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Kayito Nwokedi: Is There Any Justification for the High Price of Fashion?

Kayito Nwokedi

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I recently paid a visit to one of Nigeria’s well-known luxury stores that stock just Nigerian brands. I did this because I’ve had friends tell me about the ridiculously expensive price tags that these designers stamp on their garments. The story isn’t new to the ears, but I just wanted to satisfy my curiosity.

So I got to the store and a spare sheath dress caught my attention. The fabric was close to a technical linen with a sheer yoke panel and a couple of pleats at hits hem. The price on it? N90,000. This design was very reminiscent of a vintage dress I saw at Yaba market (cost N1,500) some weeks before this. I was a bit taken aback because I didn’t see anything special that would make a client spend that amount of money on such an item.

Some weeks before the AMVCAs, I took a client for a couple of fittings. Amongst the designers we went to was, Onalaja, a young designer who is known for her modern take on African culture. One of the pieces we tried on was a super heavy hand-beaded midi length dress with long sleeves and an aso-oke corset bodice.

Kanyinsola, the designer, said that piece took almost 2 months to make. The price on that piece ranged above N400,000, which to me was justifiable. First off, it looked and felt expensive. Also, the time and energy put into that piece (according to her) makes it worth the price. Not to mention that it was tailored immaculately.

Zainab Balogun in Onalaja

Bridget Awosika, one of Nigeria’s best design talents, has the most reasonable pricing on her garments. I actually think she undervalues her items. I remember back in 2013, when I was at Mania magazine, we had a photo shoot that required some of her pieces. Of course, the design was notably hers, the detail and finishing were of international standards.

When I looked at the prices on the items, I felt it should have been priced higher. Bridget is one of the few designers we have here with original ideas. Her fabrication is top notch and her finishing is perfect. Even with all the shortcomings of basic amenities like constant electricity, she’s still able to produce quality without the excuse of no light or running on generators all the time.

Bridget Awosika at LFDW 2013

Most designers have argued that you pay not just for the design and cost of production, but for the name on the label as well. My question is, how long have they been in business for them to have competing prices with storied brands like Gucci? Also, most Nigerian designers source fabrics from the same marketplace.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve run into some designers pacing frantically from stall to stall in Tejuosho market buying fabrics. So if your cost of production, design, etc on an item of clothing costs, say, N10,000, why put a price tag of N200,000? Where is the sense in that?

Bridget Awosika at LFDW 2013

In many cases, these designers up the price on their products to gain an added sheen of prestige and exclusivity. Wealthy people, the idea goes, love expressing their wealth by spending as much as they can on high-end items. It is the price tag, not so much as the product itself, that makes an item remarkable – the fact that majority of people can’t afford said item has the inverse effect of imbuing the buyer with power.

I’ve come to understand that, in fashion, true style is how you wear an article of clothing, not the price on it.

So the next time you feel bummed that you can’t afford a N200,000 shift dress, remember: it’s not you, it’s them.

Photo Credits: Kola Oshalusi (Insigna)

Kayito Nwokedi is a Fashion stylist and Editor based in Lagos. He studied Electrical Engineering in Covenant University. He's worked at Mania Magazine, Pride Magazine, and Y!naija. Follow him on Instagram: @kayito_n

26 Comments

  1. Cutieylicious

    March 10, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Excellent write up! All I’ve bin saying!

  2. Tutu

    March 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Bless your heart for this piece. It’s so super annoying. See fashpa selling crepe for 100k. Makes absolutely no sense. Nouva couture crepe skirt and blouse for 70k. It’s ridiculous. It’s not like the satin is made from the skin of a lion or the thread was sourced from Zamunda. Na still Tehuosho/Lagos Market.

    • Brizola

      March 11, 2017 at 4:20 am

      Well… that’s why I have decided to stick with this new brand called belangelique. Affordable prices and they give me the Zara feel. Impeccable finishing. Superb customer service. About the said topic, I believe most Nigerian designers are over priced, so are many designers all over the world. It’s really not about the production cost or where they produce. Other factors come in to play when fixing price points. PR, logistics, branding etc. Sometimes it cost up to 500k for a campaign shoot, minus model, stylist, makeup artist etc. The cost of doing business in Nigeria is outrageous especially if you seek quality. These retailers charge up to 40% on commission and don’t buy off like their international counterparts. They charge you for rent and commission. The designer is left with very little at the end of the day. The cost of production per unit for one Stella McCartney silk blouse is about 150 usd, produced in China like almost every other brand. It retails at about 1,200 usd in stores. Factors like Cost of transportation, Adverts, PR are Put into considerationetc Just stick with what you can afford. These designers are business to make profits too.

    • Lara

      March 12, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      Thank you Brizola 🙂

    • bj

      March 11, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      can i love your comment a million and one times! had the same example in my head

    • Nuna

      March 13, 2017 at 11:09 am

      I swear! Fashpa’s own is so annoying

  3. Tea-nisha

    March 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    “…It’s not you its them” T H I S! Well written Kayito.

