‘I want to create an inclusive space for the excluded girl’

At Advertising Week Europe, Visha Kudhail and Irene Agbontaen celebrated the launch of season 2 of the ‘Behind The Face of Success’ podcast .

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


To celebrate the launch of season 2 of the ‘Behind The Face of Success’ podcast, Visha Kudhail, Marketing Leader, Board Advisor and Podcast Host interviewed Irene Agbontaen, Founder of TTYA.

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe the duo discussed the way Agbontaen has shattered barriers as a visionary fashion entrepreneur, cultural icon and relentless advocate for inclusivity within the industry. 

TTYA, (Taller Than Your Average), Agbontaen’s fashion brand is the first inclusive Black-owned brand to be stocked in Selfridges. After working in Selfridges and noticing that the retailer aspired to be a one-stop-shop for all women, Agbontaen saw a gap in the market. 

She found it difficult to find clothes for someone of her height. While at ASOS she noticed that the retouching budget post-shoots would work hard to make the clothes fit. As an entrepreneur, Agbontaen didn’t have that retouching budget. Instead, she was passionate about starting a brand that made real clothes that were actually designed to fit people her height. 

“You are able to learn so much from some of the businesses you work for along your journey,” shared Kudhail. Working at ASOS and Selfridges, Agbontaen gained a strong knowledge of the industry. She was able to put that insider knowledge to work with the creation of her own successful brand. 

“I built a business based on my own needs and wants,” explained Agbontaen. By understanding the community she sought to service and combining that with her knowledge of the industry she has gone on to craft her own unique and inclusive space. “I want to create an inclusive space for the excluded girl,” she says.  

Yet she also acknowledges the need to adapt and change with that audience. “Things go wrong, it doesn’t come without setbacks but how you learn from change allows you to grow,” she adds.

We need to keep holding people accountable.

Visha Kudhail, Marketing Leader, Board Advisor and Podcast Host

Inclusion from the inside out

Where often, marketers look to Black culture to create marketing campaigns, Agbontaen urged the audience to go deeper. She warned that ‘the word diversity has almost become a marketing buzzword.’

“During the COVID pandemic a lot of us could really live online, the horrific George Flloyd incident that took place and the companies that came out it became a bit of a visage. They wanted to fix the things that were visible. You should fix your internal problems first,” says Agbontaen.

Urging companies to look inward and make sure that their own house is in order before engaging in performative diversity initiatives. Agbontaen urged the audience to look beyond seeing diverse focus groups or diverse casting alone as the answer. Instead, companies should look to leadership positions such as CMO to drive diversity behind the lens, as well as in front of it.

“We need to keep holding people accountable,” adds Kudhail. At a time when DEI departments are being disbanded, businesses need to show real commitment, thinking about their own internal structures and how teams look before deciding that the work is done. 

Focusing on the importance of role models, Agbontaen shared her belief that: “For you to know where you’re going you need to understand where you came from”. Her mum is one of 11 siblings born off the coast of Nigeria and despite her rural upbringing she moved to the city and challenged the expectations. Agbontaen was inspired to seek opportunities outside her comfort zone and she urged the audience to embrace the flexibility and freedom to be who you are. 

Building community

The pair pointed to a report from Black Pound showing that Black talent is leaving the industry and building their own start-ups. Agbontaen is an advocate for sharing knowledge and building communities to help others be successful in their own ventures. 

“It’s important we are more open about finance, money and about how much people are getting paid,” says Agbontaen. Pointing to the importance of building communities in a society where there are no support systems due to patriarchal ecosystems that have been built without diverse talent in mind. 

She added that mentorship is a great way to learn and encourages people to ask questions and share information. Rather than pulling the ladder up behind us, she urges people to be the voice they didn't have to uplift others and help the next generation.

Beyond networking upward she also shares the importance of building strong relationships with friends. As someone who grew up around the live music scene, she was able to build connections in other industries and consider how she can support friends too. “Look around at your peers to build you up. They will go into other companies, you can support each other,” she says.

The importance of being who you are outside of your day job and knowing your values beyond work is what builds a true changemaker, as well as a successful business person. Kudhail shares that being kind to people and supporting each other is key to success.

The duo will continue the conversation in season 2 of the 'Behind The Face of Success', where Agbontaen will appear as a guest. The season also features discussions with BBC Eastenders Actress Harriet Thorpe, CMO’s Pete Markey from Boots and Chair of the DMA Tony Miller, Cricketer, Podcaster and Author Azeem Rafiq and many more. To find out more please click here.


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Event Diversity/Inclusion