Oluwafemi Fadipe is the Chief Executive Officer, JUSTPHEMMY Creations, a fashion designing outfit. He told GBENGA AKINFENWA the challenges of marketing Made-In-Nigeria fashion industry.
For how long have you been in fashion designing?
I have being into this business in the last 10 years. We do both unisex, for male and female, children and adults, all types of dresses-suits, native dresses, casual wears, polo shirts, anything called wears, that’s what we specialise in. Talking about types of suits, we have Safari suits, Italian suits, and blazers, I sew everything.
For shirts, we do fabric shirts popularly called flower fabrics, office shirts, and TM Standard.
What is your experience selling made in Nigeria abroad?
We market worldwide, the reason being that the social media has helped us to woo many customers abroad, but most of the customers that patronise us are based in the UK and US. I have a friend in America who buys Shirts from me because he cannot get his exact size there. There is another man in Holland too with the same challenge; he couldn’t get his shirt size too in the market. I make the shirts for them from here.
How do you send your products to overseas markets, do you profit?
Sometimes, we send them through FedEx and sometimes, through Cargoes at the International Airport. So, the profit would have been added to the prices given to them and they understand how we operate that the shipping cost would need to be added, definitely, we get our own profits.
What are the challenges?
We have many challenges. The first challenge has to do with the problem of electricity. Two, the exchange rate, which is really affecting us. Most of the fabrics we use are not manufactured in Nigeria, we have to order it from abroad and by the time we import based on the present exchange rate, the cost is tremendous. Thirdly, lack of quality local fabrics, they wash away too easily; and finally, rent. The area we are located is an outskirt, before one can get a befitting shop on the Island, like Victoria Island and other places one must be very, very buoyant to afford the high rent. Rent is another big challenge.
Does the high price scare away your customers?
No, most of my customers understand the challenges with the exchange rate and what is going on in the country, before, we sew suits for like N20, 000, but now that a dollar is around N400, we just tell them what is happening, we wont add much to the cost and they buy into the idea.
Talking about patronage, how do Nigerians embrace your products considering the little regard for locally manufactured items?
An average Nigerian loves looking good, no matter the price, provided the job is good, likewise the material, they always patronise us. The Nigerian mentality about locally produced goods is fading, they now understand that cut-to-fit is the best. Most times when they buy suits in America, Italy, it looks big, they have to come back to Nigeria and amend it, but now, they understand that cut-to-fit is the best. So, when a customer patronises me, so far he sees the confidence in me, he won’t want to go anywhere else, so Nigerians are really patronising locally sewed dresses now.
In terms of ease of doing business, how easy was it to get the necessary registration for your company?
I got the necessary registrations for my business line done easily through my lawyer-friend. I did the registration immediately I started, which was nine years ago, which made everything easy for me. Though my own is limited liability company, it took me like three to four months to get the certificate, going to Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Abuja and others, the lawyer got everything done for me.
Despite campaigns on embracing locally made goods, what can Nigerians and government do to totally erase perception of inferiority?
Government needs to work hard in making fabrics available in the country, assuming fabrics are produced in Nigeria, I won’t lie to you, made-in-Nigeria is the best product.
If you get Chinese and Italian fabrics, they are different. If Nigerians bring Chinese fabrics, they see it as of low quality, but when they get Italian fabrics, though its good it is expensive they embrace it.
But for me, I go for Italian fabrics, I always tell my customers to forget about the price. I always tell them to go for the best, what they can wear for one, two years is the best, compared to what they’ll wear for just two months and it will fade off.
If we can produce fabrics locally, it would have been the best for us. We don’t have quality fabrics, the Ankara we produce here fades easily. The best Ankara in Nigeria is called Disko, which is very expensive, but its not made in Nigeria. The best Ankara fabrics available in Nigeria now are made in Ghana, but cheaper ones, which are made-in-Nigeria, are not good, they fade too easily. Government needs to work to make made in Nigeria fabrics available, definitely people will patronise it.