  4. josdaily

    March 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Quite on point and great write up

  5. Gaganyx

    March 10, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    It’s simply because Nigerians believe expensive things are better and original. It’s a terrible mentality that needs to be eradicated ASAP!

  6. Joseph

    March 10, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    We have grown to believe that price and quality go together, that’s why most designers and boutique operators continue to use this pricing method to give the impression that they stock premium products. Prospective buyers can look up places like dressmeoutlet.com. I have used them a couple of times and the prices seem fair compared to other designers and retailers of African products and i haven’t had complain on shirts i ordered online.

  7. Lol.

    March 10, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Strange. I knew this was a repurposed version of something I’d read on bellanaija in the past, turns out it was by richard akuson. Dear writer, i’ve read some of your articles, quite good, but i’d advice you stop trying to be another richard. It worked for him because he was the first of his kind. I’m guessing you’re doing all these for a job at bellanaija? Create a different niche for yourself. With richard it felt genuine, but yours feels attention-seeking. I just went on your page and saw how you actually blast designers and tag everyone to your posts. Stop it. In god’s own time you’ll become your own person.

    • Nwachidinma

      March 10, 2017 at 7:06 pm

      Let’s encourage him. Richard’s star shines bright and this has given Mr. Nwokedi permission to shine bright too. “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”- Marianne Williamson.

    • Toni

      March 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      Nothing about this screams Richard Akuson. Try again. Great article by the way.

    • Adisa

      March 10, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Some bitter overpriced designer commenting as Lol.

    • bb

      March 11, 2017 at 10:56 am

      Dear Lol., this comment is the type that stops a talent from becoming the best they can be. What is wrong with a person trying to find and create their own nitche while walking in another’s step? Learn to make creative comments not distructive ones. Someone will also encourage you on your own paths if you have any.

  8. Bee

    March 10, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Hmm if i cant afford it i copy, source for d fabric or d like and give my tailor Vida or Towuro. They make it wellll. I rock and slay, SHikena

  9. Nwachidinma

    March 10, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    I love this!!! So true. Great job Bro 🙂

  10. olanna&odenigbo

    March 10, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    I caught an episode of The Spot with this lady from the 5k shop, Olamide + Zainab, on this same conversation…. and I realised we always manage to have this conversation with narrow perspective… this is an extremely subjective issue cos:
    1.) Affordability is relative…my colleague always reminds me of this when I come to her with ‘where can I get an affordable ….. (fill the blanks)?’ her first response is always, depends on what you mean by affordable- then I have to give her an idea what I mean. Let me explain what someone once made me think about… ‘if I have to psyche up 20-100 people to make a 200k sale or if I had to get 2 people to make a 200k sale, where do you think I’d rather put my energy? I have never seen a 200k shift dress/t shirt so I may be applying wrongly, I would love to see it b4 judging that. But I guess my point here is, it’ll be better to decipher and indeed tell us what is affordable for you, before brandishing everyone overpriced…. the price a person is willing to pay is ALWAYS an indication of the value they believe they will be getting from that product (whether or not you agree wit it). for this singular reason, neither you nor anyone else can conclude for everybody about what is and isn’t overpriced

    ALL of them on The Spot managed to miss the above point in no 1. Now while I wont be in a hurry to buy ANY plain shift dress for 200k even if its made by Dior, I know people who do…I wont buy cos I cant justify it for me….but they justify it. so maybe you should be asking those who have bought to tell you why. I love Deola Sagoe with ALL my heart even though I cant afford her, but I still believe some of her prices are overpriced same way, I believe many other designer (LV, Marc Jacobs, etc) products are ugly and overpriced- so for me I wont be willing to pay, …but if Tom is willing to pay, why should Dick and Harry be crying on his behalf?…

    @Gaganyx has also helped you out a bit, and that’s a true point…all those weaves y’all buy for 100k-200k and above, do you honestly believe that’s the value??? but no …let hair sellers get away with nonsense….and pay 10k for 6hour make up but when it comes to clothing we start pricing it like fish…ain’t that foolish?… Primark has deceived the world into thinking that’s the ideal….no, please go research on the real human costs of producing at that level. it thrives on slavery and mass pollution and that’s what you unknowingly promote. …..

    I am with you on SOME of the points., of course quality is an ongoing debate…but I have never supported generalisations… so again I differ on stuff like- every one sourcing at the same place- where do you want them to source (people have to start where they are with what they have.. Gucci doesn’t price at £30-50 just cause they got their fabrics from Korea, Vietnam, China like others… and don’t kid yourself, many high end brands source and produce in the same far east, cos nobory is a mugu… different levels, maybe…but same market. Take an example like Denim too… itis arguably one of the cheapest fabrics everrrr (Go read how Levis started)……yet people wanna die on top True religion/Gucci denim calling it luxury?…how can you put denim and luxry in the same sentence? it is very laughable. but they have become the luxury brand’s cash cow…cos people are fake all over. they like lies as long as it makes them feel better than the next person… o I am wearing Deola Sagoe Denim, while you rock your newlook pair… and even you Kaito will still justify Deola denim and say its cos of the branding…yet same fabric, zippers, machine sewing, just different name, machinist and location…. Or is it the silk jersey I buy at bout $14/yd (in America o, cos in china it’ll be less than half of that amt)…yet so called foreign luxury designers will use 1.5yd for a shift dress in their ‘diffusion’ lines and peg it $300… why don’t you go ask them these same questions… cos e no consign you.

