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

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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

Photo Credit: afwny.com

71 Comments

  1. Blush

    September 8, 2011 at 11:44 am

    right!

    • Lala

      September 8, 2011 at 10:38 pm

      Please tell them!!

  2. bonmeee

    September 8, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Must §Ą̸̸̸y I gained a lot from this particulatr article, thank you

  3. LL

    September 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Fashion Design 101.
    Most “professionals” in Nigeria need to apply these lessons. Thanks Kelechi, for this free knowledge.

  4. Kach

    September 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Thank you very much. You couldn’t have said it better!

  5. ayodeji

    September 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

    very insightful…much thanks

  6. LamLam

    September 8, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Apt!

  7. Huh?

    September 8, 2011 at 11:55 am

    NICE ONE!!!!!….THEY NEED TO KNOW!!!!!

  8. Demmy

    September 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I really like this post because I want to be a fashion designer when I’m older and what this post says is true. 🙂

  9. Biodun

    September 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Very very good article…at last someone speaks the truth!! #saynotomediocrity

  10. Yetunde

    September 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    All I can say really is THANK YOU for this. Simply, THANK YOU

  11. Tiki

    September 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Too true. Thanx luv, this is constructive criticism indeed.

  12. twamz

    September 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    a very good one. all aspiring designers should take note

  13. michelle femi

    September 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I really enjoyed this article..its addresses a problem we’re facing in the fashion industry, most of our recent fashion designers lack fashion education and experience and as a result fade away in a cople of years sometimes months. True!

  14. kiki

    September 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    True talk. Its a reality many don’t like to face. They do it cause they feel everyone is doing it. Typical Nigerian mentality. Acquiring knowledge is just way beyond some people’s thought line.

    4 days left to give Sophie a chance to be placed in the Semi-finals of the Miss Universe finals. There’s still time to keep voting.
    You can vote up to Ten times a day. http://www.facebook.com/groups/64674186860/?id=10150271459751861#!/pages/MBGN/134391599987850?sk=wall&filter=2

  15. luvbogg

    September 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Thanx a lot.

    • cleo

      November 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Hehehehehehe…now i know where all your harassment started from…wink…wink

  16. FlashFlash

    September 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Wow, this is one of the best articles i’ve read in a while….. Thought i was the only one who noticed how everyone wants to be a fashion designer. I’ve met people who have opened fashion houses because they are fashionable people, dress well, or design their clothes for their tailors to make or think the fashion design business is the next big thing. The truth is like you rightly said they don’t really stand the test of time. Anyone who’s in the fashion business would agree that its very challenging, by the time nigerian, senegalese, ivorian tailors frustrate them, overhead, lack of inspiration, or poor quality of zippers, buttons, fabrics etc they close shop……lol. Being in this industry goes beyond being stylish…. pheww. Most of the designers we have aren’t very creative because they have refused to educate themselves and understand the rudiments of the profession. Designing, illustration, stitching, fabric manipulation, running the fashion business are all different. At the end of the day, if you are really passionate about the fashion industry, you’ll settle down and apply all that has been highlighted in the article. Thank you again for this.

  17. lawal adedayo

    September 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    This is α very gud post.i luv it.it has encouragd pple lyk M̶̲̥̅ε̲̣̣̣̥ dt wants to go into desinging gives us an insight of Wђã† we want to do.kip it up

  18. Temi

    September 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    lol @ “collar that covers the neck” you hit the nail on the head

  19. o

    September 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Gbam. I had this discussion with a friend yrs ago.

  20. myme

    September 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    ….Exactly…..people think fashion design a glamourous job…..the only part if the fashion show……every other part is ALOT of work and dedication. I have been told I wasted money to study fashion…..if only they know how well grounded the education makes me.

  21. Ogor

    September 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Very well written. I especially love the last paragraph..lol..:)

  22. dewowo

    September 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    lol @ You could always start out in your boy squatters 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

  23. madman

    September 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Nice article. Only speaks to the follow-follow Nigerian mentality. One person decides to be a fashion designer, jealousy first reeks in, then the next thing is that everyone else wants to do it….. yikes!

  24. http://mynaijalifestyle.blogspot.com

    September 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    i hope Jim Iyke and Ruggedman read this. its not just to start clothing line wit mouth, clothing line dat deir own family member cant wear d clothes….lol

    Very good knowledge shared.

