Mrs. Bose Adegunwa is one of the leading fashion designers in Nigeria. She is brilliant. And very creative, with her designs. She has been doing this for the past 18 years. And over the last few years, she has been expanding her fashion empire.
She has a Training School. And she is set to officially open her LAWIZA Fashion House, which is a brand new highrise in Magodo, in Lagos on Sunday 20th September, 2020. Its her birthday the day before.
A few days back, she spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about the rise and rise of her fashion business. Below are excerpts.
How did the Covid-19 lockdown affect your fashion business? How did you cope?
It affected everybody. Well, during the lockdown, I had to tell my Tailors to stay away. We do a lot of Ready-To-Wear, so we had a lot in stock. We stopped work for about 2 months, April/May, 2020. We stopped work end of March. Then, we began to sell online. A lot of people were buying online, bit-by-bit. It wasn’t like the usual buying, later I prioritised and I had to tell some of my staff to come in. I told the ones that could multi-task to come. We were doing skeletal jobs.
What are the services the new LAWIZA House is offering customers?
LAWIZA House has the Showroom, where we do our ready-to-wear. We have a lot of stock. We have all sizes of clothing for people who want to go to parties and you don’t want to go to tailors to sew anything. You can just walk into our store and pick up. We also have the School, the fashion school, which has been in existence for the past 12 to 13 years. It has churned out a lot of designers that are doing very well in their own business. Then, we have the Factory. In the factory, we have the finishing part, the stoning, the accessorising of clothing, then we have the Tailors section and the Sewing room.
Lawiza Creations is how old now? What was the idea then, when you set it up?
Its about 18 years. I just wanted to do something that has to do with Service. I started as a banker. Then, I started selling Groceries. I was fed up with that and I moved into selling Jewelry. I sold gold and all that. And then, I wanted to do something that had to do with Service, that I will render Service to people, then they pay. So, I thought of doing Hair Dressing. Because I didn’t have passion for it, I left it. I went into the Sewing business. I started in a very little way. I started with one Tailor. The sewing machine was about N15,000 and I bought threads which was about N15 and I had a space. I started at Olowu Street in Ikeja, Lagos. I had a shop there, where I was selling my wholesale, groceries. So, I changed it to a factory, so we were working from there.
Then, I started employing more tailors. They make clothes for me and I wear, and people will see me and they will tell me I like what you are wearing and I will tell them that is what I do.
That was how we were able to get customers from family and friends.
Were you scared at that time, that will it work? Will it not work?
I wasn’t scared because I know that it is something I am very, very, passionate about. When I was in University, I was one of the fashionistas in my school. As at that time, I used to go to my tailors and design what I wanted.
So, I know if I go into that kind of business I would thrive in it. It wouldn’t be out of place.
So, you mean Passion is key, when it comes any business, you go into?
Yes, Passion is key. Passion is important. In terms of fashion, the fashion business has a lot of challenges. So, if you are not passionate about it, you will probably just leave it and just go. Are you talking about the problem of managing the tailors, are you talking of the problem of power or customers. If you have a passion for it, you will be able to stay on, even when the times are very hard.
Were there times you felt like quitting?
Oh, a lot of times. There was a time I had a shop on Adeniyi Jones in Ikeja, on the road, a whole floor. Everything was fine until the owner of the building died and the children then wanted to sell the building. I didn’t have any money to rent another place, not to talk of buying the building. What I did was to say its my passion, I don’t have any other thing to do, so I moved my factory back to my Boys Quarters in my house and we started operating from there. From there, I got a small shop outside Magodo Gate, from there we got another flat inside Magodo, and we moved the tailors from the Boys Quarters to the place, and I was serving there and displaying outside.
Later, we got another space in that building. We moved the showroom from outside to inside the building. We were soon to find out that the 2 flats were to small for us. We got another flat and we began to use 3 flats – 1 for the Showroom, one for the School, and one for the Factory.
What made you set up the school when you did?
I went to Nobel Afrique. I trained under Prince Oyefusi. I thought about doing something that will empower a lot of women. I know a lot of women are out there. They don’t know what to do. They are just housewives, but we all need to be able to contribute to the livelihood of the family.
How many designers have you trained?
Up to about 150 to 200, if not more.
How does it make you feel when you see them?
I am always very, very happy because a lot of them are doing very well. Some have their own schools. Some are just designers and are doing very well.
Fashion has evolved over time and changed over the years since you came into the industry like people no longer wear ordinary Ankara. Ankara is now stoned, etc
In the last 15 years, fashion has really evolved. We Nigerians are very, very fashionable. We set the trend.
What explains the fact that the Nigerians woman is extremely fashionable on the African continent?
You are right. An average Nigerian woman knows what she wants. She wants to go out and stand out and be noticed. We know how to put everything together. Nigerian women are trendsetters globally. Maybe, because we do our own thing. We set the trend. We are on top of our game. We are pacesetters.
Let’s talk about your love for fabrics. Which are the fabrics you play around with a lot?
I do a lot of Ankara. I love the African print. I stock a lot of them. Once I go out and go to the market I buy up to like 50 or 100 at the same time and I just stock up on it. Sometimes, I don’t know what I want to do with them, I just stock up in my store and when I want to do any design I just go into my store, sit down there, and look at what I can put together.
What informs your style?
My style is Contemporary. I do a lot of African infused with Western design. Like the top I am wearing now. Its an Ankara jacket done in a Western Way.
How do you get inspired? How do you get inspiration to help you know what to do with the fabrics?
Merely looking at the fabric gives me inspiration. The colours and the designs on it gives me inspiration and then I just want to do something that is different. I just want to be different.
You have done this back to back for 18 years. How does it make you feel?
I am very, very happy. I have gone through all sorts with it and I have remained very strong.
So what sort of advice would you give ladies out there who want to go into the fashion business like you and who want to follow their passion?
My advice is whatever you want to do make sure you know about it. There are a lot of people who go into fashion without knowing about it. I went into fashion without knowing anything, and on the job, I went to learn from Nobel. If you want to do fashion, you must know something about it. You can’t depend on your tailors to do anything for you. You have to be good at something. You can’t do everything.
How do you see the influence of social media on the fashion industry? Has it helped?
Social media has been a blessing to us. It has made it possible for us to be able to showcase what we have. And you can sell to the people you don’t even know, from all over the world. People buy your designs. People know about you. People patronise you based on what they can see that you display on social media. So, it has really, really helped. And there are a lot of courses that you can do online, to improve yourself in the fashion industry. So, it has really impacted positively on the fashion industry.