In 2022, Essence profiled 90’s Models Management as one of the young agencies out of Nigeria that have gone on to earn international attention, recognising Nigerian models Hamaam Peleruwa, Nonso Ojukwu, and Feranmi Ajetomobi as exclusive models for the fashion house Prada. In the same year, Models.com featured two of them, Feranmi Ajetomobi and Nonso Ojukwu, on the “Hot List”, the global fashion database’s list of the hottest models in the world. The platform further wrote of Ojukwu thus; ‘Nonso is from Lagos, Nigeria. His ascent to the top of the modelling world began with his first runway exclusive at the Prada F/W 22 Men’s Show, followed up by a Dior Men Semi exclusive for the same season.’
With these successes, the talents continue to take over the global stage, or in this case, runways, just alongside their peers; Nonso has walked top shows like the Dior Pre-Fall 23 Show held in Egypt and the Valentino Haute Couture Spring 23, as well as F/W23 shows for Valentino, Loewe, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Zegna. Facilitating these is the 24-year-old founder and CEO of 90s Models, Maurice Sokari, who meticulously leads and guides these young talents on this career path and helps them achieve their dreams.
How Maurice Sokari is changing the narrative in global talent management.
The impact of Sokari’s work as a Nigerian talent manager operating on the global fashion scene, alongside his peers in the industry, cannot be overemphasised as they continue to push the frontiers of modelling in Africa and change the narrative in global talent management from Lagos, Nigeria.
Maurice Sokari is revolutionising the fashion and modelling industry in Africa with his disruptive and progressive style of talent management. His talents, including Nonso Ojukwu, Rhenny Alade, Feranmi Ajetomobi, and Judith Onah, among others, have worked for top global luxury fashion brands, think Prada, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Fendi, Dior, Celine, Jil Sander, Etro, Dolce & Gabanna, Swarovski, Valentino, H&M, Hermes, Gucci, YSL, etc., in exclusives and semi-exclusives, fashion season after fashion season.
Sokari has built his agency to become a boutique mother agency, earning himself and his young creative team popularity as the fastest-growing agency in Africa. It’s the first agency in Africa to have three models exclusive for Prada and two of them as minors, the first agency in Africa to have four boys as a semi-Exclusive for Fendi, the first African agency to have four boys as a semi-exclusive for a Dior show, and the First African agency to have a model exclusive for Celine for four seasons in a row. He has also led two of his talents to simultaneously make it to Models.com’s 2022 “Hot List”, making his agency the first in Nigeria to have two boys featured.
His journey started in July 2020, when he founded the modelling agency in his Lekki home in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria. He has evolved into a global talent manager magnifying the African-Nigerian chain of fashion modelling globally and promoting unconventional jobs.
As a young founder, Sokari’s eccentric and progressive style is hinged on solid years of management experience in fashion modelling and entertainment. He has also earned himself a Forbes 30 under 30 nomination recently as he continues to change the narrative in global talent management and doing so from Africa.
More importantly, he is inspiring and helping young Africans achieve their dreams as they’ve gone on to work for top luxury fashion brands, with 15 of his talents currently thriving globally. Beyond that, he constantly raises awareness for unconventional careers, modelling as a primary career choice, and the overall impact of parents and guardians’ life-changing career choices for their children on the mental health of the young stars.
He also advocates for a change in the negative perception surrounding the viability of careers in the fashion and modelling industry and the creative space, as these young Nigerian talents are currently positively projecting the country’s image on a global scale and should be encouraged, especially from a young age.
On the stigma surrounding the fashion and modelling industry, he said that while the industry has evolved and become much more reputable and respectable, especially by parents and guardians, the commendable work needs to continue, especially in terms of professionalism, inclusivity, and increased pay for models. He added that running a creative and entertainment business in the face of the prevailing global economic crises is challenging enough; therefore, all stakeholders must band together and provide an enabling environment for them to thrive in the industry.
Entrepreneurship does come with its hassles. If one is not careful, it takes a toll on one’s mental health and social life. Sokari believes that mental health is not preached about enough and, as much as a large number of people are aware of the impact of poor mental health, they aren’t conscious of their mental health status. His solution is to maintain a healthy work-life integration and take their water consumption seriously. ‘Well, as part of my advocacy, I try to practice what I preach by having my friends around and moving with like minds off work days. I do not underplay the idea of talking to a therapist. More and more people should be open to therapy.
The seasoned talent manager also shared some insights on the booming fashion industry in Africa and Nigeria.
‘Prior to this interview, I have always spoken about “Unconventional jobs”. It’s part of my life’s work here in Nigeria and in the UK as a Black global talent manager. I feel the work we do here in Nigeria is undersold, and the changes are not being emphasised on. We are changing stories every day. I mean, we are changing the norms, and the parents (of the models) are aware of this. And they are realising that too with us, and they are moving with the vision.’Maurice Sokari, Global Talent Manager & Founder/CEO of 90s Models
‘As of 2022, we were far over $300 million in market shares for the fashion industry in Nigeria. The textiles space is also a booming global business out of Nigeria.’
In the face of these successes lies some hurdles he experienced over time as a global talent manager. While 90s Models has continued to change the narratives, two setbacks he attests to are parental consent and lack of financial aid. ‘Parental consent has been a major setback for us as a premium modelling agency operating from the heart of Lagos, Nigeria. We strive to change other norms in scouting, but parental consent and lack of financial aid during the development and discovery stages derail the growth of the scouted faces.’
Sokari is beyond proud of the exploits that fashion and entertainment industry exports from Nigeria are currently making on the global stage with their talents. He is elated. ‘We are scaling. In all this growth, I’m proud to be a Nigerian and a recognised Black global talent agent operating from Nigeria. I am super proud of our models and fashion and entertainment industry exports putting Nigeria on the global map. It’s a great time to be Nigerian.’
While acknowledging the many successes of 90s Model Management, he also hinted at the launch of a global talent management division which he says will promote Black voices globally by projecting their image beyond the confines of their local niches.