It is generally accepted that a typical dressy traditional African look of a female is not complete without a headgear, which is popularly known in Nigeria as: “Gele.”
As such, tying Gele has lately become one of the most popular fashion accessories for women of different ages.
The gele is wrapped or moulded into a specific shape on the head.
Gele is usually made out of heavy or stiff fabric.
The most common fabrics include sego, aso-oke, ankara, damask and brocade, as they are stiff enough to hold together and flexible at the same time.
Stoning, beading and sequencing are ways to accessorise gele depending on an individual’s fantasy and taste, to make the gele unique, richer and brighter.
The most likely places one can see women in gele are society weddings/engagement parties, chieftaincy title parties, house-warming ceremonies, churches and parties generally.
It is worn as a matching piece.
Innovation is being introduced to the tying of the traditional headgear, which has been changing the definition of Nigerian fashion.
Infact, to attend a party without a gele will be considered a fashion faux pas.
Side Rose, Flowery Umbrella, Infinity Pleats, Perfect Rose, Orente gele, Take-a-bow gele, Icon gele, butterfly gele, Couture Gele and others are some of the Gele styles that look really elegant and outstanding.
A News Agency of Nigeria check at a wedding party in Lagos recently shows that this trend is so entrenched so much that women now queue, even at occasion venues, to tie gele on their head.
In some places, it costs N500 to tie a gele.
Some of the women told NAN that it was difficult to tie some trending gele styles by themselves, so they pay to get the exotic styles from professionals who are on ground at venues to make their earnings.
Ashionye Ekuh, a civil servant, said she tried tying the trending styles but could not get it.
Ekuh said: “I spent a lot of time trying to tie my gele into the infinity pleats style but I could not get it.
“I just tied it anyhow and when I got here I saw these ladies skillfully tying the gele at the cost of N500, so I decided to patronise them.”
Another woman, who simply identified herself as Kudirat, told NAN that it was cheaper tying her gele at the party venue than going to a beauty salon or make-up studios where she would pay N1,000 to get it tied.
Enimien Adiangbe, a 61-year-old businesswoman, said she decided to join the queue to make herself look good and be a part of the latest fad.
Adiangbe said: “In our days we tie our gele anyhow.
“As long as it fits, we are good-to-go.
“But these ‘New Skool’ styles are very beautiful; you need to be talented to tie them.
“I do not know how to tie these latest styles, so when I got here and saw these girls at work, I had to untie my ‘Old Skool’ style so they could make me feel among the ‘New Skool’ generation.”
Rose Agosu said she decided to patronise the girls because of the skills, creativity and dedication they put into what they do.
Agosu said: “I was impressed by their talent.
“It takes a skillful, articulate and patient individual to get that gele tied neatly, beautifully and quickly.
“I admire what they are doing.
“It is better than doing shady things to earn a living or depending on somebody somewhere to give you money; they should be encouraged.”
The girls were seen whipping the gele materials into graceful folds and arcs in less than 15 minutes per woman, folding the gele fabrics into head turning shapes that left the women at the party impressed.
One of the girls tying the gele, Thelma Okwara, told NAN that she charged N500 per person and made a range of N5,000 to N7,500 from tying gele and making women look regal at each party location.
Okwara said: “I graduated since 2010 but I could not get a job, so I went to learn gele tying and make-up for six months.
“You know it is not easy to pay for a shop in Lagos.
“I therefore improvised by making myself a mobile shop.
“Every weekend, I go out with my make-up box and a plastic chair, gate crashing in party halls and event centres in Lagos.
“There is no how I will not stumble on people having one celebration or the other.
“Lagos is well known for parties, so I am taking advantage of that to make a living.”
Another lady, Dunni Ayanwale told NAN that taking her creativity and services to the women at parties was easier and more lucrative.
Ayanwale said: “I always look forward to gate-crashing Lagos parties because I make more money there than when I sit and wait for them to come and patronise me in my salon.
“At my shop, I charge between N700 to N1,000 but out here, depending on the situation of things, I charge N300 or N500.
“It can also be overwhelming when you will have to attend to over 15 to 20 people, especially on Saturdays.
“It is not everybody that can tie these new styles of gele.
“I had to spend money to learn it and I am happy that I am making money from it to take care of myself and my family.”
Also, Aisha Jimoh told NAN that the fashion sector had big and good business opportunities as women were willing to spend money to look beautiful, dress with confidence, wear latest fashion and feel self-assured in all situations.
Jimoh said: “Gele tying is an art that takes practice, patience and often times a well-toned arm, but once tied, a Gele can make any woman look regal.
“The gele is also an aspect of culture that makes women feel beautiful no matter the occasion; so, I make money from making women look good.
“Some good Saturdays, I make N10,000.”
A Lagos based Make-up and Gele Tying Tutor, Doris Elekwachi, told NAN that the gele is one fashion item that can never go out of trend as it has been modernised, with different creative ways of tying it being invented daily.
Elekwachi said: “There is no beauty to gele if it is not artfully or skillfully tied, which is why gele tying holds a big basket of business opportunities for the nation’s fashion and style sector of the economy.
“I can confidently say that I am gainfully employed with this skill.
“I charge N25,000 to train people for two weeks to one month.
“I get calls for home service and I charge between N2,000 and N5,000, depending on the distance.
“Many of the gele styles invented daily are being acquired and learnt, which makes it a profit-making venture for both the trainer and the trainee.
“Geles are the future of the traditional and modern fashion and it is an opportunity for young people in the country to be gainfully employed without resorting to government’s intervention.”
NAN visited some training and empowerment centres in Lagos to find out their operations and how they are adding value to nation’s social and economic growth.
At the Youth Empowerment Nigeria Centre, Egbeda, Lagos, gele tying is one of the numerous skill acquisition programmes organised by the centre on a monthly basis.
YEN charges N19,500 for two to three weeks professional Make-up and Gele Tying training, which include training manual, practical materials and certificate.
The National President of YEN, Chris Kohol, said YEN’s way of reducing unemployment in the country was to create more entrepreneurs, empower them with funds, capacity building and business tools.
Kohol said: “The biggest challenge in Nigeria today is the challenge of unemployment; it has led so many young people into stealing and other vices that can hinder their destiny.
“However, we have so many crafts that can solve this problem.
“One of them is headgear tying, popularly known as ‘Gele’ tying.
“We live in a part of Nigeria where people love to attend social events looking trendy.
“We give a professional and comprehensive training to our students on how to tie gele, give make-up services and make their clients look beautiful for events.
“Many Nigerian youths are gainfully employed from just tying headgears or scarf for women at parties.”
Rita Daniels, owner of Ritzdecor and Craft in Ojo area of Lagos, urged Nigerian youths to put their talents to good use if they want to survive the current economic hardship.
Daniels said: “I think it is high time we start calling on the creative ones among the youth to find out what they can do for a living and create their own career.
“I have been in this business of tying gele for over five years and I can tell you that the opportunity for empowerment is huge.
“Every week, women attend parties and in trying to look trendy, they dress to ‘kill’.
“You can make a fortune by just offering yourself at events to help knot a head tie for one or two persons properly and by making the bearer look trendy you earn something.
“It is not so difficult to tie gele; what is really difficult is your decision not to learn.
“Today’s youths will only survive the economic hardship if they can learn to do new things.”