Amarachi Jessica Rita Chijioke is behind the emerging fashion brand House of Otentik, a bespoke and ready-to-wear outlet that caters to the stylish woman about her business of conquering the world. She tells MILLICENT AREBUN ONUOHA, BETTY ALABI AND MARY OMENIUMEH her strategy for brand growth and the challenges of catering exclusively to women
What were your early days like and what inspired you to go into fashion?
Growing up, I loved fashion. One can say it runs in the family because my elder sister loved it too. When I made and designed clothes for myself and wore them, people would be like “ wow! I like your dress, who made it for you?” so I thought, why didn’t I turn my passion and talent into a profession and make some income out of it? That’s how I started and today I have a ready-to-wear line and also make bespoke pieces for clients on demand.
How do you keep and retain your edge in the competitive market in Nigeria especially Lagos?
I believe that when you are doing a business, every business has its own strategy. Personally, I like to try to do extraordinary things to stand out. I create my own style in order to make it stand out and I hope with that I can attract and retain customers.
What’s your brand signature? What kind of women can wear your clothes?
Every woman can wear my clothes. Be it short, tall, big, small. My cloths enhance every woman because they are tailored with your personality and style in mind.
What has been your reception so far?
The reception has been almost overwhelmingly good so far. My brand was born less than a year ago and already it has exceeded my expectations by far. I thank God for these past months because we’ve gone far and I wasn’t even expecting it to be this big by now.
What has been your most pressing challenges as a fashion designer in Nigeria?
Dealing with women is a challenge on its own. I can use myself as an example, we don’t get ourselves prepared on time until the date of is very close hence there is always an urgency and rush. Someone might bring clothes knowing that she is having her traditional marriage maybe on Thursday then she would bring clothes to me to make for her maybe on Wednesday expecting me to deliver it on Thursday. it’s been a lot of stress but we have to put in our best not to disappoint them.
How has the rave of made-in-Nigerian goods affected your business?
Wow! I think it’s awesome. Some people neglect Nigerian made but to me I think it’s one of the best things that has happened to Nigeria so far. For instance when you see Nigerian made and those that are imported, you’ll see the difference is clear. I would advise every other person not to buy ready made from china and other countries, as we can can make or produce it even better right here. I think our brand is even much better.
What is the place of social media on your marketing / design scheme
I’m not a social media person, but sister is great at it and came to my rescue. We are on Instagram as “house of otentik” and so far, the visibility and brand awareness it has given us has been great.
Have you been able to access the BOI Fashion fund?
I haven’t thought about it. I’m aware of it though. Some people came to introduce me on new deals and initiatives that the bank just introduced to fashion designers in Nigeria. At present I’m not interested in that.
What’s your opinion on design theft in Nigeria in line with the increasing social media wars by colleagues in the creatives world over it.
It’s getting out of hand but right now I don’t know what to say about it.
Have you been a victim of such?
Of course, but sometimes even if I see what I like on social media, I’ll like to change some parts of it and not make it exactly as it is. Making the same styles to me does not make sense, as a designer you have to be creative that’s why you’re a designer. You don’t have to be sleeping all through the night and wake up in the morning to go to someone’s page, pick what he/she has been working for without giving him or her credit. It’s bad.
How do you combat or keep abreast of it?
Every problem has a solution, it depends on the one you face. You know when you face a problem you must know how to solve it, you put your self together not to offend your customers and to please yourself so that everybody will be okay.
Are you a member of the fashion designer’s association of Nigeria?
I am not a member and I don’t think I am aware of it. Now that I am aware I will look into them.
Upcoming project for the last quarter of the year.
I don’t know if I can unveil it now. I will only reveal that we are working on a new collection featuring very stylish designs.
Advice to emerging fashion designers.
The demand is there, all you need is to learn the skill appropriately and follow through with diligence, perseverance and creativity. Learning the business end of fashion designing is also very key. I think fashion designing and tailoring should be something everybody should think about. When you have a handwork like designing or tailoring, I don’t think you will ever be poor in your life because you will always create. Fashion doesn’t die, we always create a new style every week, so I will advise every Nigerian parents or guardian to put their child through it. It must not be clothing fashion designer, we have people who make shoes, beads, and more. I think every family should have one designer in their families.
What fashion to you?
Personally , fashion is all about comfort and style. You wear what you are comfortable and what suits your body and be okay with it.
Personal fashion signature
I think I like free dresses, I don’t like wearing tights clothes.
Beauty secrets and routine?
I don’t even have any at all. I just wake up, bath and according to how I feel either throw on some cloths and dash out or use minimal makeup and head out.
I like men perfume, I don’t know why but I just love it.
Fashion items you will go back home for, if forgotten?
I think my handkerchief, yeah I don’t go out without my handkerchief because it part of me.
Fashion must haves?
I think Jewellery. I love jewelleries a lot especially earrings. I can’t do without earrings.
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