I, on behalf of Ladybrille, had the pleasure of attending the Chris Aire “Hollywood Glamour Collection Nigeria’s Pride –Nigerian Gold and Gemstones on April 7th, 2010 at the Beverly Hills Los Angeles Hotel. The event was a collaboration between Chris Aire and the Nigerian Ministry of Steel, First Bank of Nigeria, FCMB, Guaranty Trust Bank and Diamond Bank to create awareness of the largely untapped gold and gemstones resources in Nigeria. In short re-brand Nigeria and entice investors to invest in its gold and gemstones market. I was looking forward to the event.
Pulling up to the five-star legendary hotel on April 7th, 2010, it became immediately obvious I was in for the sophisticated and impeccable “Chris Aire” experience the brand is known for. Arriving in front of the hotel, I was immediately greeted by the valet who informed me Chris Aire had covered the costs of valet parking (usually $34.00 per night) for all guests. That was just a teaser into what the night held.
My warm welcome reception continued with the inviting red carpet at the entrance of the hotel lobby that ushered me where I was again warmly directed towards Aire’s event.
The Guests and CelebritiesArriving at the press table and waiting my turn to receive my press credentials, I had an insight into the caliber of guests at the event when Jermaine Jackson walked up a flight of stairs adjacent to where the press table stood. Once I got my credentials, it was my turn to head down the flight of stairs Jackson just came from. Making my way down the stairs, I ultimately arrived at the event lobby where the first set of items on Chris Aire’s program for the night was already in progress, a cocktail reception and red carpet arrivals.
Quickly surveying the room, I noticed Actors Adrien Brody and Simon Rex to my far left, in a corner chatting away. A few feet away from them was Nigerian rapper and current Storm Records artist Sauce Kid. I made my way to Sauce kid to say hi. He immediately recognized me from my Ask Ms. Uduak music columns on Not JustOk.com.
Finishing with Sauce Kid, I continued to assess the guests, taking in the ambience and aura of the event. Guests were mingling, some stood observing, while others where snapping away with their cameras. On the red carpet, a handful of celebrities were being interviewed. By the end of the evening, I would have spotted and met some of the numerous Nigerian and Hollywood Celebrities present some of which included Actor Jimmy Jean Louis, Comedian Cedric the Entertainer, ANTM Model Eva Marcille, Actress Elise Neal, Siblings and Actors Evan Ross and Tracee Ellis Ross, Shaun Toub and Lorena Toub, LA Clipper’s Kareem Rush, Mo’Hits Artist Wande Coal, D’Banj, Arise Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Helen Jennings and ThisDay Style Editor Ruth Osime who wore one of the pieces from Jewel by Lisa’s New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 collection.
The crowd was an even split of Americans and Nigerians, with all kinds of professions represented: entertainment, business, finance, media, fashion and sports. Our friends at Munaluchi Bridal Magazine, Fashion News Live and WireImage.com were also present.
As I continued to take in the ambience, meet and mingle with more guests, the Kokomaster himself, D’Banj, made his appearance. D’Banj, one of the few artists in Nigeria who “gets it” when it comes to branding and has successfully created brands like “Koko Garri,” “Kokowater,” “Kokowear” and “Kokomansion,” among many subsidiaries to his “Koko” brand was immediately greeted by fans with some requesting photo opportunities with the star. After D’Banj’s arrival, the real star of the night, Chris Aire, entered the event lobby. Aire acknowledged many of his guests, made his way to the red carpet for photo opportunities and media interviews and was soon headed backstage to prepare for the show.
Just Before The Runway Show
The runway show was held in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. The runway itself was black, sleek and simple appearing to be over 70ft long with silver details on the edges of the runway providing contrast. Its backdrop where the models would emerge was also simple with the Chris Aire name inscribed on it. It quietly beckoned the performers of the night and models that would grace it. However, before the audience enjoyed the runway show, Aire laid the context for why he was doing the “Hollywood Glamour Collecton, Nigeria’s Pride-Nigeria’s Gold and Gemstones” show with promotional videos that showed the gemstones of Nigeria, the “Heart of Africa.” It was indeed an educational experience for me and I can imagine for many of the guests who were unaware of the country’s rich gemstone resources and history.
