Fashion industry can reduce unemployment by 20 percent –Adetoun Awofeso, CEO, The Wardrobe

Adetoun Awofeso


Mrs. Adetoun Awofeso is a well-trained fashion designer and to her, the fashion business is a big deal and government can encourage some of the teeming unemployed youths to exploit opportunities that abound in the industry. “We believe it’s our time and if you look at the economy and talking about employment, the fashion industry can create jobs for a lot of people”, she said.

In this interview, Awofeso shares with Sunday Sun, her success tips in business and lots more. Excerpts:

What’s your outlet all about?

The outlet is about fashion for both men and women and we are basi­cally designers. We work with other designers to sell our products. We’re focused on marketing and production in Nigeria.

What’s the big deal about being a designer since one can be something else?

It’s a big deal because we’re professionals and it’s not something anybody can just delve into. It’s a gift and of course, you have to develop it to be able to thrive. So, it’s a big deal because you cannot just wake up and say I want to be a designer. You must have the desire and the flair from the outset.

Did you ever nurse the am­bition of becoming a fashion designer as a child?

I developed interest in it, because I was not too satisfied with what some designers were making for me and I was always correcting and amending what was done for me by tailors. Later on, I gradually realized that I could do it.

Are you a certified fashion designer?

Oh yes! Initially, I developed interest and was passionate about it and then I realized that it’s not a career you go into without in-depth technical knowledge. So, I decided to travel to England to learn more.

How has the knowledge you acquired rubbed off on your efforts?

Acquiring knowledge has put me in a position to compete globally. Having studied in England, my years of expe­rience, even as a self-trained designer before acquiring formal education has given me the leverage to compete globally.

How did you build your busi­ness to the level it is now?

The Nigerian market is a very big market. I have always believed in building the home base and you just have to build that very well. That is what we are doing now. Once you are able to develop your home base successfully, going internationally becomes easy. The market in Nigeria is big enough for you to tap into, so, I focus more on the Nigerian market at present. I do more of formal wears for ladies and gentlemen.

How exactly do you make good money for yourself?

That’s why we have our outlets in many parts of Lagos and it’s good that we are able to reach so many market segments in Nigeria and beyond our imagination. It has been very good for us.

On a good business deal, how much money do you make for yourself?

Whatever you mean by that, say billions, millions, thousands, just name it (laughs).

Can you tell us about your biggest contract?

I don’t really do contracts. I, basi­cally do mass production and retailing. At my retailing end, I have made it a broad thing with the collaboration of so many other people in the business. You can get the works of many other designers in my store , so I don’t really do contracts.

What have you done to encourage budding designers who aspire to succeed like you did?

The major problem we have now in the industry is competition. We have many other creative designers only that production quality is always an issue and that is where I felt I could actually make an impact and that was how I started training Nigerians the nitty-gritty of doing great works so that we can develop our own labels that can compete globally. That was the reason we incorporated a fashion school to train Nigerians how to add value to their creativity. If we are ready to do this here, we would go places around the world because if you look at the industry, it’s like Nigerians are not yet there and that’s just the level we are surpassing now. We believe it’s our time and if you look at the economy, talking about employment, the fashion industry is labour intensive and can provide jobs for a lot of people. When you are into the ready-to-wear attires, you can easily achieve that and that is the area we are really exploring so we can be able to produce great brands. In the production of an attire, so many hands are involved and you can imagine that if we are now producing in thousands, a lot of people will be employed. If government can develop the fashion industry, the problem of unemploy­ment would definitely abate and that would help the economy.

Are you saying the business is not thriving in Nigeria?

It’s thriving only partially but if you look at the ready-to-wear aspect, we have a lot of fine products out there and why can’t we produce them here in Nigeria?

What then is responsible for that?

If you look at the Western world, they are advanced technologically and people tend to believe that they are in charge of ready-to-wear. Until we take charge of our production in terms of ready-to-wear, we will still be lagging behind. In African wears, we are doing fine, only that we wear native to the office only on Fridays and of course sometimes to events. That’s just one out of five working days . What do we wear on the remaining days? It’s English wears which fewer people produce. If you consider how much we spend on imported clothing, you will know that a lot of our foreign exchange is going outside. If we produce quality wears here, I tell you, Nigerians would buy because we produce good quality. That’s the area I think the government needs to intervene in terms of provid­ing the necessary assistance. We have the manpower and it’s just in the area of the necessary support that the government should come in. That would, invariably, cut down our budget on imports.

How do we improve pro­duction quality and expand the market base?

In another year, we should be talking of training designers for excellence in the quality of their work. If you can match excellence with passion and skill, then you are ready to go. I have done a lot of things in that area and I know better. When you add excellence to creativity, then you can be able to take over the industry.

If you were not a fashion designer, what would you have been?

Wow! That’s a tough question. The bible says “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” I have no regret I am doing what I do now and I have never imagined doing something else. I probably could have been an administrator in a way.

What’s interesting about the business?

Something so interesting is that you are never bored because you are doing things creatively. You can even make a whole movie about it because it’s always all over your head. Just hold your pen and paper and keep putting down things, although it’s not always so.

Will you advise the youth to toe this line of business?

Oh yes, once they’re passionate about it and ready to work hard. Like I tell people, to be a designer is not a child’s play. It’s a career even some professors are into and you know what that means. I can always encourage the youth to do fashion designing , especially now that the market is wider and in dire need of hardworking designers who can help fill the vacuum because as I said, it’s a labour intensive industry. If govern­ment gives the needed support, we can reduce unemployment in the country by at least 20 percent.

What does it take to be suc­cessful in the business?

Once you are ready to pay the price and work hard, you will succeed. The definition of success varies. For me, I will say I am successful in terms of achieving my goals and desires. What makes me stand out is my deftness as well as my passion. I have been able to add value to my work and I’m very meticulous. These are some of my core values in business.

What’s your message to the government in the area of giving the needed support you talked about?

Source : SunOnline

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