Destiny Eke Okorie is the CEO of Hylook Fashions established in 2010. In this interview with Solomon Nda-Isaiah, he speaks on why Nigerian entertainers should wear made in Nigeria clothes, saying that Nigerian designers manufacture some of the best men’s outfits in the world.
What motivated you into fashion design?
I have always loved to dress well and to read. It was while reading Napoleon Hill’s book –Think and Grow Rich, back in the 90s that I learnt the idea that you should build your carrier around something you love or are good at. So in the year 2000, I started my first fashion business – making clothes in Aba and selling them to Nigerians in Cotonou where many of my relatives lived. I stayed in the business for about two years before I decided to join my brother in the importation of used clothing business. Importation of used clothing was thriving in Cotonou then, and my plan was to make big money and later invest it in the fashion industry in Nigeria. I later began to travel to the UK for used clothing business. It took a long time, but I did make lots of money in the importation business. Then something happened in 2010. I had invested in some bad businesses, including a couple of companies that went bankrupt in the UK and I lost a significant chunk of my capital. With the little money I had remaining, fresh five years multiple UK Visa, and fresh two years multiple American Visa, it was a moment of decision. But I was already fed up with the used clothing thing. I was longing to create my own fashion brand.
Why did you choose Made- in- Nigeria design?
Well, I thought of going to Italy, Turkey or China to buy new clothes or make my own branded outfits, but the idea I had was more than just another business. It was a vision to make world class clothing here in Nigeria and supply other boutique owners in Nigeria and Africa, instead of them going abroad to source their clothes, and also to build a chain of my own fashion shops all over Nigeria and Africa. I wanted to make clothes that fit so perfectly. I believe that you feel so good when what you wear fits so well. So I wanted to be in total control of the production processes here in Nigeria. I also wanted to create unique African designs with international appeal, and what better place to do that than at home; while at the same time, creating massive employment opportunities for our people as the company grows.
What kind of designs do you make?
At the moment, we are focused on African inspired designs with international appeal.
Can you give an insight into some of your favourite designs and fabrics?
We work with different fabrics like brocade, voile, ankara, and suiting fabrics. But our favourite fabric at the moment is suiting fabric which is used all over the world. We use it for Nigerian suit (also known as senators’ suit), suiting caftan, and Nigerian safari suit. Every man seems to be falling in love with the designs because they are elegant, easy to wear, good for offices and all occasions, suitable for our hot weather, simply classy. Business executives and professionals love them, politicians can’t have enough of them, and even foreigners are not left out.
What are your challenges in the industry?
We all know the obvious challenges facing entrepreneurs in Nigeria – lack of steady power supply, difficulties in accessing loans, etc. But one of the major challenges we face is lack of highly skilled tailors. It’s amazing how many people are looking for jobs and yet very few are willing to master a skill.
What are your aims and aspirations?
We make bespoke (custom-made) and ready-to-wear clothes. But our main vision is to have Hylook clothes sold in all major boutiques in Nigeria and Africa, and to also have a chain of Hylook shops in major cities in Nigeria and Africa. Our long term aim is to have massive factories around Nigeria where we design and manufacture all manner of high quality clothing for Nigerian and international markets.
Do you have a mentor in the industry?
Amancio Ortega, the owner of Zara clothing brand, is one of my mentors. He has built a fashion company where they design, manufacture, and retail their own clothing brands. They have shops around the world. In some ways, I modelled Hylook on Zara.
What else do you do aside fashion design?
Actually, I’m a bit of a workaholic. Over the last six years, all my life has been work. But as we continue to reorganise and restructure the company, I’m beginning to create time for myself.
Are you married?
I hope to get married really soon.
What stands you out from others?
We don’t just make clothes, we add values that are difficult for other designers in our field to replicate. Hylook stands for style and class, excellent finishing, perfect fit, quick delivery, elegant designs, world class quality. Our designs are simply unique and our clothes are specially cut for your perfect fit. The evidence is that Hylook clothes are always on high demand. We never have off season. Our work-force keeps expanding.
Can you tell us some celebrities and personalities that wear your clothes?
Over the years, we have been so focused on product quality and customer satisfaction that we never had time to promote the Hylook brand. Our success has been solely dependent on repeat custom and referrals. Celebrities like John Fashanu and Bob Manuel have literarily fallen in love with the Hylook brand since coming in contact with it. We make clothes for many past and present governors like former governors Liyel Imoke and Babangida Aliyu, governors Nyesom Wike and Rochas Okorocha, to mention a few. Also, countless distinguished senators and honorable members of the Federal House of Representatives cannot go to the hallowed chambers without adorning their classy Hylook designs. Innumerable top business executives in Abuja and other cities are all loyal and happy clients of the Hylook brand.
Who are your favourite Nigerian musician and Nollywood star? And why the choices?
Many of our musicians are on top of their game. They are so good they are taking over the world. But Timi Dakolo’s Great Nation is one of my favourite songs. We must love and believe in Nigeria despite all the challenges facing us. The veteran actor Olu Jacobs is a great man. He also promotes the Made- in – Nigeria designs.
What message do you have for Nigeria and Nigerians at 56?
At 56, I think it is high time we Nigerians realized that we have all it takes to build a great nation. We should patronize Nigerian brands more and more. Look at the Arabs and Indians, what we will call their native clothing is what they wear as their official and corporate outfits every day. I will also thank our politicians for adopting Nigerian designs as their daily official wear. Imagine our banking institutions, government institutions, corporate organisations, pastors and churches also wearing Nigerian ‘native’ designs as their daily official and corporate outfits. Think of the amount of money we spend on the importation of western suits which is not even suitable for our hot weather. We should learn to be proud of who we are, our culture, and style; then foreigners who visit Nigeria will also be proud to join in dressing like we do.
How do you relax?
Well, I love to read whenever my tight schedule allows me. I also play and watch football.
What advice do you have for young Nigerians who will love to toe your line?
Don’t go into fashion just because of money. Do it because you love it and you want to make a difference. Your passion and the big picture in your head is what will keep you going. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Where do you hope to see yourself and your designs in three years time?
Currently, we have two Hylook retailing outlets in Abuja. We also supply the Hylook brand to eight independent boutiques in Abuja. In the next three years, we hope to become a house-hold name in Nigeria and Africa, supplying our brand to many boutiques in Nigeria and Africa. We also hope to have more Hylook shops in more Nigerian and African cities.
What advice do you have for Nigeria’s entertainment industry?
I will like our musicians to wear more Nigerian designs on their video shoots as this will help boost the appeal for Made- in- Nigeria designs both locally and internationally.
Where is your favourite holiday spot?
So far, I only go on holiday once a year during Christmas. And no place beats my home town, Alayi in Abia State. It is the place to be in Christmas- lots of cultural dance and fun activities. I also get to catch up with friends and relatives who travelled back home from all corners of the earth.