Lack of money did not abort his dream to become a frontline designer. Neither did other challenges he encountered on his way up nor his education. Johnson Iyaye is a lawyer who has a penchant for looking good right from childhood, but he has never practiced Law. Last year, he floated his brand, Johnson Johnson , a fashion label with offices in Port Harcourt and Abuja. Sunday Sun met this budding designer at the International Fashion Week in Port Harcourt last weekend and he told us his success story. Excerpts:
Tell us about your label?
We design blazers, suits, trousers and shirts of any size. I have been a designer for a year now and I have drive and passion. In fact from childhood, I’ve always loved fashion, looking good and helping people to look good. Last year September, the company came into limelight.
Is it true you sold out all you showcased at this event? How did you register for the show?
It’s amazing. Immediately after the event, someone that watched it live from Lagos called me and said “Guy, you are amazing. I love all your designs. Do you still have more in stock?”
I told him yes and subsequently,he flew in from Lagos and picked some. One lady that has a retail shop here in Port Harcourt also bought some clothes. Even the Governor, Chibuike Amaechi was so impressed and he placed some orders. Senator Magnus Abbe also ordered some branded stuffs as well as the commissioner for information who ordered something for her husband. Orders just kept coming. I’m not just out to design. I design for the perfect man that wants to stand out and look good.
What were your challenges when you started?
Life has taught me to believe in myself and pursue my dreams. I’m inspired by my dreams and then I work towards them. Ultimately, God is my inspiration. There was a time life was rough but one thing I like about myself and which I learnt from my dad is that, I don’t let things weigh me down. When I have money, I don’t go about bragging and when I haven’t, you hardly know. So far, I thank God for where I am. At a point, my dad was not supportive as he told me I had to get more education, adding “You are no longer a boy, if that is what you want to do, you are on your own.” Now, he’s so proud of me, because I make designer’s pieces for him and when people tell him, “I love what you are wearing” he tells them “It’s my son’s design.” Today, he is happy. He was present at the fashion parade and people now recognize him as my father. I’m stubborn in the right way, because I always stick to what I want. I’ve confidence in my ability and I really don’t like being intimidated.
You said it was rough at the beginning. Can you elaborate?
I started small with what I had. I did one piece at a time and I gave friends to wear. I told them, try this and get me more contacts and that was how my designs became more acceptable.
So, how has it been?
The International Fashion Week in Port Harcourt is the third fashion event I’m featuring in since I started in 2013 though I have been invited to so many shows to showcase my stuffs earlier. As I’m talking to you, I’ll be in Montreal next month for another and Uganda, for Africa Fashion Week Uganda. I’ve not attained my goals yet, I’m not where I want to be yet. As I’m working, I set a new goal. As long as I’m breathing and working, I’m working towards new goals and new achievements. I started small, but today, I’m no more where I used to be two months ago and I know after this show, I won’t be where I am now.
How did you feel when you made your first million naira?
I felt great, but I wasn’t surprised, because from day one, I knew it was a matter of time, it would come. Nigerian designers are great. We have great designers in this country. I didn’t become a designer , because I wanted to make money. I wanted to dress men. I wanted to dress people, I wanted to change their looks. I got into it and asked myself, how I would achieve my goal. I invested every little money I had into the business. So far, it’s been great. I want to appreciate those who believe in me, from His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, the Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, the Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Seminetari, Senator Magnus Abbe and all those who have patronized our brands. It’s just been great working with them these past months.
Did you go to a fashion school?
No, I didn’t. I have never been to a fashion school. I studied Law at the University of Abuja after a year of studying Philosophy at the University of Port Harcourt. Our local tailors can really be an inspiration. Anything inspires me and once you are determined to learn something, even if you are going to the best fashion school or the worst, you would succeed as long as you are passionate about it. When I wanted to get into fashion designing , so many people tried to discourage me and said “do you have time”, “it’s stressful” and stuff like that. Today, people see my work and they place orders and I ship my designs to UK retailers who needed 200 units of my jackets. They just saw my designs online and contacted me. I export to Paris and Belgium too. God has been good.
What’s your vision for Johnson Johnson in the next five years?
I want the brand to be known world-wide just like Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and TM. I want it to be so popular that you can easily walk into a Johnson Johnson retail outlet and just pick whatever you want or sketch whatever you want and send to us by mail or call and discuss how you want to look like and we bring it to reality.
Where do you spend your vacation?
Dubai. I love the architecture, their way of life, and its serene environment. Such things inspire me each time I design. I just don’t design pieces for people. It may take other designers about one hour to create about five pieces, but it may take me about ten hours to create one because of details and finishing I give to my designs. I concentrate more on these. I’m not just out to design but I design for the perfect man that wants to stand out and look good.
What’s your favorite colour?
I love royal blue. It’s something I can rock any day with confidence. I rock everything with confidence but royal blue is one of my favorite colours.
Source : SunOnline