Modupe Ajisegbede, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dimples Fashion Et Al and AMABRIDE Bridal Home, Lagos, is a graduate of Computer Science Engineering from Babcock University, Ilisan Remo, Ogun State. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks about her experience as a fashion entrepreneur, the need for government to create a fashion hub, among other interesting issues.
As a computer scientist, why did you choose to go into the fashion industry?
I learnt how to sew in 2002 before I went to school and I have been into it ever since then. I just wanted to take it as a hobby but you know how Nigeria can frustrate one, thank God, I had it as a back up. I worked briefly but in 2011, I went fully into it and I have been developing the brand since then. Three years ago, we opened another outfit called AMABRIDE Bridal Home. No knowledge is a waste, my computer science knowledge still comes in handy in my fashion business. Also, my qualification gives me an edge in my business.
Who were your role models when you joined the industry?
My role models have always been bridal designers because I love bridals a lot. I really don’t have a particular person among them. In recent times, Tope Olanre Alade of Ibile Vogue has been my mentor.
What has the experience been since you started the fashion business?
It has been rough but I give glory to God today because the business is picking up and we have a brand name to protect. People are appreciating our work and God is expanding the brand. I Know the star is the starting point.
What were the challenges you faced?
Number one was manpower. In this kind of business, it is very difficult to do it alone. But when you want to start, you have to start by doing it alone. I used to go to the market to source for fabrics, do the cutting and the sewing, but over time, I was able to bring other people on board to do the job. Also, it took some time before people started attending the brand. Another thing that has been a challenge is electricity.
It is believed bridal fashion is more lucrative than others, is that why you ventured into it?
I ventured into bridal design because that is where my creativity is best expressed. It challenges and stretches me. I don’t like to limit myself. If I keep doing ankara, I won’t have to task my brain too much. I love my imagination to be alive. Every bride wants to look exquisite and unique on her wedding day so they have high expectations., I raised my bar so I can keep getting better, The moment you can please a bride, I don’t see any other person you cannot please.
What distinguishes your brand from other brands?
My vision statement is not to disappoint my customers. I really don’t like disappointing people, I think that stands me out. If I am not going to deliver on the agreed date, I would call the clients earlier to inform her so we can both be on the same page. Once we give our words that we would deliver on a certain day, we try as much as possible as God gives us strength and as the customer cooperates with us with money to deliver as promised.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
My first source of inspiration is God and the Holy Spirit. Most of the time, God gives me inspiration through dreams. I also get inspired by other people’s designs. When I see nice designs, I try to build on them. I believe there is no new thing in fashion; everything is just revolving and evolving. You just add your own touch to what is already in existence. Another thing that stands me out is that my work is very neat. I don’t believe it is only the exterior that should be neat, the interior too should be neat. I love to work with crepe because it is one fabric that is very flexible and very easy to manoeuvre. There is hardly any design you cannot come out with crepe. You can use it to make a formal or casual wear.
You said there is nothing new in fashion but some designers often accuse others of copying their designs, what do you have to say on this?
I really believe nobody has any right to claim any design because as one person is getting inspiration, another person is getting it too. It is possible for the inspiration to be the same, so nobody can lay claim to any design and say they have the copyright to it. Even if you are the first person to create a designer and a client sees it and likes it, she can take it to her tailor to make it for her. The designer will have no choice but to give her what she wants.
How have you been coping with competition in the industry?
My mother taught me that competition is part of life, so I see competition as something that is healthy. I don’t allow it to limit me. I won’t say because someone is doing something, I won’t do it so they won’t say I copied them. I have been inspired to toe that path, I will do it. If someone wants to copy what I am doing, no problem, the sky is wide enough for all birds to fly. Everyone will have their own client. I have discovered that an average Nigerian woman has five or six tailors. What they are looking for in tailor one is different from what they are looking for in the other four, .just do your best and continue to trust God. There is no cause for alarm. Competitions are good once they are healthy.
What is your assessment of the Nigerian fashion industry?
The Nigerian fashion industry is very creative and daring. I want to believe that the Nigerian fashion industry has been embraced all over the world because everything we do is fashionable from our hair to our toes. There is hardly anybody in Nigeria that does not possess a little bit of a good fashion sense. I believe everyone around the globe is looking up to us. The industry is growing in leaps and bounds and should be appreciated.
What does one need to start and succeed as a designer in Nigeria?
To start a fashion business, you need two things; a regular machine and a neighbour or friends you can sew for. You don’t need to have money or a shop to start a fashion business. Once you have someone to sew for, start small then let it grow big. If you start big, you will have a lot of bills to pay. I always tell my students that it is not enough to say you are good at what you do or you are a good fashion designer. It takes dexterity and doggedness to succeed because the industry will stretch you and keep on stretching you. Anyone that wants to come into the industry must have passion for the job. I have discovered that some want to come into it because of money. But before you can get the juice out of the fruit, you have to squeeze it hard and dry. It would take a lot of time and energy before you make it. You can do your best and the clients will still complain. So, it also takes a lot of patience to succeed in the industry. If you don’t have passion for fashion, you would get tired one day and say you are no longer interested but if you are passionate about what you do, even if you have challenges. You will keep on forging ahead.
What is the difference between fashion and style?
Style is what you are comfortable in, for instance, despite being a designer, my style is casual, I am comfortable in jeans and top but when the occasion arises, I can dress up. Style is who we are, while fashion is how we look.
What are the basic things that every woman should have in her wardrobe?
Every woman must have black underwear that can complement any outfit. For instance, when you wear a white dress, you must wear black underwear with it. Jeans are also another basic necessity for women. You can rock jeans with anything. Top is another fashion essential for all women.
How have you been combining your role as a fashion entrepreneur with your role as a wife and mother?
That is another aspect of life that I am forever grateful to God for giving me my husband.. If not for his support, I am very certain I would not have come this far. He is very supportive. He picks up the children and settles them in the house before I usually get back from work. What has helped me to juggle my business and the home front successfully is God and my supportive husband who understands the nature of the job and is willing to accommodate it. I also try as much as possible to spend quality time with my family. That is how I strike a balance.
Where do you see your business in five years?
I see my brands going global and being in at least 10 countries. We don’t just want to be a local brand we are trying to push our brand into the international market. That is why I am not limiting myself. If I get to Europe, what I have to do is to master the kind of dresses they make, start making it for brides, and boom in the business, I am in business.
What advice do you have for young people?
It is foolish to sit down and say you are looking for job, rather, sit down and think deep. Look inward to discover what you can do to make money. Business is so easy to do now. You can sell your products on social media.