Everyone calls her Aladukeh. That is the name of her fashion brand. But her real name is Oluwatomi Aduke Adeshiyan. She is one of the leading fashion designers in Nigeria. She is brilliant. She is creative with her designs. This beautiful lady was our guest weeks back, on our City People TV Instagram Live Chat, during which she talked about her journey into Fashion and how her brand because big in just 3 years. Below are excerpts of the chat.
How has the fashion industry been since the lockdown in March?
Well, its not been easy for everybody, but thank God we’ve been managing. I’m also thankful that all along I’ve been involved in the production of ready-to-wear dresses if not, there’s been no parties and all and this has really affected sales largely. But due to the production of ready to wear, we’ve been very busy. Most people only order for ready-to-wear dresses these days because there are no parties to attend. And we thank God for that because I know it’s not been easy for a lot of people in the sector.
Recently you had a Bonanza, how did it go?
It was great. It went well.
How often do you do that?
I don’t do bonanzas. This year I did a bonanza only once before this one. So the one we had in August makes it the second one. Normally, I don’t do bonanza because most of my designs get sold out almost immediately. But due to the large response, and then of course, people actually request for bonanzas because they say, oh, your designs are nice but we can’t really afford them, so, I said to myself, maybe once in a while, I should do bonanzas. So, in February, I decided to come up with the sales and it went well in the aspect of sales, but managing clients was an issue because a lot of people turned out. It was really stressful, I have to say that, and then I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Then, when the Sallah period came, people said, won’t you do bonanza, and I said, no, I won’t. I totally disagreed with everyone. Even the people who participated in the February edition said, don’t worry, we understand now, we know we have to be patient. And then, I said, okay, let me do it, more so since everybody is now doing bonanza. So, I decided to go ahead and do it and the turnout was great. We took some measures because I knew how stressful the last one was. I had to send out some messages like, please, if you know you are not a patient person, do not make any payment and that people should send a screen munch of what they want. This is because, immediately an item gets sold out, we delete the page. So, I thought okay, that would make a lot of sense if a screen shot is sent, not sending the pictures directly from Instagram because when the picture is sent directly from Instagram, the moment you delete the picture it will just show picture not available. A lot of people still make the mistake of not screen munching the picture, they only sent links and links don’t work because we won’t be able to know what was paid for. And we had a lot of people, in fact we just finished answering some of the messages.
Like how many people on the whole?
Like thousands of people. The turnout was even more than the last one and then I thought to myself, ah, these people said Covid-19 has been affecting them and you’re still buying! But I guess there’s something about sales, in Nigeria we call it ‘Awoof’, and it was lots of ‘Awoof’ because the prices were just unbelievable. I just wanted to do that to appreciate a lot of people and then to clear out our store too and bring in new designs. But unfortunately, a lot of people still didn’t listen to instructions and because of that we’ve had a lot of constraints, but we’re managing it.
So, what’s your message to them, what should they do?
Well, we are sorting the orders out. My message is simply that they should be patient because we asked for that in the beginning. And a lot of people have received their orders. I’m sure that over 150 people have received their orders. Thank God I posted some videos yesterday because I was very disappointed with the way some people were behaving. I posted a video and I’m happy that some of the people that received their orders were commenting on the video, saying, oh, I received my orders and they were so nice, they fit perfectly, I just got mine today. Comments like that keep me going, so I will just say to people, just be patient, other people are receiving their orders. Another thing I stated was, if you make payment, and at the time we confirm your order the item is already sold out, please you have to pick another item that is similar to it. So, I stated all that before we started so that there won’t be any wahala. For some people, the items that they paid for were already sold out, so we were like okay, you can choose another fabric in same design or you can as well pick from the page but as the time the sales ended two Mondays ago, all items were sold out, so there was nothing else on the page to replace with. What we’re doing now is, we replace with another fabric for the particular designs and that’s been working out well with a lot of people, but it’s not been working out well with some people. Some people have just been difficult but it’s understandable because we’re human and we all have different characters.
Tell us about the Aladuke brand, when did it start and why did you go into fashion in the first place?
