Modupeola Ola-Obideyi, a graduate of Mass Communication from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State worked in the banking and oil and gas industries before going into fashion designing. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, the Creative Director of Sparkling Jade Signatures speaks about her life as an entrepreneur and the need for women to find a balance between their career and the home front.
Foray into fashion.
After I graduated from Olabisi Onabanjo University, I obtained my professional certification in Public Relations, then worked with Diamond Bank, Tropical Services Nigeria Limited (TSNL); an oil and gas firm as well as School Run Consultancy, as team leader and team head, working with the Lagos State Government Safety Commission. I later stopped working and moved into fashion. What motivated me to go into fashion was the yearning to become an entrepreneur and my love for my children and my family. Working as a young mother was not so easy, especially when you have three girls. I wanted my girls to be comfortable and to know that they have their mum around. Having tried different professions, especially the banking industry which we all know could be pretty hectic, I decided to be my own boss. My love for fashion and looking good made me to go into fashion designing. I decided not to learn under just any tailor so, I went to a fashion school where I knew I would be properly schooled and would be able to have my certification. So my first school was Fountain Initiative for Social Development in Ilupeju, Lagos State, which was the vocational school of Fountain of Life. That was where I got my first training from and came out as the best student in fashion designing . I also went to Ibile Vogue Academy where I did a master’s course in fashion designing and also became a fashion instructor.
So when did you now start your own fashion brand?
Well, I started the business fully after I finished my course, although I was doing that and was also running the fashion school for my boss. When I graduated from Ibile Vogue, I was the best student and that propelled her into asking me to stay on to run the school. I started as a fashion instructor then moved on to become the principal of the school. I did that for quite a while but I later stopped to be on my own.
When you started, what were the challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?
Well, as an entrepreneur, you’ll always face so many challenges. One is the Nigerian economy. Fashion is capital-intensive. You need to make sure you have your tools, for you to do things properly. And for me that was important. So you have to put things together and get funds to start business the right way. The economy wasn’t so encouraging but I was able to pull through. Another thing is building your clientele. Getting people to trust your brand is another big challenge when you are just starting because people tend to be cautious, so you need to earn their trust and let them know that your brand is here to stay and that you know what you are doing. Then another challenge I had was pricing. People felt because you were just starting, it should be cheap. People tend to know how to sew with their mouth so that didn’t help at all but all in all, it has been a wonderful journey.
How have you been coping with competition in the industry?
Well, to be sincere, I am not in competition with anybody. The world is a big place, it is big enough for everybody. That is the truth. There Is no competition anywhere. I run my brand, I am getting better every day. I see other fashion designers who are good, I love their designs and they propel me to want to be better. While I see some designers that I feel need to go back to school. So there are always different categories of people one meets every day. But basically, I don’t beef anybody, I do my thing and I am getting better at what I do.
Who are your role models in the industry?
Well, I have role models in and outside the fashion industry. My mother is my number one role model. She is God-fearing, hard-working, loving, encouraging and my go-to person. My boss, Mrs Tope Olanre-Alade is also my role model. She impacted my life in a great way. She made see that fashion is broader than what people think it is. It’s not just about cut and sew; fashion has so many aspects to it. It encompasses so many things. Also, people don’t know that for you to teach, is a skill that needs to be acquired. She doesn’t believe in you taking shortcuts in life, she wants you to be the best at what you do and that was what propelled me to do my master’s with her because I know that she knows her onions. She’s good at what she does and has been a big support to me. She has always been there for me all the way. So she’s a very important role model to me. Abiodun Sade Sandra of Anjy Luminee Couture is another designer I love. She is very creative. I used to call her a crazy designer. I love her creativity, I love her finesse, I love her zest for life. Princess Adetola, the creative director of Princess Adetola Couture (PAC ) in Ibadan is also a wonderful mentor to me. She is lways ready to lend a listening ear. She is there for you to talk to, we usually brainstorm together. She is approachable, loving and a wonderful person. My husband is my mentor too. He has been there all along, always supportive of my dreams. He has been helping me, financially and morally. My Business School Director, Mr Edokpolor is another wonderful mentor that I have. He took me to Business School and it’s been a wonderful time. Yeah, I’ve got some wonderful mentors.
So what distinguishes your designs from those of your contemporaries?
Well for me, my designs are mine, they’re unique to me. I love to sew to the taste of my clients..I look at clients and look at what suits them, I don’t just pick things. Everybody has their personality, they have their aura, they have things that work for them. And then my finishing is important to me. You don’t just use different colours of lining for another fabric. If I’m working with a fabric that is predominantly yellow, my lining has to be yellow, my zipper has to be yellow, my thread has to be yellow. I don’t mix and match. I am very precise in my designs. I am prompt in delivery. I hate it when they say tailors disappoint, when I tell you I will deliver in two weeks. It doesn’t change. My watchword is never to disappoint my customers and to give them what they want.
What is the difference between fashion and style?
Style and fashion can be interwoven. My style can be different from yours but we are all fashionable. What works for me may not work for you. Fashion is universal but style is what is unique to you. Fashion is trendy, style is forever.
Where do you get inspiration from your designs?
I get inspiration from all around me. As a fashion designer, different things come to me at different times.
How have you been combining business with the home front?
It has not been easy but I have been able to juggle the two. As a woman you need to find your balance. When it is time to give my family time, I give them the time they need. When my children go to school, I give my time and focus to my business. When it is evening, I create time to go through their books, to make sure they eat healthy and go back to bed on time. Even if it means I have to go back to work when they are off to bed.
What advice do you have for young people?
Young people of today have lost their focus, what they are after is money. They forgot that when they focus on what will bring money, money will run after them. If you don’t work for it, it never lasts. So, they need to focus. Whatever your hands find to do, do it well, do it right. Don’t be in a hurry and most importantly, persevere. It might seem as if it is tough but hold on, God will definitely see you through. God should be your focus. He is your number one, call on Him at all times and He will direct your path.