    Please this story will take forever to dissect. I guess your designers too gotta live, and pay staff above minimum wage..so go figure. They cannot carry last in the Nigerian fakery! Its Friday night, I’m outta hers. Cheers!

    • Anon

      March 10, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      olanna&odenigbo – I like your take. Designers have their clientele.

      Fantastic point about denim. With denim, it’s all about what you wear it with; the top, the blazer/ jacket, the belt, the footwear…
      Also, a lot of high end denim brands fit terribly.

      From the great YSL – ““I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.”

      “‘if I have to psyche up 20-100 people to make a 200k sale or if I had to get 2 people to make a 200k sale, where do you think I’d rather put my energy?”
      In my opinion, I will also put a time factor on this. If 20-100 people buy 200k worth of goods in say 2-3 days or 2 people buy goods worth 2ook twice in a year, who’d you rather?

      “Primark has deceived the world into thinking that’s the ideal….no, please go research on the real human costs of producing at that level. it thrives on slavery and mass pollution and that’s what you unknowingly promote. …..”
      High end labels do this too and they are quite unethical.

    • Mrs Daramola Adiete

      March 11, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Again, This sounds like a bitter over priced designer. And you are still missing the point. Nobody is averse to buying quality like the writer has said, an Onalaja piece is heavily beaded , a jewel by lisa print is customs made, buying balogun or Tejuoso market fabric and slapping a ridiculous price on it is still outrageous no matter how many generators you claim to run, everyone is also running generators yet you haven’t heard ebeano slap a 100k price tag on chicken
      The writer is simply saying let your Quality match your price . I’ve bought from the5kshop a couple of times and their pieces are even better tailored than some of your over priced designers and trust me I’ve worked with and bought from a couple of these designers

      It’s cute you assume the Nigerian tailors or designers are paying well above minimum wage lol .I run a tailoring agency in Yaba and I can assure you that most of these designers pay their tailors chicken change compared to the work they do. that’s why there’s so much poaching anong designers (ask around) and importing of Cotonou artisans because they are perceived to be cheaper and would last longer in the factory. I can go on with schooling you on the primark comparison you brought up but I would be digressing and it’s a story for another day.

      Nigeria needs more reasonable priced labels instead of the ones trying to make their entire rent money in one piece.

  11. Value for money

    March 10, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    To think I just spent $250 for a gucci dress on sale but will need to spend 4 times that on a Nigerian designer is ludicrous. If they truly want people to buy Nigerian – then they have a whole lot work to do with their pricing strategies. I’ll pass on the buy Nigeria campaign and patronize where I can get value for money.

    • hrm

      March 12, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      aunty hmmmmmm gucci dress on sale 250??? ok o but lets just say…. now we have amazing designers in nigeria u ranting blindly wont bring down the price of the dress (trust me deola is worth every penny) they put in a lot of money , time and effort for the images u see and like to get to you … so never expect the dress to be cheap

      note: the average gucci dress is about 2500 and wont go on sale for less that 40% , now that dress wont be more that a shift you paid for ….trust me i know , now if u could pay that much for that? aunty go and buy clan , lisa and the rest and stuff lying to your soul on socal media haba

  12. Adisa

    March 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Very true, if I start mentioning the names of the so called Nigerian designers I have met at Balogun market buying material 650 per yard ehn. Only for you to see the finished product and you see a price tag of 200k on them.

  13. Value for money

    March 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    @A disaster pls name some names because majority of these designers are mediocre at best.

    @ Bella Naija – would you please upload my previous comment? Afterall it’s a platform to air personal opinions.

  14. Lucinda

    March 10, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    If not for laziness, I would have been a designer. I’m artistic. Fine arts and intro tech were the subjects I excelled in above my mates. People have asked who my tailor is. They take their clothes to him and he will sew iya Taju style for them because I design stuff myself. I am the type to buy denim fabric and find a tailor to sew jeans trousers to my taste. I will buy a blazer, take out the black buttons and replace them with a metallic colour. I would buy an embroidery applique and stick to an old bag. I can’t waste money on any Nigerian designer. Never. Both of us will jam in the same Wuse market and you expect me to drop N100k on a kaftan because you want to pay Maitama shop rent. #wehdone_ma.

    • hrm

      March 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      aunty if u can afford it? leave it na its not by force …. tailors have to be paid , light bill, factory rent , shop rent , photographers , models , makeup…. to see all that and still wanna act cheap naaaaaa…. yes we know some dont know jack of wat fashion is , but nxt ur looking for cheap cloth go to mr price

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