While the videos were good, Nigeria’s Former Minister of Mines & Steel now Minister of Petroleum Diezani Allison Madueke’s authentic, beautiful and charismatic presentation gave the much needed “umph” and connection as to why the audience should care about investing or trading in Nigeria’s gold and gemstones.
Dressed in a modern Nigerian inspired long skirt and blouse matched with a gele (headtie), Madueke carefully, authoritatively and eloquently cemented the purpose of the gathering with her Welcome Speech. She explained Nigeria’s global recognition as an emerging high profile supply market for its gemstones, the commitment of the country to rebrand its image, its competitive edge in the jewelry business and finally closed with how and why the Ministry of Mines & Steel, First Bank of Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, FCMB Bank and Diamond Bank approached Chris Aire, “our brother” as she put it, to help jumpstart its journey towards a positive and rich image of the country.
The audience appeared to receive Madueke’s speech well and rewarded her with a warm applause. Then it was time for the performances of the night. Robin Thicke was scheduled to perform. Fortunately for him but unfortunately for the guests, he had to tend to the arrival of his new child on the same day! R &B singer Tate provided the first performance of the night. Right after Tate was D’Banj. While you could feel the excitement in the air as D’Banj began performing, the response from the crowd grew quieter as D’Banj performed one of his songs of which he kept singing about being “endowed.” Trying to work the audience for a response, D’Banj asked “are you endowed?” He received a feeble response, at best from guests.
The opposite held true when D’Banj performed one of his hit songs, “Fall in Love.”
It immediately resonated with the Nigerians in the audience as many sang along with him. Some Americans in the audience quickly caught on as they joined their Nigerian counterparts in moving their bodies and bobbing their heads to “Fall in Love.” Taking advantage of the audience’s response, D’Banj again attempted and successfully worked the audience concentrating on the front row as he shook hands, teased the ladies and even stopped to do a fist bump with Adrien Brody who was seated three seats to my left. After D’Banj’s “Fall in Love” fun performance, Tate performed yet another song. It was finally time for the highly anticipated fashion show featuring Nigerian gold and gemstones.
The Runway Show
Chris Aire presented a show that was simply stunning. Models were clothed in neutrals of cream and tan that cleverly placed the attention where it needed to be, on the jewelry. From pendants, necklaces, earrings, brooches to cuff links, Aire took the Chris Aire client through a versatility of looks from day to night.
Guests “oohed,” clapped and in some instances shouted their excitement about the collection, especially when Supermodels Tyson Beckford and British emerging model Daniel Louisy strutted the runway. The show which was a rich display of Nigerian gemstones including emeralds, sapphires, tourmaline and aquamarine ended on a high note with Chris accepting a certificate of recognition for his work and inviting guests, in a very short remark, to the after-party in one of the lavish yet tastefully decorated Ballrooms at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Branding Nigeria, What Does it Really Mean?
My ever-inquisitive mind wanted to know after the event was over, what next with the nation branding efforts of Nigeria specific to the jewelry industry. When did the government and sponsors of the event anticipate a return on investment i.e. more foreign direct investments in the country, more tourism and definitely more trade in the aforementioned area.
Lucky me, I had met some of the sponsors that night including Tunde Shofowora, Head of Brand Marketing at FCMB Bank and Charles Udoh, Brand Strategist and Head of Corporate Communications at Diamond Bank.
I ultimately posed my questions to Udoh. “To grow a brand takes patience,” said Udoh in to response my specific question on what it takes to grow a successful brand. He should know. He was at the helm of helping re-brand two of Nigeria’s leading banks: First Bank and GT Bank. “People think branding happens overnight. It doesn’t. It takes patience, consistency and making sure your brand values are compatible with those you affiliate it with,” added Udoh.
Patience indeed. Patience, which inevitably means time, will tell what the nation branding efforts of the country will yield. Overall, the “Chris Aire Hollywood Glamour Nigeria’s Pride –Nigerian Gold and Gemstones” was a success and a beautiful night! I patiently look forward to what the future holds as Nigeria, its citizens and corporations take control of their image and place themselves in a positive light globally.
~Story by Uduak Oduok
Photocredit: Main picture Jackie Nwobu/Munaluchi Bridal
Photo description: Uduak Oduok/LadybrilleNigeria with Jackie Nwobu/Munaluchi
Gallery Photos, courtesy Chris Aire, Adanze Ndubuisi