in the fashion industry had which was their inadequacy to promote their brands and share their brand Narrative. Officially, it started five years ago, I was a young boy who was not exactly a good writer and an illiterate in the field of websites and online writing. At the time I was studying the first degree in French and decided to take an online course on websites and content creation at the same time and with the help of some friends and my big brother who helped set up the first Debonair Afrik website, Debonair started. In the beginning, it was a blog that primarily published African related fashion content and thanks to people like you, Seyram who bought into the vision, the brand has grown in human resource and size.
S: You’ve had Debonair for five years but how long have you been in the fashion industry?
NB: Wow, I have never really thought about it but counting back, it’s been close to eight years. I was still in high school at the time. Let me tell you a fun fact, I started as a model. (he has a shy look on his face as I begin to laugh. Nuel, a model? That’s a little hard to imagine). Eventually, I became a fashion assistant to models and designers and was helping during fashion shows backstage and at their studios. At the time, it was anything but easy because I had a lot happening in my life and was not even based in Accra, but I was sure I wanted to be in this industry, so I decided to learn all I could and gain the experience but getting involved in anything fashion I could find.
S: That means you were travelling to Accra anytime there was a fashion event?
NB: (laughs at my shocked expression) YES!
S: That’s what you call determination. So, would you say that currently, the fashion industry in Ghana and Africa is lucrative?
NB: Thanks to technology and education, the fashion industry in these parts is positively evolving and expanding its horizons. We have moved from the ancient days where tailors were the only fashion stakeholders to a new narrative that recognises more stakeholders. Also, people here are beginning to understand and accept that fashion is a serious business venture like any other, but I think currently how lucrative it is dependent on where you stand with regards to stuff like your niche and craft.
S: Compared to when you first got into the industry eight years ago, has there been an improvement, decline or has it stayed stagnant?
NB: Hmm, there has been a tremendous improvement but there is still a lot of work to be done so we can keep up with our foreign counterparts. For example, stylists, creative directors and to some extent models, were not as valued or utilised some years ago as they are now. Imagine telling your parents you would like to be a designer, stylist, makeup artist or photographer some ten or more years ago. You would probably have received some scolding to change that negative thought of yours but today we are excited that the story is different. The industry has been able to detach itself from the negative reputation it once carried.
S: As a fashion creative in this part of the world, what challenges do you face?
NB: I have a few . Firstly, trying to stay relevant in this very cluttered creative space requires working hard and smart to have unique content and this does not come cheap. Secondly, the classism in this industry is crazy. I come from a very subtle background where everyone is respected irrespective of who you are or what you have but, in this industry, you must belong to a certain class of people before others would even collaborate with you, regardless of how good you are! You will only see these so-called high-class people clinging onto you when you have something they want from you and it should not be so. Creativity is God-given and each person deserves that chance to blow up. I mean when the people do well, we grow the industry and make it reputable. Finally, the support system is weak at this side of the world it’s not Rosy to push through or get the work done. At the beginning of Our Magazine, The support wasn’t sufficient because we were not covering the Everyday Celebrity But as a publication, our vision and mission are to project Creatives making waves in the fashion industry here in Africa . Grace a Dieu, It’s getting better ! People are beginning to embrace fashion Publication and we are growing with that niche by providing our audience with what they deserve.
S: What improvements can be made to better the Ghanaian fashion industry?
NB: We need to invest time and resources in the industry to cover some major loopholes to make it more attractive. Each year, over 1000 fashion students graduate from fashion institutions here in Ghana but how many of them can pursue work in this industry? Avenues should be established to train and support the students to prepare them for their Startups. I feel the industry is a land of gold and it needs to be unearthed to show its full potential. Also, there should be a proper system or body that will protect and control issues pertaining to the industry and its talents. Over the years, Debonair Afrik has collaborated with both emerging and established creatives in West Africa to create timeless content. Collaboration is the future, let’s collaborate more.
S: Your yearly event, Style Lounge, what is it about and how successful has it been?
NB: Style Lounge is curated by Debonair Afrik to give education and visibility to upcoming and established fashion talents in Africa. It’s a three-day event which is in its third year seeking to promote fashion brands in Africa, especially West Africa, through workshops and fashion presentations. It also aims to foster creative collaboration among designers. The idea of the Style Lounge platform was developed by Miss Ngozi Dickson to unearth new fashion talents. By God’s Grace, we have been able to grace the front pages of top publication both in print and online but it’s still young and hopefully, more things are coming à l’avenir.
S: Finally, where do you see Debonair Afrik in 5 to 10 years?
NB: The dream is big, and a lot needs to be done to be able to have that strong influence and powerful creative legacy, but Debonair Afrik should be one of the biggest Fashion Publication and Content Creators in Africa. The African fashion industry is a Budding industry and we are here for the change . The likes of amazing Fashion photographers, Josh Nii, Quincy Asephua and Kaleb Gayobi etc has held shaped the vision of the magazine. And also the entire team at Debonairafrik Afrik that continue to work tremendously effectively to create exclusive contents has been overwhelming
S: Thanks for your time. It was great speaking to you.
Interviewed by Seyram Nutsukpui