Ndidi Ugo is resilient and determined. She has to be if she must remain in the highly competitive fashion industry world wide and especially as she is based in the United Kingdom. She could have been a medical practitioner but she was destined to be in the fashion business as she has always been interested in fashion and being fashionable since childhood. In this interview with CHRISTY ANYANWU, she revealed her motivation and her staying power in the business and her goal in the next five years.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Miss Tina Ndidi Ugo and I’m the Founder and Creative Director of DiDi Creations Ltd.
The brand is based and incorporated in the United Kingdom at the moment.
We are a one-stop fashion company, which caters for the fashion conscious through creating unique pieces of unisex bags, footwear, clothing and accessories.
My aim is to nurture and grow the brand to become a lifestyle brand which every stylish fashionista across the globe would love to be associated with at some point.
When did you become a designer?
Professionally in 2012. However, I had been designing part time and as a hobby since 2005.
While growing up, it was almost certain I would end up in the fashion industry as I enjoyed to dress up and stand in front of the mirror quite often.
My mum was a very fashionable woman and I loved to watch her dress up and actually started emulating her early in my life.
I had always loved to stand out from the crowd through my dressing, hair, make-up and accessories from my teenage years.
This continued into my university days at the University of Ibadan where I altered already made clothes through shredding, painting etc. just to look different.
After graduation in 2001, I worked briefly in the insurance, aviation and publishing sectors respectively.
I quitted paid employment in 2005 to become an entrepreneur and set up my first fashion business same year, though it was part time at the time, as I ventured into other businesses.
DIDI Creations Ltd was berthed on June 2012, and building the brand is my full time job at the moment.
Did you attend a fashion school?
Yes, I eventually attended a private fashion school in Hendon Central, North London where I did some short courses on dress making and sewing in 2012. I can sew and actually make my clothing collections for runway exhibitions.
Why did you venture into fashion designing?
During my high school days, I actually dreamt of becoming a medical doctor but had to let go of that dream when I didn’t make the JAMB cut-off mark, which would enable me secure admission to study Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ibadan, so I had to switch courses.
However, I have no regrets for choosing the fashion industry as it apparently suits my personality and lifestyle.
When I was working for others, I never really had job satisfaction and kept on changing jobs annually.
It became more apparent as I grew older that this was the industry that I would end up in as I dared to be different from the crowd most times.
I love fashion and decided to start making a living off something I love and enjoy doing.
I have come to realise that people thrive and succeed when they venture into what they love and enjoy doing, hence my setting up a fashion business.
Tell us how you started designing bags, shoes and accessories.
I started designing bags, shoes and accessories as a result of my knack for these fashion pieces. My love and preference for genuine leather and statement fashion pieces was also a huge factor.
I believed I had something to offer on the fashion scene and had been told many times by strangers, friends and family that I was quite creative, whenever I was seen in any of my designed custom-made sample pieces hence I decided to pull the bull by the horns and made up my mind to start designing as a means of livelihood.
I work with some of the trusted and tested artisans across the globe to create my perfect finished pieces.
How do you source the materials you use?
You’re basically asking me for some of my trade secrets so I will be as brief as possible.
I source my raw materials across the globe, but my print fabrics popularly known as Ankara are mostly sourced from Nigeria and other West African countries, while my hides and leather are sourced from Italy.
How did you start-up?
I relocated to the United Kingdom for further studies and decided to stay back after my MBA.
At this point, I was torn between getting a job in the financial sector and setting up my own business and decided to settle for the latter.
I was aware of how tough the job market could be, hence decided to set up my own business upon graduation.
The fashion industry became my first option as it was obvious I would eventually be fully involved in it at some point in my lifetime.
I decided the brand would be a one-stop fashion centre which will cater for fashion conscious men and women across the globe through creating unique pieces of clothing, bags, footwear and accessories.
