Welcome to The Octagon
We appreciate you taking time out to Join this Chat Session which will end in 1 Hour. We have two moderators in the room who will only offer guidance where necessary. Please feel free to openly share your thoughts and experiences.
Let’s begin with some introductions before going into the discussion. Can everyone let us know who they are and share a bit about what they do ?
Kelo: Hello everyone, my name is Kelo and I’m a Fashion Entrepreneur.
Tolu: My name is Tolu Olafimihan. I’m a Fashion Entrepreneur and run a clothing company called GNATION.
Ifeoma: I’m Ifeoma Odogwu. I’m a Fashion Consultant and Magazine Editor.
Seju: Hey folks…Seju Alero Mike…I run an e-commerce platform that features art & clothing – Osengwa.
Kelechi: Hi my name is Kelechi Ekeghe I am a fashion entrepreneur and I run an ecommerce platform – min.ng (Made in Nigeria).
Tinuade: Hello everyone. I’m so sorry I’m late. Internet issues. My name is Tinuade. I run a female clothing brand called Adey Soile.
The Nigerian fashion industry is primarily centered around the designers. However, there are various sectors that make up the fashion industry. Also, beyond the popular/mainstream designers, there are other fashion labels and designers that have their own consumer bases.
According to an article written in 2011 by Zainab Al hassan,
“The fashion industry is divided into the creative and the sales function, that is, design and production on one side and sales and distribution on the other. In Nigeria the creative part is present but there are not enough platforms for the sales functions. As an emerging industry, Nigeria’s fashion industry should be a determining factor in our economy and for this to happen we need to clearly understand how it can work. Currently in Nigeria, there exists a lot of untapped territory, we are yet to see proudly Nigerian High Street stores, and while some designers may be heading towards this direction, there is a need for the industry to create platforms in which they can survive and be profitable. However, there is the link that exists between the fashion industry and the larger economic environment. The fashion industries which we use as a benchmark, have certain structures in place, which we are yet to have.”
Do you think there’s a disconnect between the creatives in the parts fashion industry and the sales/distribution/business side ?
Do you think we are ignoring the ‘other’ important parts of the industry ie. Models, Stylists, Media (Fashion Bloggers et al) ? What role do they play in all this ?
Ifeoma: There is definitely a disconnect between designers and the public. For this industry to reach its full potential, it will have to be a collective effort. I don’t think that the average Nigerian cares about buying or wearing local brands or even the designers. And the ones who care always talk about how expensive or overpriced the pieces are. In addition, the media has a lot to offer to the Buy Nigeria campaign. I was watching an episode of Ndani’s skinny girl in transit when lead actress had a photo shoot and was raving about how excited she was to be wearing Ejiro Amos Tafiri. I thought it was awesome not because I know the designer, but because folks who are far from the industry will watch it and become curious. I thought how cool it would be if we have more of that. In the movies, News casters and so on wear Nigerian brands etc.
The average Nigerian needs to think of Nigerian brands first when they need stuff. So I’m getting married why take my money to Zuhair when i should be looking inwards. This is where the media needs to come in. People need to know that stuff is available here and possible here. If I need a T Shirt I should think of a Nigerian store first rather than take my money to Mango.
Tinuade: I think that for most creatives, we hated math and finance subjects in school, so going into fashion to realize that it’s an important factor is very daunting. This is especially apparent in a country like Nigeria where things are even harder and 2 + 2 isn’t always 4. I think that to run a successful brand you need to become business savvy. It is so important. You can be the most amazing designer, but if you can’t run a business, then you will be a hungry designer and the brand will not survive.
Kelo: I think the market is the market and will always be. Designers are the ones with the disconnect. I believe if you create items that appeal to the larger market and not the 0.1%, then you have something. Once you have something that the market NEEDS, then trust me, the other components necessary to build an industry will pop up. Nigerians are very enterprising. Let’s take a cue from the music industry. We need to lose this “Buy Nigerian” mentality. If you create dope merchandise and provide great quality service, people will buy.
Ifeoma: I don’t even think the Buy Nigerian movement is where it’s supposed to be. Yes Kelo if u produce dope stuff then you can appeal to anyone but people will buy who and what they know and are familiar with. Its that simple. If they dont know you how are they going to shop your pieces. If I need running shoes I Will go to Nike because I ‘know’ they are the best for what I need.
Kelechi: Very true @kelo Just like every business skill isn’t enough … players in the industry do not set proper structure to connect with and thrive in the market. Skill isn’t enough. You must understand your market, create products that appeals to them.
Tolu: I think the disconnect between creatives and the business side of the fashion industry is quickly bridged once the 1s and 2s needs to add up. The creatives from the fashion designer to the models, to the bloggers all need each other to make a profit. No matter how fantastic a designer can create, or a model can walk or a blogger can write, if no one buys the designers pieces, he/she isn’t going to sell anything. If the model doesn’t get to wear any clothes on a showcase, she’s just any other girl. If the blogger has no content, it’s an empty blog space.
Seju: I agree with that there is a bit of a disconnect between the creative and sales function…actually maybe I’m wrong on that..as opposed to a disconnect the issue is there isn’t enough of an established separation and acknowledgement of the different distinct roles that each side needs to play. The current set up is that creatives are the distribution chain…and because creatives don’t necessarily have a full grasp of the business end of production and distribution they stall.
I believe if you create items that appeal to the larger market and not the 0.1%, then you have something. Once you have something that the market NEEDS, then trust me, the other components necessary to build an industry will pop up. Nigerians are very enterprising.
Tinuade: I don’t think that it’s that simple. There are many designers worldwide who are hungry, but Zara makes a lot of money copying designs because he understands business. Understands distribution, sales, marketing etc
Kelechi: Pricing is also another issue… must “designers” want to be premium brands for the HNI. Because there are more people in the mass and upper mass market. I am a promoter of made in Nigeria, but we need to understand that the market is not driven by sentiments but by demand and supply. There is also an orientation issue here – even those who produce here think that it’s better to set high or unreasonable prices to build their brand. They go for high margin, not market share.
Tinuade: Hmmmm pricing. I feel like there are different brands with different price points and target markets. There are brands like Eve and Tribe that offer less expensive pieces. I for one will definitely use a local garment production company if it was reasonable priced with good quality.
Seju: Yes…yes and yes. Pricing is an issue, but from my experience working with designers, pricing is an issue when they produce overseas. So your costs are in FX but you intend to make revenue in Naira…this disconnect is a major part of the problem with the Nigerian story as a whole. And because of this I am definitely a supporter of the “Buy Nigerian” movement. However I also agree with Kelo that great products, excellent customer service plus the right marking strategy and you can appeal to anyone. So in as much as I support buy Nigerian and I’m also firmly in the improve the quality camp.
The Octagon: Taking from the conversation so far, is production the biggest challenge in the fashion industry vs sales?
Ifeoma: The truth is that the prices here are not very pocket friendly and how everyone can win here is by embracing Garment construction companies. Nigerians don’t see it, but it can be huge. These companies are way cheaper to produce your stuff from. And will in turn reduce the prices of pieces on the racks. Not every designer needs to run an elaborate Atelier with tailors who may decide to take off any day and trust me I’ve heard stories.
Kelechi: I agree with you. You see Nike didn’t get their market share in one day…. if they don’t know you today…they will know you tomorrow, if you have a good marketing plan.
Tinuade: I think that production is the biggest challenge. At least that has been my experience. Producing abroad has become nearly impossible if you want to keep decent prices. So, I agree with Ifeoma about the need for local garment manufacturing companies. Currently, producing here with local talent is extremely difficult and inefficient.