As far as patronage is concerned, Nigerian brands have become the number one choice for most people these days. For Winifred Mbavaren Kwen, this is because Nigerians are getting use to made in Nigeria products. In this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, the fashion entrepreneur talks at length on her exploits in the industry and the position of the Nigerian market, globally.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Winifred Mbavaren Kwen
Where are you from?
I am from Konshisha local government area of Benue State.
What do you do?
I am an entrepreneur, a fashion designer, a brand influencer and a fashion enthusiast. I am the chief executive officer of Varen-K-clothing. Professionally, this is my fourth year in the business. As a child I loved to create things so growing up, I’d design and make clothes for my siblings and I. After school, I kept the passion burning and transferred it into entrepreneurship. Eventually, I pursued my passion in fashion and designing instead of practicing what I studied in school. I have B.A in French from Benue State University.
Would you say it has been a smooth sail all through?
I don’t think I would have been fulfilled if I had not gone into fashion, I am so passionate about it. I love what I do so much I can do it again and again, nothing would have been so soothing. Although I will not say it has been a smooth sail. Just like every other business, there are lots of challenges that arise especially because we are in a competitive market.
What has been your greatest challenge in your line of business?
The competition in the industry has been so challenging especially now that most Nigerians are getting use to our local brand Nigeria. A lot of local designers have sprang up but we are moving, it’s a matter of what you can offer. If your brand is good, then the market space is for you.
To be in the business, one needs to be very tolerant. Many times, clients come with attitude that ordinarily, you would not condone. But my ability to take them as they are has been my selling point. The passion I have almost always overshadows the challenges as it were.
What do you do as a beauty routine?
My skin is very important to me, apart from the clothes.
What do you do for leisure?
I hang out with friends once in a while, my job gets the better part of me but once in a while, I make out time to bond with friends and family.
Where do you see yourself in the near future?
I see myself becoming a very big brand not only in Nigeria but globally. I want to be able to challenge big brands like Gucci, Versace and a whole lots of others.
Tell us about your family?
I am the oldest in a family of seven, I have four siblings. I love my family, we’re just one happy family.
What is your take on fashion and style?
Fashion is not just about the brand name you wear, it’s about decency, confidence and comfort not necessarily the trend. Some people misinterpret fashion, it must not be expensive but let it be affordable.
Which is your favourite genre of music and why?
I love R&B and I listen to gospel music a lot because it lightens my mode, it inspires me.
Where is your favourite tourist location in Nigeria?
I love Obudu cattle ranch in Cross River State.
What in your opinion, is the position of today’s Northern woman?
Northern woman are enterprising, hardworking and fashionable. We are becoming more confident in whom we are, a deviation from what was. Today, you find Northern women as heads of big businesses across Nigeria
How do you hope to sustain your business?
Fashion and style is competitive but it depends on your brand. My brand, what I do, speaks for itself. I am on social media like, Instagram, Facebook and I have a lot of followers on my pages
How do you plan to break even knowing the huge fashion market in Lagos compared to Abuja?
Lagos is the hub of fashion and design yes! But I believe that my products are going to sell beyond Northern region. My brand is unique, I come out with new designs, I am very creative and the uniqueness in my brand will surely make the difference. It’s just a matter of time.
The western world patronises a lot of Nigerian brands now, what has been your contribution?
I have a lot of patronage from across the globe. I have clients from USA, United Kingdom, who patronise me. Friends and family come into the country, place orders for my products, and carry them when they go back. I also make bridal wears. So you see, I have a lot of patronage.
There is surge in the number of fashion designers now, isn’t that a threat to your business?
No it’s not. I know what I am doing and I am so confident about it. For me I am not bothered, a whole lot of people make clothes on a daily basis just like we have fashion designers springing up everywhere.
On average, how many people do you train in a month?
At the moment, I train 10 to 15 persons every session of three months each.
Last word for women
As a woman, take good care of yourself. Beauty is from the inside but always wear what you are comfortable in. Embrace your figure, know what suits you. Never wear what A is wearing because it suits her, wear what fits your figure and be yourself because you are unique.