Since this was going to become my full time job, I knew it had to be done professionally and fortunately, my recently concluded MBA at the time prepared me on the steps to follow in setting up a business professionally:
- I had to write my business plan
- I decided how the business was going to be financed and eventually settled to use personal savings, bank loan and getting an Angel Investor on board.
- As a designer, one of my major concerns was finding the right name for the brand. After much deliberation, I decided to use my middle name “Ndidi” because it was my native name and I wanted my African heritage to be associated with the brand. However, I had to shorten it by removing the first alphabet ‘N’ and stuck with ‘DIDI’ to enable everyone regardless of their ethnicity or nationality pronounce it with ease and accurately.
I spoke with a few friends and family regarding my proposed business name DIDI Creations. Some thought it was cool and sounded great, while a few others suggested just calling the brand ‘DIDI’. I explained to these minority that since the brand would be all about creating different fashion pieces that I felt it was necessary to have it as proposed hence I eventually settled for DIDI Creations.
- Afterwards I searched for the availability of the name on Companies House , fortunately it was available and I incorporated it immediately. However, while searching for the domain name, myself and my IT team discovered .com wasn’t available at the time so I had to settle for .co.uk, hence we came up with www.didicreations. co.uk
- Next I had to decide my demographics and eventually we decided we would cater for the middle to the upper class of the society.
- I started sourcing for artisans across the globe and eventually got a great team whom I work with to create our perfectly finished bags, footwear and accessories.
- As soon as our pieces were ready, I actually came home to launch the brand in Nigeria on June 9th 2012. This was due to the fact that I wanted a presence here as well.
- After our successful launch, we needed distributors in Nigeria . At the moment, we have about five outlets in Nigeria (in Lagos and Abuja), and some online shops.
In the United Kingdom, I retail through my website www.didicreations. co.uk, and I have about three retailers and also sell through some online portals.
What’s your inspiration?
My inspiration come from vintage pieces, nature, colours, African arts and culture; hence the retro, colourful and Afrocentric theme in most of my collections.
What challenges do you face as a designer, especially as you’re based abroad?
My challenges are quite a number; however top on the list is that the fashion business is very competitive and capital intensive.
Hence if one is not genuinely passionate about it, it could become frustrating along the line as it takes a bit of time to break-even or making any return on investment.
I would say I have not personally had any sad experience in the industry till date.
However, I observed overtime that during the On schedule London Fashion Week shows, you hardly see any African designer . This I find appalling as we have quite a number of great talents from the continent.
It is the Off Schedule shows during the fashion weeks that tend to give us the platforms to showcase.
Also, in major departmental stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichole’s, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Debenhams etc, there’s hardly any African brands on the shelves. Hopefully this will change in the near future.
Which of your designs is your cash cow?
I make the most returns from the bags and footwear at the moment.
What’s your vision for DIDI Creations in the next five years?
My vision is for the brand to break into the UK market and eventually the rest of Europe and across the globe. The long term goal is to be accepted on the global fashion scene just like any other successful fashion label.
When you are not designing, what do you do?
My usual day starts the moment I get off the bed. I sort out my “Things to do list” and try to achieve as much as I can in a day. Lately, I have a busy work schedule on a daily basis.
As awkward as it may sound due to my boisterous nature; I am actually a workaholic and without me realizing it, this has affected my social life as I hardly go out to socialize these days.
When I’m not working, I love listening to music, soaking myself in a hot tub, reading or talking with loved ones on the phone or Skype.
Once in a while, I go to the spa for massages because I actually love being given a massage.
Finally, traveling is my hobby and I do as much vacation trips as I can when I can afford it.
How did you feel the day you made your first million as a designer?
As you are aware, I am based in the United Kingdom, so I earn in Sterling. I am yet to make my first million Pounds Sterling as a designer but hopefully in the near future and you can bet, I will be elated when this happens.
However, I must have made my first million Naira as a designer the very day I launched the label in Nigeria.
Source : SunOnline