I love to talk about my brand a lot. I started about three years ago, it will be three years exactly this year. It started out of my passion for fashion, not because I wanted to make money from it, but just because I wanted to make clothes for myself. I’m a very fashionable person. I know that myself even without people telling me. And I like over the top-dresses. Another reason was that my fashion designer used to disappoint me a lot, so one day, I just thought, what is it sef, maybe I should go and learn this thing. When I told my mum and my sister who are the two closest people to me, they were like, we don’t understand. And I told them I am going to learn how to design. At that time, I was thinking of going to the US for my Masters, I studied Computer Science. I actually heard that fashion designers make a lot of money, so I thought that, okay, while doing my Masters, I would need extra money because I like to spend money, so I can be doing fashion by the side and I said okay, let me just do this. A lot of people didn’t believe and I didn’t tell many people so that they won’t discourage me. Only my family knew I was going to a fashion school. So, when I started wearing my designs, people were like this your designer, na waoh. Some people actually thought the clothes were made by the designer I was using before, not knowing I was the one who made it. Then, later, I started telling people, I made them. And they were like, you did this? So, I started making clothes for some of them and I didn’t collect money from anybody. So, at a point, I was now thinking, should I start collecting money because at that time, I had something I was doing and I was doing well for myself. I decided I shouldn’t bother making it a business, I should just continue making clothes for myself and my family but people kept disturbing me so much. Then, I decided, okay let me start collecting money and make it a business and gradually, it grew and grew, and thank God it’s become a brand today.
How did you come by the name Aladuke?
Okay, my full name is Oluwatomi Aduke Adeshiyan and my dad calls me Aduke, he never calls me Oluwatomi. He only called me Oluwatomi whenever he was not pleased with me. I was his sweet little angel because I hardly got into trouble. So, whenever I did something good, he will just be like, hmm, Aladuke, dukeke. So, the name just stuck. Not a lot of people used to call me Aduke, everybody calls me Tomi. Then, my Dean of Faculty in the University too, used to call me Aduke, he never called me Oluwatomi. So, when I wanted to start the business, I was like, what name should I go with? I decided I should go with my name Aladuke and a lot of people thought it wasn’t cool but I didn’t mind. I felt like I love the name and that was the name my dad called me all the time and so I settled for Aladuke and its worked for the brand.
What’s your area of specialisation in terms of designs?
Normally, its wears, but I diverted into ready to wear. But I started with loving African prints. I can make anything out of African prints. A lot of people like ready to wear, a lot of people like soft fabrics like silk and chiffon, it’s very free and easy to wear, you don’t feel confined and it’s not like over the top. So, I do both party wears and ready to wear.
So, once parties resume, are you stopping ready to wear and focus on party wears?
No, I’m not stopping ready-to-wear. That’s why I said I’m thankful I started ready to wear before the pandemic because it has really helped. People order ready to wear every day. People don’t have to wear it because there’s a party, its something that’s easy so you can wear any day, so I’m not stopping it.
How do you see the state of the fashion industry here in Nigeria?
I think it’s wonderful. A lot of people wear Nigerian brands. They prepare for parties thinking, what top Nigerian brand am I going to wear, they’re not thinking of a foreign brand. People have responded well to Nigerian designers. A lot of people are into fashion in Nigeria and nobody is disturbing anybody and I think that’s great. It has added a lot to our economy, it has put food on the table of a lot of people and it has made a lot of people wealthy.
Talking about using Ankara fabrics and all that, do you deal with ethnic fabrics alone or you work with only high profile fabrics?
No, I use any fabric because I can turn a cheap fabric into something that would wow people. There was a time someone brought this black and white striped material made popular by Benue people and I made it into a dress and it was very nice, I loved it. So, whatever it is, whether it is Aso-oke or Adire, I love Adire, even though I hardly work with it. But it’s Ankara I have a soft spot for because Ankara has patterns, that’s why I work more with Ankara. It’s always beautiful. Once you post a picture of Ankara, a lot of blogs will repost it. Like the Ankara I used for my birthday last year, I posted the picture and till today, blogs still tag me. You can almost do anything on Ankara.
How do you get inspired in terms of designs?
Well, I’m a deep thinker. I hardly sleep. Someone said it’s because I think a lot, that’s why I don’t sleep. I don’t copy people’s work, you will never get to my page and see other people’s designs. Yeah, there are lots of fashion designers who inspire young designers. I draw a lot of inspiration from other people, but I would never do exactly what they have done. So, most times, what I do is close my eyes and think of designs that I can come up with. Most times, it’s mostly the fabrics that inspire me. I look at the fabric and I just think, what can this do? So, working with fabric helps a lot. And then the occasion determines what the design will be. That’s what will determine whether the design will be over the top or a little less than that.
Do you do Aso-Ebi?
Ah, yes, that is my specialty. I do Aso-Ebi a lot.
How would you say the pandemic has affected the fashion industry even though you have been able to find a way around it?
The pandemic has really affected the business because I know that if I wasn’t doing ready to wear, it wouldn’t have been easy. It was really difficult for a lot of people because I got DMs from young designers complaining that there are no jobs, no money, it wasn’t easy.