Temitayo Eyitayo is a fashion entrepreneur whose brand, 24, has become a popular one in Nigeria. With plans to expand to other parts of Africa and the USA, he spoke to ROTIMI IGE about his passion for fashion, craft and plans for the future.
How did your journey into making fashion accessories begin?
The journey into fashion accessories began as a trial. Our focus was on Polo tops and T-shirts at first, which remain largely popular, but in 2014, we decided to try out snapbacks (fez caps), and they were an instant hit with the customers. From thinking we would try them out to see if they would be accepted, they instantly became a fixed part of our product portfolio.
Design inspirations come from many things. The focus is usually around a theme or subject matter, and that theme is them built upon to create a collection. An example is a collection we released called ‘Postive Thinking’. This had embroidered words like Hope, Focus, Excel, Loyal, Imagine, and so on. The theme was Positivity, but the collection was communicated through a range of positive words.
The major hindrance for most businesses today is the economic uncertainty. Even for companies producing merchandise locally, they are still hit with increasing costs of raw materials, since they are mostly imported. This makes cost of production go up, and as incomes aren’t increasing, products can’t be priced reflecting the current production costs. This translates to lower profits in a market where the value of the local currency is decreasing by the day. It’s quite tough.
How have you been able to surmount them?
A problem can be seen as a hindrance or an opportunity to excel and beat the task set. In this case, the task is staying relevant and remaining profitable. We have constantly churned out series of creative, innovative and captivating designs, made with the best workmanship, and communicated effectively to our target market, what these collections are about. With innovation as our main objective, we are constantly tapping into our creativity, giving people what they want, with an element of the 24 personality.
What other fashion accessories do you do?
With the 24 brand, it is a round the clock effort. We have a range of product lines including Polo Tops, T-Shirts, Sweatpants, Snapbacks, Summer and Maxi Dresses, and so on. All these are products we need to ensure we are strategising for adequately, and communicating properly.
What other projects are you into?
Apart from 24, I still have a position as a Director and the Chief Marketing officer for Boltop Enterprises Limited, a West African distribution company of Baby products. Also, I consult for SMEs, helping them start up and keeping them in business when in crisis.
Snapbacks are believed to be for the youth population made popular by music and sport people. Which demographic are snapbacks exactly tailored for?
Snapbacks are for every and any one. We find there is a predominant age group that patronise us, but frankly, there is no restriction. Let’s take a look at jeans, for example. We know that it is most common for younger people to wear jeans, but it is not out of place to see elderly people wearing jeans. As a matter of fact, it is quite refreshing seeing older people wearing jeans. As I always say, its not about the age of who is wearing an item, it is about how the person wearing the item presents it, the carriage and poise the person possesses, while enjoying their outfit. All within reason, of course.
Are people taught to be fashionable or born with it…
Can you learn how to dress well, combine colours, fabrics, textures, put looks together, and repeat this process again? Yes. Are some people born with a natural flare of how to dress well, combine colours, fabrics, textures, putting looks together, and without any formal training, repeat this process over and again? Yes.
The idea of fashion is multidimensional. In order to appreciate fashion in its entirety, one needs to open their mind to the endless possibilities of creativity, and accept diverse cultures for what they are. The safer fashion trends are easy to assess, but what’s more challenging and fulfilling, is the ability to embrace different fashion waves, respecting them for what they are, understanding their contexts and being able to judge if they work, based on the contexts they exist in. Its only when one reaches this level of actualisation, can they refer to themselves as ‘knowing fashion’.
Tell us a bit about yourself and early childhood memories…
My memories of earlier life bring a wide smile to my face. Things race through my mind right now, and I must say, I am highly blessed. From dressing up on Sunday mornings and going to church with my family, all waiting till late in the evening and playing with friends. My outfit to my Aunt’s wedding, where I was the ring bearer, and I was dressed as an Army General with badges. The memories are endless, but what is most prevalent is the overriding conclusion that little experiences, interactions with the outside world and external stimuli, have all come together to make who I am today. It’s a massive cocktail of diversity.
Any plans to take your fashion line outside Nigeria?
24 is a lifestyle brand, and it will continually evolve into various product lines, so expect new product lines. Also, we are very passionate about giving back to society and our customers. So please look out for those. We will be relaunching all our product lines, ensuring our valued customers are well taken care of, and as fashionable as we possibly can make them. As for expansion, we are currently in Nigeria, Kenya and The United States of America. Let’s just say we are increasing our footprint gradually, but trying to keep the growth as organic as possible.