Up until last week, I’d always thought that Mai Atafo was from the north because of the story of Mai Idris Alooma of the Kanem-Bornu Empire in my primary school English reader. I didn’t know he is my brother from Edo state. Don’t be too confused, all Edo celebrities are my relations. I’ve known about Mai since secondary school. I discovered him in one of the Sun newspapers I loved reading at that time. He was a fast-rising fashion designer who made the most beautiful suits. These suits were so fine that I made up my mind that my husband would wear a Mai Atafo suit to our wedding. I could have been 13 or 14 at the time (don’t be too ashamed of me).
Mai, whose actual name is Ohimai, is the creative director of the Mai Atafo Inspired fashion brand. All the online places are saying that he attended Edo state university where he studied Agricultural Economics and Extension, but we all know that Edo state university is called Ambrose Ali University (let’s just forgive them). He went further to obtain a master’s degree in Information Technology from City University, London. I took the time to mention his educational qualifications, so we can all see how unrelated they are to thread and needle.
When he returned to Nigeria in 2002, he worked at British American Tobacco Company and then moved to Guinness Nigeria in 2006. By the time he resigned in 2010, he was already a BRAND MANAGER. Although he had started his fashion line before resigning, imagine how much faith it would take for a person to leave a good job in Nigeria to become a fashion entrepreneur. He may have been married or thinking of getting married at the time. Think about the kind of pressure he could have been under to play safe, to keep fashion designing as a side hustle. If he had done that, he probably wouldn’t be able to launch line of bridal dresses called “Weddings by MAI” which he did in 2011. The gowns are lovely o, kai! You remember the wedding gown Adesua wore in the movie? Well, Mr Atafo designed it, so you know we’re not playing here.
The Mai Atafo brand has grown out of Nigeria to the rest of Africa. If you have any interest in men’s fashion, there’s no way you wouldn’t know of Mai Atafo. Maybe like Mai, your dreams may require you taking the road less travelled. Don’t be discouraged. Trust that you have what it takes to be all that you can be and conquer your fears one step at a time. Be inspired.
Photo sources (in order of appearance): ynaija, Genevieve magazine, pulse.ng, bellanaija.