The uber-talented, fast-rising twins behind Alex Folzi are notable personalities amongst the fashion community in Canada. One can catch a glimpse of their classic trunks making rounds on many blogs and tumblrs of note. Despite the ever-changing script of their personal lives; which recently involved a move from Alberta to Vancouver, Canada, the one thing that remains constant is the hard-work and dedication that is put into all collections released by their brand.
Alex Folzi originally started as a low-scale menswear clothing line but has fast transcended into a mid-range-to-high-end luxury goods, merchandise and lifestyle brand. The brand officially lauched its womenswear line on the 12th of October 2011.
As the only boys from the Fagbure clan of six children, Fela and Fola showed interest in fashion from a very young age which led to the launch of Alex Folzi in January 2010.
An interview with these young entrepreneurs shed a whole new light on inspiration, goals and achievements; as they have accomplished so much in less than 2 years.
Nneka Nwokeocha: A brief but detailed description of who Fela and Fola Fagbure are.
Alex Folzi: We are Students/Entrepreneurs and we are also the Founders/Creative Directors of Alex Folzi. We love building and investing in Fashion, Lifestyle and Internet start-ups. We live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Vancouver) and we love innovating.
NN: What does Fola’s job entail as the Business Manager of the Alex Folzi brand?
AF: Fola mainly deals with the manufacturing and distribution of new products which includes the marketing and promotion aspect as well. He is also in charge of the developed brand strategy and statistics systems, and strategic consulting which includes the business plan and sales strategy development.
NN: What does Fela’s job entail as the Creative Director of the Alex Folzi brand?
AF: Fela is in charge of majority of the designs that go through our team, he oversees the whole design process and he is in charge of selecting the right materials, colours, and styles for a product. He is also in charge of our trend forecasting and resources/outsourcing team. Basically whatever idea for a product that comes up has to go through Fela before it is even considered in the next stage for drafting/manufacturing. He also handles all the media campaigns which include photo shoots, models and location scouting.
NN: What is a typical day at work?
AF: A typical day at work is stressful at first but later gets bearable. We wake up at 7:30am, get ready and leave our apartment for work by 9:00am. When we get to work we reply emails, answer phone calls, hold meetings (If there is any to hold), go through catalogs, watch fashion shows for inspiration, read magazines, blogs, and articles so we can be up to date, go through designs with our team members or the artist we are working with. This is done back and forth till the day is over by 6pm. We are at school Wednesday – Friday from 9am-6pm so the only day we have to work is on Monday and Tuesday. Sometimes we work during the weekend but it is usually not as intense as what we do on Monday and Tuesday.
NN: Is it difficult having two captains aboard the Alex Folzi ship?
AF: No, it is not difficult. It is more of a blessing to us, especially being twin brothers.
NN: You are both students, how do you shuttle between school and work?
AF: It is easy, just have a good and reasonable schedule and avoid mixing school and work together. It was difficult at first but with time, we got the hang of it.
NN: Alex Folzi initially began in January 2010 as a menswear line. Besides expanding the brand, are there any other reasons behind the drift in the direction of classic luggage and leather goods?
AF: Well we decided to re-brand the company to become a classic leather goods and accessories brand because due to the heavy competition for design clothing in North America, we decided it was time to remove Alex Folzi from this market.
NN: Since its debut has Alex Folzi been faced with any kind of competition from the Fashion Market in Canada?
AF: Yes it has, we definitely have few competitors in the industry but we try as much as possible to remain unique and stand out in our own way in what we do.
NN: So far, your briefcases have been shipped to the United states, Brazil, Nigeria, Paris and distant parts of Canada. Where else have they been shipped to and how have you been able to cope with orders?
AF: We have also shipped our briefcases to Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, UK, China, India and the Philippines. We find it amusing because the first order we actually had was from Australia and till date we still wonder how the customer heard about us. Shipping to other international countries can create success for you and at the same time break you because sometimes customers complain about problems with custom officers in their country while receiving the package or the package delivered was damaged or something goes wrong. In such instances, we may cover the expense for that customer because in true trading terms customers are always right. But in the long-term we still get good referrals, feedback, and publicity, so the hustle is worth it all.
NN: Have any celebrities or people of note been seen toting their beloved Alex Folzi trunks or briefcases?
AF: We have had famous fashion bloggers, stylist, and models carry our briefcase but in terms of celebrities no, not that we know of or have seen. But we bet someone out there will probably have one.
