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Before You Take On The Fashion Industry – Do Your Homework!



The Nigerian fashion industry can be described as a classic case of ‘getting ahead of one’s self’? Like in any case with life, one must crawl before walking. In the past decade, there has been an influx of fashion labels into the industry.There is a reason why apprentices and interns were created. An intern is one who shadows a person in a real job, gaining skills and experiencing what the job entails before going into it full time. This is a way for aspiring fashion designers  to learn the ropes/dynamics of the fashion industry.

Fashion designing goes beyond a trip to Lagos Island to purchase Ankara, hiring a tailor to sew clothes and putting it on the runway. Listening to  fashion designers in interviews saying things like ‘collar that covers the neck’ (mandarin collar) is just too painful to watch! If we plan to take our fashion industry to the next level, if we plan to be globally accepted, we must educate ourselves in fashion as we would in any other profession. I strongly believe that interning for a well-established fashion designer is the only way to last. Many designers might be here today, but do you honestly see them lasting over the years, after the creative designers die? Do you see their names carrying on?

The fashion scene in Nigeria has become a hobby for the cool and judging by the shows and poor quality of work, many of these upcoming designers tend to see this more as a mere social event rather than an actual job. Fashion designers need to focus on the quality and duplicity of their work. Making sure they produce top-notch clothing of impeccable quality including proper neat finishing.

I am not trying to knock anyone’s hustle because I must commend the dedication of fashion designers and enthusiasts alike in these past few years but there is a lot of room for improvement. Take a cue from successful fashion designers such as the late Yves Saint Laurent who started out as Christian Dior‘s assistant before later taking over the line and then going on to create his own self-named fashion line. He is till date one of the greatest names in fashion history. One is not saying that it is not possible to have a successful fashion label without interning first, but like any other job one must be trained properly before embarking on a career or job in that field especially here in Africa where the fashion industry is fast becoming competitive.

Things to consider before starting a fashion brand:

Educate Yourself: This is probably the first thing you should do. Take a short course in clothing and textiles. Learn the difference between organza and taffeta or a sweetheart neckline and a boat neckline. Learn what it means for fabric to be ‘cut on the bias’, basic colour blending and what fabric can be mixed with another. Knowing how to sketch is also a very important aspect of fashion designing. Knowing how to properly represent a client’s idea of an outfit on paper will always score you extra points. There are lots of online websites where you can learn fashion drawing for free.

Experience: Gain experience in the business before plunging right into it, risking your money and time. Perhaps by discussing with a friend who is into fashion as well you can learn a few things. I personally recommend interning with a fashion designer. That way you get first-hand knowledge on what it is really like behind the scene and you also get to forge strong friendships that would help you when you eventually launch your line.

Do The Math: Do you have available funds, are you financially stable? Do you want to apply for a loan from the bank? Do you want to borrow money from friends and family to start up your business? Or do you want your friends and family to invest in your business as partners? Do you plan on starting out in your house and then branching out into a rented store later on? You have to take into consideration the cost of rent and diesel or petrol for your generator as one cannot rely on PHCN. Or do you want to have an online store?

Work Out the Logistics: Do you want to hire some of our highly talented Eastern brothers and set them up in a warehouse? Or do you want to go all out and send your designs to China or India to be produced? Every fashion designer or high street line has to have its own individual essence that makes it stand out. Just as Jewel by Lisa is usually bedazzled and has the youthful flair or Ituen Basi is known for her patchwork and fringed dresses so also should your clients be able to tell your designs when they see it. Know your target market. You cannot produce skin hugging dresses mini dresses and expect Nigerian women in their 30s  to be flocking into your store.

Advertising/PR: You need PR to ensure word on your line gets out to the right people, to make sure you are interviewed by the right people and to make sure you get invited to the right fashion shows and parties. This way you meet loads of people and make valuble connections.  This will ensure your entry into the fashion scene is marginally easier. Also getting the right modelling agency to provide models for your fashion show.

Most importantly you have to be dedicated and truly passionate to last in the fashion industry. Underneath all the glamour and hot bods is sheer dedication and hard work. By the way I am not saying that you have to follow these exact rules for guaranteed success. You could always start out in your boys-quarters or better still sketch what you want to sew, send it along with fabric to your tailor in Mushin, put your own label on it and the get your skinny tall friends to model the clothes for you. For advertising, you could just make a twitter account and a Facebook account for your line and harass people to retweet and like your pages and frustrate people by sending Blackberry broadcasts three times a day. It is way cheaper: D

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