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Fashion Business Basics with Isoken Ogiemwonyi: Production, Sourcing & Supply Chain



IMG_9626Fashion Business Basics is a 6-part series by fashion entrepreneur with Isoken Ogiemwonyi, which will feature on BellaNaija. You may recall BN featured Isoken and her partner in the BN Making It series, back in 2011. Since then, she has gone on to achieve even greater feats, making her mark firmly in the fashion industry in Nigeria. We hope that aspiring fashion entrepreneurs will benefit from this series. Click here to read the first part, , the second part and the third part.

As a retailer of primarily Made in Nigeria fashion, lifestyle and beauty brands – one of my key issues is replenishment, which is tied to easily the most problematic part of the value chain in the fashion industry on the continent today – Production.

It is far from the glitz and glam of the runway, and requires more than a fair amount of detail (not to mention grit, patience and willpower). However, it is by far the most important part of your route to market. Without product, there is nothing to sell and nothing to create awareness around. Especially in this market, where most designers manage their own sampling, production and sales.

Producing commercial quantities in a country riddled with infrastructural problems, production goes from difficult to near impossible. Getting physical product in a saleable condition, from skilled artisans is a herculean task and our peculiar lack of quality control and line production personnel can make it seem even more insurmountable – and as an independent designer probably working on supply to one or more independent retailers or directly to your end consumer. How do you make the important merchandising decisions on what sizes, colours and prints to make?

Production is key for a ready wear brand. It is the make or break factor for  any consumer facing  brand. Too little and you don’t maximise profit; too much and you lose money and face deep discounting that can have repercussions fro your brand e.g. teaching your end consumer to always expect deep discounting, affecting your brand’s value perception. It is essential to streamline your production process before you invest time and money in the design, sales and marketing costs.

While there are endless overseas options for production – major limitations for small brands can be  high MOQs (minimum order quantities) and the pervasive forex issues – for brands looking abroad. Finding quality suppliers can be challenging and as a result, many brands are very secretive and protective of their manufacturing sources.

Let’s look at some major keys!

Buy Wide, Not Deep
Unless you’re a more established brand with reams of data on what sells and perhaps even a bestsellers or basics line – its i likely that you will have to take some time to test to find what works, especially as you grow your product line. Make a few styles in a few sizes as opposed to over investing in commercial quantities that you may be unable to move.

Value Feedback and Make Data Driven Decisions
Speak to your retailers and ask end consumers for feedback as often as you can. This will help yo if you have a website, use your analytics to make decisions about how much to produce based on what your clientele is actually buying. Forecasting isn’t an exact science but it’s a useful tool to predict what you need to keep making each season .

Identify Key Partners – For Retail. Merchandising and Production
Retailers – For ready to wear designers – each retail point of sale is a valuable opportunity to learn what your consumer wants , not only from your brand but from brands across the board. Developing relationships can help you glean hard to access data about what works and what doesn’t. Leveraging relationships, from other companies you have worked with in any complimentary industry is a good start – someone always knows someone and can help you make useful introductions to retailers and distributors across the continent and in the diaspora.

For more Partner Resources please look here, there’s a list of all sorts of companies and experts who can help you on your journey!

I hope this has been helpful! And if anyone has any questions or ideas feel free to email me!

Isoken is Editor at Large of BellaNaija Style and runs Editorial Business & Strategy at BNStyle. She is also the founder of the award-winning company behind fashion, beauty and lifestyle multi brand store ZAZAII. She has been in the business of fashion since 2009 and is passionate about fashion, communications, native content and growing the fashion industry in Nigeria . She writes The Fashion Business Series to deliver actionable insight for brands in the fashion and creative sectors and blogs about personal style at A Million Pinks. Follow her on Instagram @theobsidianway @amillionpinks @experiencezazaii BellaNaija Beauty: @bellanaijabeauty BellaNaija Style: @bellanaijastyle BellaNaija Living@bellanaijaliving


  1. tunmi

    December 5, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Whomever that you woman in the photo is is mad gorgeous!!!!

  2. Andy

    December 5, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you Isoken for this. You have really grown immensely doing this and have shown real passion! well done dear! I move back to Nigeria next year God willing and will like real guidance on how to deal with the Nigerian fashion landscape and how to launch out in it?. We have just launched in the UK on a small scale & I’m soo excited to see my ideas come to life! Your resources and practical advice are really insightful.

  3. Lulu

    December 5, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Data driven decisions are key. As creatives we tend to be less logical than business climates would allow. This is a salient point. The entire post is amazing. Thanks Isoken!

  4. ...just saying

    December 5, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Madame, you need to master the game of consistency. You are too inconsistent on these articles. Choose a pattern,..weekly, bi weekly, monthly etc. Not weekly for 2 weeks, bi weekly for one month and then monthly. Haba! Respect your readers now

  5. Chinenye

    December 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    I love you Isoken! I always look forward to your posts. I started my clothing line some months ago and truthfully, production has been the most difficult part of the process and i dont even know how to sew anything.I was just looking for a factory that i could partner with to produce for me in large quantities and her you are giving me access to a lot of options. wheew! Thank you so so much for this.
    I’m so goint to send you a mail.

  6. Well done

    December 5, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    You just made my day, darling! Please watch this IG space, @dengeposeafrica to see how we eventually transform into a textile manufacturing brand. Amen #dreamsmakethevisionclearer

  7. nino

    December 6, 2016 at 11:29 am

    in the spirit of feedback.
    Zazaii is running amok.
    I went last week thursday to find a dress for a wedding.
    Was very disappointed.
    Most of the labels they stocked last year were gone. The clothes were strewn all around the place and those hung up were wrinkled and sad looking.

    Finally found a dress and wanted to have some adjustments made. Sales rep took my number and promised to get back to me by end of day.
    As i type now, no words heard.

  8. Queen Jay

    December 9, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Well written and very helpful article. I shall also be sending you an email soon. thanks Isoken

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