  25. jay

    September 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    i am a fashion consultant i i constantly say this to fashion designers . am so happy about this article i will be refferiing clients to go and read it. loads of them are just tailors and never take their work to the next level

  26. lara

    September 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    yeah u r rite,some designers could be very annoying,u will see some cloths on the runway n u begin to wonder if u could actually wear that…..they don’t expect what the 40s wear from what the 20s,every body want to be a designer……

  27. K!

    September 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Nice post. People really need to educate themselves before venturing into fashion designing. Not everyone tailor is a Fashion Designer.

    BN, please check the last paragraph. I think the writer was trying to say ‘Boys Quarters’ not ‘Boy Squatters’

  28. Aibee

    September 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    You are so on point. A lot of the up-coming designers really need to sit down and learn the ropes. I’ve seen posts on BN where the finishing is not up to par and the styles are really immitations of some foreign high street designs. To excel at any thing in life, one must learn the ropes and work hard to surpass the teachers themselves.

  29. Rhollar

    September 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful article.I wouldn’t mind if you can recommend a good fashion institute in lagos for me cos i would like to be a designer.

  30. iwalewa

    September 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    ure very right.everyone wants to be a fashion designer but dnt know wat it takes to become one.love this piece.

  31. princess umeh

    September 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    this is educating. tnx so much for d expo.lol!

  32. princess umeh

    September 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    tnx

  33. dColourCouture

    September 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    This is a brilliant article. I like how you stated your points without trying to put budding designers down. I hope this remind people that the key to a sucessful career is passion, expertise and plenty of hardwork!
    http://thecolourcouture.wordpress.com

  34. Truth be told

    September 8, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    i like this. not many comments aye? cos people dont want to face the truth. nice one jare

  35. Onyinye

    September 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    #gbam!!

  36. Bee

    September 8, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    nice article…

  37. Uju G

    September 8, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    The rule is – anything worth doing is worth doing well/right cos at the end it’s how well … Great Article

  38. Fashionbrief

    September 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Very good constructive criticism which is well written as it also provides solutions on what can be done to improve the situation.

    Kudos.

    You can check out The Business of Fashion series on http://fashion-brief.blogspot.com/2011/09/business-of-fashion-basics.html

  39. mee2

    September 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    THANK YOU O! i guess after dis articlce no one is permitted to showcase tacky collections.

  40. Universal

    September 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    You touched basis on a few good points, however. I don’t believe in Fashion “Politics”. You wrote this article as it were a handbook. Fashion is set on a large scale. It is not boxed into to some conformed notion. It is creativity liberated. There is no “step by step” holy manual on HOW to become a fashion designer. If fashion is instilled within you, it comes natural and effortless for you to create something that people want to wear. Some have an eye for design, some don’t. The key things to consider is the proper cut in fashion. Anything that is not properly tailored and cheaply made will be apparent when it is placed on a model. You could go to Fashion School and still graduate and be completely clueless on how to design clothes that people WANT to wear. You can’t box something in that is forever evolving. Fashion is forever evolving. Those who aren’t evolving with it believe otherwise. So what are you saying? One can’t be a fashion designer because they didn’t go to Fashion School or spent endless hours being a intern to someone who only limits them to filing paper work or grabbing lunch and coffee for the office? Spare me.

    • toni

      September 11, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      that’s not the point being made at all quit being sensitive you’re either guilty of this or you know someone that is. all the article is saying is dont jump into waters youre not adequately equipped to maneuver.

    • Another Dee

      September 12, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Ese jare!! I was thinking the same thing.

      H0nestly this is common sense it should not be some revelation to some. There is no one way to becoming a fashion designer and interning is not that easy if not everyone of the so called designers as the poster implies would have done or would be doing it. I would have thought you would even state HOW to get an internship and to make the best of it since you are providing a “step by step” guide.

  41. BEE

    September 9, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Very well put together, i hope they can all hear the most of them, glorified dress carpenters!. pls this write up shouldn’t only apply to designers other areas too e.g PR, stylist, event planner, etc…everybody just wants to do, follow follow syndrome in 9ja just makes it all look so watered down. no quality at all kai.

  42. BEE

    September 9, 2011 at 12:51 am

    how did i forget, make-up too, before the etc

  43. Hmmmm

    September 9, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Very well said – but please check your spellings and expressions before publishing – “it is posisibly” and “boy squatter” it just drops the rep of an absolutely well written piece. The message of the article however is ON POINT!!

  44. makeme

    September 9, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Gr8 advice- but @bee i dont believe a particular biz idea is meant for one person so pple that get inspired to do wat they like shoudnt be insulted(referring to ur follow follow syndrome) rather encourage them to perfect their know-hows just like kelechiarinze did.if one person controls the market then how do u get to choose from varieties?

