Temitayo Eyitayo is a young fashion enthusiast who is passionate about promoting fashion from Nigeria to the world. Having dominated the snap back market, he recently launched an underwear line for both sexes. ROTIMI IGE caught up with him recently and presents excerpts of their interaction.
What do you think is the perception of Nigerian Fashion brands and what is your opinion?
My perception of Nigerian fashion brands is two-sided. On the part of the supplier (The Brand), we have many skillful, creative and extremely bright brands who come up with concepts enviable, the world over.
However, like every industry can attest, a prototype is hardly ever sold. In order for brands to produce to a standard where they are commercially viable, brands need to venture into proper production, and this is where I think brands in Nigeria are lacking. Where products can be produced in various quantities and each unit is exactly identical to the other.
On the part of the consumer, it is evident that many people are still sceptical about brands, generally. Most of patronages of brands are seen as the consumers ‘supporting’ the brand, as opposed to the consumers admitting the products are nice and they want to purchase. The consumers are not to blame though. Brands need to step up and give consumers the confidence, as they are parting with hard-earned money they can spend elsewhere.
As a CEO in the fashion industry, how do you intend to influence people’s perception of Nigerian fashion brands?
I see myself, and my brand, as a small part in this large machinery called the Nigerian fashion industry. As my influence is highly limited to the activities of 24 Apparel Limited, it is my duty to ensure that all things concerning products we offer the public; from idea generation, to sampling, to production, to finishing, to quality control, to sales, to customer service and even beyond, are done with excellence. Encouraging other brands to do the same as well, and slowly, it will become standard; because excellence is the barest minimum we should offer the Nigerian public.
How do we promote Nigerian brands on an international level?
Promoting Nigerian brands on an international level is not a myth. Nigerians are found everywhere in the world, and Nigerians travel the world over for various reasons. With students schooling around the world, social media and online interaction on an increasing high, there are hardly any secrets. I believe to get international recognition; we do not need to do the unthinkable. We should focus on what we produce and keep producing them well. The recognition will come.
What influenced your decision to go into casual fashion?
To be honest, I love casual fashion. It is all I am ever found in. I love t-shirts, polo tops, jeans, sweatpants, snapbacks and all things casual. Plus I realised the Nigerian market is largely undersold in this department. It was a personal decision, but it wasn’t embarked upon until proper business analyses were done.
During this research period, I realised that this sector of the fashion industry is not as easy as I would have thought. Intricate details were important, and this further intrigued me. I found a new level of respect for brands who have been doing it for years as it takes effort to plan these large collections, and invest so heavily, with the aim of getting the item into the consumer’s hand. As I continually delve deeper into this sector, I am increasingly convinced that Nigeria needs this to work.
How does your brand stand out from the competition among other international brands like H&M and Zara?
The secret to the success of Zara, H&M and other well-known high street brands is they have built dependability. Their customers know what to expect when they shop their products.
For 24, although we are in our early stages and do not see ourselves as being anywhere near these giants as yet, we have taken on this same culture of dependability, building a strong brand name on the back of quality products and not hype.
What then makes us stand out when our products match up to other rival products, home and abroad on all parameters, is that we are proudly Nigerian-owned, and we know what the Nigerian wants. This focus makes our offering unique, when measured up to international brands.
What inspired your new body wear? What has the reception been so far?
Can I get spiritual? Frankly, it was God. The inspiration came from a deep search into what void to fill, and that was when the revelation came.
This determination to search for voids was because I strongly believe that the products that change popular culture the most are those that meet a need and not a want. I want 24 to stand as a brand that is primarily about function, meeting a particular need, before we then speak of design or other glossier subject matters.
The reception has been fantastic. People are very careful about body wear, but the encouraging thing is many who have purchased have sent messages back, giving glowing reviews about the comfort, fit and all the attributes. Many have gone on to make further purchases. It has been very encouraging.
Would there be an extended line of the body wear?
We love body wear so much, we are strategically planning the range we will like to introduce, and the various types that will meet even more needs. More than our love for it is our conviction that if well curated, it could stand as a major part of our business existence.
What is your favourite part about being in the fashion industry?
Being in the fashion industry is like being in a love relationship. It is my fifth year of constantly being active in the Nigerian fashion industry, and I must say, it has been a roller coaster experience. The positive outcomes have been pleasantly received while the negative outcomes have been lessons. Every aspect of operating in this industry, with all its seriousness and hard work, is fun. I thoroughly enjoy every element.
What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
My greatest accomplishment is breaking barriers and smashing through ceilings. We know that Nigerian Pop Culture is notorious for typecasting.
This affects all Pop Culture Industries (Film, Music, Fashion, Media, e.t.c.), and hardly allows for creatives to show their different sides. With prayers and a strong, determined spirit, I have been able to introduce new lines and they have all enjoyed their own successes. This, to me, is my greatest accomplishment.
What does the future hold for 24?
24 aims to be a lifestyle brand. We are working hard at influencing pop culture, and getting more people involved with what we are trying to achieve. Nigeria is our base, and we will like to establish strongly here, and over time, export our culture to other nations, as we have started having imprints in many parts of the world.