NN: What sparked the decision to incorporate Ankara into the AF x EO collection?
AF: A lot of people may not know the artist Ojo Evelyn is from Nigeria but she grew up and lived in Canada all through her life. So we decided to take the collection back home and incorporate something in it that could relate to our culture and the first thing that came to our mind was to use Ankara.
NN: At the moment Alex Folzi is based in a North-American Country. The population is predominantly non- Nigerian /African. Based on this, do you think that the AF x EO collection would be received with a huge dose of positive reviews?
AF: Oh yes, definitely! The reviews were crazy. A lot of people fell in love with the illustrations. We usually do our research before we bring out any product and if it is a no-go area in the market we wouldn’t bring it out. The economy is still recovering from the recession so at the end of the day you will have to make profit out of something you sell, if not you will run out of business in no time.
NN: Was involving Evelyn Ojo in your limited womenswear collection based on her skillfulness at sketching or did she have a major role in deciding what fabrics, patterns etc that went into the collection?
AF: We fell in love with her sketches the first moment we saw some of her work on the Internet, thanks to tumblr. So we had no other choice than to contact her for a collaboration. She is a very talented young lady and we can’t wait to see what she comes up with in the future. We actually came up with the ideas together, nobody really had a major role in deciding what to do. It was something we had to rub minds about and pan out ideas together. That’s why it’s a collaboration between her, Ojo Evelyn and Alex Folzi.
NN: On the AF Youtube Channel, there is a promo Video for an Accessories line. What can we expect to see in that collection?
AF: You can expect to see products ranging from jewelry to small leather goods. It’s something we have been working on for the longest time now, we are always conscious of perfection so we wouldn’t want to rush a product and come out with something bad. We had some water resistance problem with some of the past briefcases that we manufactured so since then we had to pay close attention to our products.
NN: Do you have plans on opening any flagship stores in the nearest future? and if you do, where would your first 3 stores be located?
AF: Yes we do, we are currently scouting locations here in Vancouver. So our first store would be in Vancouver, our second store hopefully in New York, and our third store hopefully in Nigeria. It all depends on time and the growth of the company.
NN: Is the Alex Folzi brand being funded solely by the Fagbure twins?
AF: We got our first round of funding from our dad and since then we have been funding it ourselves until recently when we had to expand our manufacturing and upgrade our services. Then we started looking for outside investors to help with the second round of funding but our dad was kind enough to still help out again. Family is key, stay close to the ones you love and your life shall forever remain a blessing. We can’t express how much he has done for us, but all we can say is that he is the best dad ever.
NN: Your Brown classic trunks bear commendable resemblance in physical outlook, quality and (sometimes) price range to those over at Louis Vuitton, Hermes and MCM. Is this a distinct upscale line that would cater to high-end consumers only?
AF: We find it funny because people always add Alex Folzi to the same group with the other high end brands. Firstly, our target market is totally different from those brands you mentioned. We might be making the same product but not reaching the same people/customers. Louis Vuitton, Hermes and MCM are all upscale lines that cater to high-end and more of the older consumers while we are more of an affordable price line that carter to young consumers (Ages 17-25) that are willing to pay a good price for a good quality product.
Secondly, our prices are totally different. You will never see those brand selling the same product we are selling for the same amount we sell ours for, they would probably sell their briefcases/trunks times 3 or 4 the amount we sell ours for. Thirdly, we feel the luxury market is already bombarded with too many brands and it would definitely not be a wise decision for us to make as a fresh line to enter the luxury/high end market and compete with the top dogs. Their resources and capitals are way much higher than ours so we wouldn’t even be able to survive in this economy making the same product with them. Well don’t quote us wrong, it is possible to compete with them and still succeed by taking a share from the market and make profit out of it but we would rather go for a market that is less discovered and try and make a name from it. The market we are heading for is still a virgin market so we still have full advantage over it.
NN: What genres do both of your individual styles belong to? (Preppy, Grunge, Classic etc).
AF: Our styles change with time so it’s usually hard to describe. But if we are to describe it right now, we would say it’s more of preppy and classic.
Fola: Right now you can catch me wearing a brown three-piece tweed suit with a green military jacket.
NN: Describe a day of rest for the both of you.
AF: Sleeping till 1pm in the afternoon, have friends over for drinks later in the afternoon, then watching movies till late at night. We try to keep our Blackberrys away to avoid replying emails but it hardly happens.lol.