  45. Miss Lula

    September 9, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Thanks alot for this piece cos i was starting to get tired of the ‘fashion designer” label i see everyday.. Everyone is a designer now, whatever happened to being a dress maker and smiling to the bank and improving your skills before u get into full scale designing, besides just making clothes doesnt make one a designer because a lot of creativity and consistency is required to earn that title. I hope the ” amateur ” designers take a hint and develop themselves before branding themselves for the african fashion market.
    @flashflash… Nicely put.

  46. cee

    September 9, 2011 at 10:47 am

    well said makeme.

  47. pynk

    September 9, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Nail hit on the head. FOlks follow follow like no mans bizness.

  48. Cynthia

    September 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Nice article!

  49. jhummie

    September 9, 2011 at 11:32 am

    CORRECT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well said. thanks a bunch.(winks)

  50. hyperfashun

    September 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Nicely written kelechi. The general misconception is that fashion is all fun and games and red carpets. but it is not. you have to educate yourself first and also be dedicated just like any other career. i enjoyed reading this.

    http://hyperfashun.blogspot.com

  51. Onyx

    September 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Well said and this was a long time coming because I just tire for the direction the Nigerian fashion industry’s headed towards… no creativity spells out a short-term existence.

    One other thing to add to your article, which you alluded to in passing is “know your target market”. If you want to make something for everyone, then by all means become Nigeria’s answer to Primark, God knows we need one of them.

    But if you want to reign in a particular bracket, know your market. I’m continually amazed at how clueless some Nigerian fashion houses seem to be wt their lines…

  52. Nwokeocha Uzoaku Eden

    September 11, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Explicitly spoken. You have addressed the current situation without a doubt.

  53. adaeze

    September 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Looove ur article babe! Fashion is serious business and not some random hobby. Can some1 pls direct Wana Sambo to ths post? She needs to read this!

  54. Temi

    September 11, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    handy advice.thank you!!

  55. toni

    September 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    fave fave fave fave lol poeople just wanna get into the fashion industry for the supposed glamor and dont wanna put in any of the hard work smh. this is a great article.

  56. JWMEO

    September 12, 2011 at 12:02 am

    i smiled after reading this……..every tom dick n harry wants to become a fashion designer this days by buying materials and sewing shirts with sme tag on it….thanks a lot,this shud bring a break to d fashion industry

  57. Desy Egbuson

    September 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    This is a very good article. Information rules the world. thanks!

  58. makky

    September 13, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    kelechi Arinze nice one. my question is this; where can one get such schools in Nigeria, Lagos to be precise, the kind of school where one could be taught the rudiments of this profession?
    eg; where one can get short course on clothing and textile, courses on basic colour blending and what fabric can be mixed with another, names of different shapes of neckline, etc. I need an answer to these as they are so important to me personally, or even a website where i can find them and read up. thanks everyone. God bless.

  59. mopile

    September 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    well said…………can i have your contact pls?.

  60. kukze

    November 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    i believe the industry is not big enough to take the number of interns that will show interest, besides how easy is it to get an opportunity of becoming an intern with any of the big names in the industry. just has u have written this article, u can do a series of articles on the important things and terms people who want to go into the industry need to know. Not everyone who is gifted has the financial capability of going to a fashion school or the connection to do their internship with the top designers in the industry. Lets be more of solution providers not critics. you have pointed out a problem which is very good but u need to to take it a step further by writing articles with the information that can help…………

  61. flesym

    November 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Good Critic but not good Counsel. You couldn’t have started so well and end the article on such bad note. Imagine you had someone in front of you and you end on that note. Generally, good info for anyone.

  62. Benjamin Obeten

    October 25, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I’m an aspiring fashion designer and I would like to ask
    you if you would rather recommend I attend a fashion school or take
    up an intern position. If it’s the former, what fashion school
    would you recommend.

  63. Joyce

    August 15, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the post. I am actually searching for where I can do my intern. I am presently in a fashion school here in Lagos and will be through with my course this September, i don’t just want to rush into my own thing but needs a wider knowledge. please can you help me get where I can actually work? Thanks.

  64. Khemfat couture

    October 16, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    This is the best article have read,it came when i needed it …now i know where to work on as a fashion designer…….Thanks

  65. HerbyButtons' Closet

    October 28, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Old article…..and its still inspiring. Thanks a lot for the insight. The fashion world requires dedication, knowledge, passion and more….

  66. phil

    January 22, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Well said! I am greatly inspired.

  67. tclassic couture

    September 14, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Massive article….
    thanks so much, learn a lot from this….

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