Morin Obaweya, designer and CEO at Morin O, says with patience and a consistent approach to quality production, Nigeria’s creative industry will be enhanced for the better. The accessories designer, who launched her Floral Fusion Collection, an assortment of handbags, briefcases, wallets, unisex sandals and slippers at the Dunes in Abuja, notes that in spite of the complexities of operating a business in Nigeria, with passion, innovation and consistency, creatives can find a way around the problems. Comparing the business landscape in Nigeria to tidal waves, entrepreneurs she observes, must swim against tides of impaired work ethics, improper infrastructure, unfavourable working environment, zero policies that enhance businesses and lack of finishing, to survive.
Expanding on the impact of the latter in the fashion world with regards to leather, Obayewa said the absence of an inventory on finished leather on Nigeria’s local tanneries, makes it difficult for local producers as herself to access leather. She says most of the leather produced in the country are produced to the wet-blue stage then exported abroad for finishing. Purchasing leather wholesale and locally rather than retail, helps mitigate cost on production as well as pricing. Where the above system rules, it is bound to affect affordability of made-in-Nigeria products.
Obaweya, apparently found ways to navigate the problem, balance out costs and reach its target of 70 per cent use of local leather. “We have succeeded in getting leather from one or two tanneries. A tannery is also favourably disposed to supplying us leather. So, we are looking at other designs we can collaborate on and get the leather in larger quantity at a cheaper price, so we can make use of more local leather. Our desire is to source 70 per cent of our leather locally, right now we are at about 30 to 40 per cent in this target. We buy another 30 per cent locally, but it is not finished in Nigeria. That means we get the leather in Nigeria but the finishing of the leather isn’t done in Nigeria,
” Obayewa enthused. Maintaining that the collection, inspired by the company’s brand, Morin O, floral designs and henna motifs is relatively affordable by the average Nigerian, in relation to its quality, she says there are price ranges available, with the handbags priced between N32, 000 to N70, 000. “It is a niche market but, it is also for the middle class because a lot of the products we have, to find such quality abroad costs so much more.” Although considered young in the fashion business, in the five years it took to start and launch her products, Morin O, has garnered the experience from her prior years of working in an art gallery, Lifestrokes, and trainings days with Vital Voices, an organisation that provided her the earliest support to delve into the handicraft industry, to read the trends in the creative industry. “Because I go to a lot of madein-Nigerian fairs and exhibitions, I believe the narrative is changing.
There was a leather fair that took place last year, 2017, that wowed everybody. There is a lot of recognition and acceptance of Nigerian brands now. What changes peoples’ perspectives is when they encounter Morin O’s products, they see the quality and durability, and they know they don’t need to buy any other bag but ours,” the designer smilingly responded. Morin O, also has showrooms in New York, Las Vegas, USA as well as in Lagos and Abuja. Speaking of her design and creative process, she admits, “My design is an eclectic fusion of ideas, people, places, sounds, because I travel a lot. Oftentimes, you don’t know what makes an impression on you, but suddenly a design comes to mind, maybe from a cone you saw in Italy or a color palette you saw somewhere in another part of world. My designs start from the idea I have.
The first thing I do, when the idea comes, is to put it down. I picture it in whatever colour(s) it occurs to me – it could be in purple with a lopsided pink flap – you write that down next to your design. That’s the beginning of your mood board. When you have put most of these things together, they all consolidate to the final product.”
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