NIGERIAN FASHION INDUSTRY HAS TAKEN OVER AFRICA – AINA

Oduyemi Aina, the Chief Executive Officer of Exclusively Yours Clothing, a made-in-Nigeria fashion outfit that delivers affordable exquisite wears to its clients. In this interview with TOMINA EGBOKWU, the lawyer-turned-fashion illustrator speaks on what makes his brand tick

How long has EYC been in existence and what has kept the business going?
Exclusively Yours Clothing has been existing since 2011, but didn’t start full operations till 2016. We have been able to build a brand our clients can trust to deliver quality and exclusive wears over the years. So I can say that what has kept EYC till date is our consistent delivery of quality and satisfaction of our clients.

What are your responsibilities as the CEO of the company?
Basically, I do more of supervision, quality control and customer service. All the members of the team are involved in customer service, but I also engage in it fully to ensure we deliver topnotch service to our clients. I manage the affairs of the business by following up with the accounts and bookkeeping. I mediate steadily in cases of unsatisfied customers and ensure that their issues are resolved or their order replaced.

Some people believe that the fashion industry in Nigeria is saturated. In what ways have you distinguished yourself from others in the industry?
The fashion industry cannot stop growing and I don’t think the word saturated is appropriate. There will always be new brands coming every now and then. What has made EYC different is that we have made all our products affordable, we deliver timely and we are always available. Our target audience cuts across all spheres and we can tailor your wears according to your budget, without compromising quality.

As a lawyer, when and how did you develop interest in fashion?
I have had interest in fashion even before I started secondary school. So I can say that fashion is my first interest. As time went by, I figured out the advocacy part of me and my interest to impact in every way possible; hence my interest in law. I must say that having to be a lawyer and a fashion illustrator has been a huge blessing; it has really affected my outlook and representation in both fields.

Did you get a formal training or was it self-taught?
I had a formal training, but self-taught has been the major thing. You have to keep being creative and consistent with the details, to stand out in this industry. People must be able to trust in your attention to details and creativity.

What do you love most about being a fashion entrepreneur?
The fact that I can always make people look exclusive at a very affordable rate.

What is your view of the Nigerian fashion industry at the moment?
It is emerging, and it has taken over Africa. It is definitely the industry to watch out for in the world.

Do you think we are the next ‘big thing’ in the fashion space?
Yes, we are already the big thing in the fashion world.

Do you think the growth of the local industry has reduced Nigerians’ appetite for foreign brands?
Yes, it has, to a very reasonable extent. You can actually get the luxury you want from Nigerian brands, and I know a lot of people that are more comfortable wearing made-in-Nigeria products than travelling all the way to Italy. Don’t get me wrong; the international brands are good, but it is just evident that the population is thinking in the direction of locally-made wears. There are a lot of local brands that can be trusted.

What differences are there in the fashion industry now compared to when you started?
It is really more competitive now because a lot of creative people have flooded the industry, and more are still coming in.

If you were to do an honest assessment of your performance so far, what would be on the score-card for EYC and what other areas are you hoping to achieve more?
I will score myself 60 per cent. We are still improving on our creativity, customer service, outlook, advertisement and general branding.

Based on this, what legacy would you like to leave in the fashion industry?
Affordability, quality, real time delivery and availability.

Do you think Nigerian government policies are fair to business owners?
Yes, the policies are reasonable to an extent, but I believe they can still make doing business in Nigeria easier.

What is the most critical initiative you are working on now and how do you plan to accomplish it?
This is the EYC Experience Centre, a place where people come to have an indigenous fashion experience. More details will be made available to the public when the time is right.

How do you drive innovation and new products cycle?
We come up with a creative script that we follow in terms of publicity and advertisement. We also have good brand and digital companies that help in driving our products to reach the target audience. Another major thing we do is sustaining personal relationships already built.

What are some of the vital changes you would like to see in the industry?
Quality control. There should be a form of association or agency that should spot-check fashion products. This will enable all fashion outfits to ensure that every of their product is topnotch.

What are some of the qualities that helped you get to the pinnacle of your career?
I really can’t say I’m at the pinnacle yet; there is still a lot to be achieved. But I believe with a positive and tenacious spirit, I will get there.

What are some of the important lessons you have learnt in the business?
Patience, consistency and optimism – to always see the possibility of achieving anything.

Who are your role models?
Mai Atafo, Creative Director of Atafo Official; and Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara.

What do you do for fun?
Movies, surfing the internet, hanging out with like minds and partying, if time permits, as well as spending time with my family.