It was a Wednesday evening I got an unexpected call from my client requesting to see some of the finished project he had earlier contracted to me. I explained to him that we agreed on a timeline as I needed to clear my desk and face the project. Guess it didn’t go down with him as he probably felt it was one of those excuses. Long story short, he threatened to abandon the job with me together with the money and find another person who would handle it. Note, we were not running behind schedule here because we had about 2 and half months away for the D’ day. I quickly put a call across my manufacturer who assured me I was going to get at least 10 outfits ready. Off I dashed to his state with hope of getting the clothes. To my amazement not even a single one was ready. That was when I knew I had met uncertainty. Meanwhile, I had already given my word to my client on the back of what my manufacturer assured me.
I said to myself, ‘Nina, be the different tailor and explain to the client the real situation of things.’ That I did. I had to assure him that I was on the job and should be allowed to send 5 samples as opposed to 10. That I also did. The next batch I sent was the about 70 pieces which was the last batch and he was shocked because I exceeded his expectations. Guess who came back for another contract? This time my client went to bed and didn’t for one day buzz me to inquire about the job because he could beat his chest that I wasn’t going to disappoint. The lesson stuck early in me that maintaining integrity is paramount in business as well as proper communication your clients. If there is going to be a slight change in your transaction, communicate. That way, you can gain confidence in them. Of course, that has been the pathway in building my fashion empire.
During my formative years, I experienced firsthand observing my mum making outfits. It was not for commercial purposes anyway, but for the immediate family. I guess this passion naturally rubbed off on me. My mum just needed me to be preoccupied during the holidays as I loved travelling a lot. So, she asked me to look for a skill to enroll in or no vacation. There I was, left with no other option than to grudgingly enroll in sewing class. I just took it as one of those hobby then, but now it’s paying off.
I started off with sketches at the back of my notes books. I couldn’t concentrate or focus on any other thing asides fashion. If I opened a magazine, I’m going straight to the fashion column. If I’m seeing the news I find myself analyzing and making a mental pattern of the presenters outfit. My mum became worried at some point that she asked if I had time for any other thing aside fashion. But that was in the past anyways. Now I am beginning to balance it out well that I create enough time for other activities.
Sincerely, I never dreamt that I would one day take up fashion as a career, Until this time, fashion was just common among our folks and it was less appealing to the younger generation. It wasn’t something a young lady would confidently want to identity with because it was generally considered a skill for uneducated people or persons who couldn’t afford going into a university. We were not even making use of the right terminologies then. Naturally I’ve got a good dress sense as a person. It wasn’t hard for people to easily want to have me make whatever I put on. Sadly, I was the one not taking myself seriously at first, because hell No! It was not something I wanted to be identified with. At the time saying you were a tailor sounded demeaning but now the table have turned around.
Like every entrepreneur, I started off my journey to take fashion designing to a professional level. First you are very excited and thinking about how amazing this venture would turn out, you start off and suddenly everything goes south, your confidence begins to leave through the window. Little by little, you start having doubts and you wonder if you were actually made for this. But something in you wants to keep going. You pick up yourself again and find your way back to the top and you hit another low point you are back again trying to put your pieces together. its like a rollercoaster in fact and its all part of the learning curve, because every situation propels you or exposes to different aspects of your job you need to work on, It’s not always easy keeping up but if we persist we would breakthrough. And I end with this quote by *Nietzsche “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
Being a fashion designer in general is easy but it involves a lot of hard work. Because It has gone beyond simply knowing how to sew and setting up a studio while you relax and expect people to turn up. That you have the passion doesn’t mean you have all it takes, You have to constantly associate yourself with popular brands, get to collaborate and align yourself with influential people to give you that easy exposure. There are blogs and freelance writers who readily available that can agree to showcase or talk about your brand for a token.
Over the years, I have discovered that fashion design is a very lucrative business as our people are very ostentatious and are known for partying and the likes. With the advent of social media, everyone wants to turn up in a different outfit all the time. Nobody wants to be trolled for showing up in a single attire all through the month. Its a very viable business when you start doing your proper calculation, connect with influential people and properly manage your clients.
I can’t tell you how many beautiful dresses I come across on daily basis, but that isn’t my reality as far as fashion is concerned. The first step is learning what works for you, and finding your personal style. Asides from taking inspiration from trends and around the world around me, the bulk of my inspiration comes from my vision. Most of my designs comes in my sleep or when I’m more relaxed, my mind begins to wonder process all the elements and eventually comes up with something breath taking, that’s the simple reason I can’t replicate someone’s work cos I will always get different view.
Nonetheless, the twist of this is that it is extremely hard trying to stand out in this industry. Its highly saturated with creative people. So in order not to get swallowed up I find a few similar designs that resonates with mine. And I create my own twist out from them. I would rather prefer to produce something entirely different than copying another’s persons work. I am not a flower of style, I copy and get creative.
Although, recently the hike in prices of goods has generally affected the overall cost of production, and its really hard trying to keep up, because you are struggling to maintain the old price so as to still retain your clients and also not compromise with your standards as well. But we are certainly getting a hang on of it now.
Looking forward, I really hope in the next few years I must have moved up the ladder strengthened my managerial skills, set up a system where I can have a team of professionals that I can manage properly.