Creative Director of EAT, Ejiro Amos Taffiri, a formidable player and business at the forefront of the global fashion market speaks with Millicent Arebun Onuoha about her SS18 collections and the challenges in the Nigerian Fashion among others
What is it about SS18 collections?
My spring summer 2018 collection was inspired by the life of birds and being set free. Birds are free animals that are meant to be free but sometimes they are caged or restricted. When they’re let loose, they fly out with so much joy. This collection is about freedom, being set free, coming into one’s own identity and being confident in it. It is refusing to be held back by whatever held you back previously, be it society, culture, family or even ideology. Basically, having that woman come into her own identity and be free to be who she wants to be.
What is your take on fashion weekends in Nigeria and the resultant benefits?
It is worth it to showcase in such platforms in Nigeria because in my opinion it gives one an opportunity to benchmark oneself with their peers and the world at large. It gives more visibility especially as the world is a global village. When you have such a platform that Vogue, Marie Claire and a lot of international bloggers and prominent fashion magazines attend, it’s great to be among the names they call. For instance, we were mentioned by CNN as one of the designers to watch out for and it’s a huge deal. A lot of people around the world watch CNN. Thus, if you are global player or serious player in the industry who wants to build a fashion brand and empire not just a dressmaker, you should want to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase in such platforms that celebrate and showcase who we are. It also gives you an opportunity to show what you have to your existing and future clients. My clients are very happy to wear the EAT clothing because we are generally represented at such platforms. It gives some sought of recognition and confidence to the woman wearing the brand.
What is the motive behind the creation of EAT Fashion School and its ultimate purpose or aim?
I opened the school not for financial gain or because it’s now a fad amongst fashioner designers. I got lots of mail on social media training and internship. At one point I had about 15 interns and that wasn’t great for productivity or learning due to several constrains. Hence, I thought of a self-sustaining product (school) where anyone who wants to know how the EAT brand has been able to position and sustain itself as a business or how we as a home-grown brand can be competitive in the international market can come in and learn for a fee. I went to Yabatech and did a proper five years course the same as any reputable fashion school around the world though we may not have upgraded the syllabus. What I learned from school, I have been able to use to compete favourably with global players. What I have done to take that, with my experience and come up with a syllabus that I think works and will help people to break in easily into the Nigerian fashion industry and market. Though sometimes our industry is filled with upcoming designers who are all about the fame; I am hoping to breed designers who will be all about the passion, the way it feels to me.
With expansion comes the challenge of quality control. What are the measures put in place to ensure the quality of the EAT clothing?
The only way around it is to keep looking for and hiring the right team members who believe in your dream not those that want to be there because of the fame or money. I have done a lot of restructuring in the past one year in terms of team members and removed sentiments from the running of my business. Standards have been elevated even higher and processes documented and adhered to.
On the challenge of funding for fashion businesses in Nigeria.
Figures for fashion businesses in Nigeria are not readily available because most fashion businesses are not proper. We don’t have proper books and bank properly and it is usually a hobby for most people thus it’s not treated like a business. People open poultry and treat it formerly but most fashion businesses are treated very casually by the owners, hence the lack of figures. Most funding organisations like to look at numbers, for instance farmers can readily access funds because they have the numbers. I am a recipient of a United Nation grant about two years ago and that really helped boost the business and make our growth plans reality.
It’s not impossible to get funding for the fashion businesses in Nigeria but the designer has to be able to show that he is not just a creative but a business person with a plan, structure, documentation and processes to sustain its consistent growth and productivity. There is also the Bank of Industry (BOI) who has funding fashion designers can access. The funny thing is, most popular designers can’t access these funding schemes because they don’t have structures, in terms of administration. Other people who are into fashion items production get ready access to these funding because they have proper documentation.
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