Uche Nnaji is the brain behind “Oouch Clothing Line”. Most people refer to him as a Style Doctor. He is the Founder, Visioner, Creative Director of OUCH. He is famous in the Fashion business and most youth fashion designers look up to him. He has motivated most upcoming fashion designers. He has also been the voice of those in the fashion industry. He recently posted a message on social media to the Senate president to discuss the challenges fashion designers are facing. And the Senate President, Bukola Saraki replied his post. Recently, Uche spoke to this column on his 10 year journey in the fashion industry.
Why did you choose fashion designing?
I will say it’s fashion that chose me, because when I started in the university,as an undergraduate. I just wanted to dress well and make unique stuff for my self but then my fellow students will not let me be, they wanted to wear what I was wearing. So the next thing I did was, I started going to Yaba to buy fabrics then bring to Jibowu and make shirts students were willing to pay for it and the rest is history
How long have you been in the fashion business?
“Ouch clothing line is 10 years now. Secondly, I started fashion in my school days That was 2001. That should be 16 years now at University of Lagos.
I heard about your yearly seminar I attended last year. What was the motive behind the seminar?
It’s nothing more than just to empower people, to see people that are into the line of what I am doing, people that look up to people like myself to help them avoid certain mistakes that some of us had made before them, that was the major driving factor for doing such. I believe personally that we must tell our stories as a nation to the people so it doesn’t make sense when somebody spends all their time on the Internet to read how somebody in Malaysia, United States or Canada built them a fashion brand when they have successful people in Nigeria that can build them a fashion brand. All they need to do is to understand how they did it in this environment, where they also want to practice. So that is just it
What are your challenges as a fashion designer?
There are no challenges I am going to mention now that the people in Nigeria right now that are trying to do what I have done years ago will not mention as challenges. They will mention things like Finance, electricity and all the works. I had all those challenges and even those that I can’t remember now. What is most important is the challenge of keeping up with the Vision, there is a Vision and there is a Challenge to keep up with the Vision and not to derail. What is challenging to me right now is staying focused against all odds, that is the challenge we are dealing with right now at “Ouch” and by the special grace of God we are over coming it day after day
We heard about you opening another store in MM 2. How many stores do you have in Nigeria?
We are getting close to 10 stores but not 10 yet, that should give you an idea. I believe I answered that question.
We saw the post you sent to Senate President about supporting Nigeria fashion industry which he replied by inviting you and your colleagues to a roundtable After the meeting, what next?
I have not seen him yet, I have not met to discuss about Nigeria fashion industry and I must also say that the post for me was also one of those frustration that people like me have decided let’s really do this thing Made In Nigeria. Let us bring this thing home and create more jobs , let’s support this government that all should be all about made in Nigeria, so it won’t be in my place to chase the people that I also believe should assist to build our country , if they believe there are some people that will be of value that will help to reduce the unemployment scores that faces us as a nation, the follow up should be done. I am busy trying to setup a factory and manage human beings. We have not met, I hope it works, if it doesn’t work all good and well. When the right time comes it will work
If you guys happen to meet the Senate President, do you think he can sort out the present challenges fashion designers are facing?
Yes, I want to be hopeful for that cause because people in the fashion business come to me daily and they see you as a light , they see you as a voice who will be able to do some level of advocacy for them. I cannot meet with the senate and not talk about the challenges fashion designers or fashion entrepreneurs are facing and how it can be overcome or how it can turn to gold mine. For me my mind is to make that case for the industry. I believe if such opportunities given as an industry, we will benefit from it.
How did you come up with the name “Oouch?”
Ooh, hmm, “Ouch” is an expression, and back at university days,when I dress up to the faculty, a particular friend of mine with British accent goes ouch you look good, You know for me that is the only way he can express himself. You know some people believe ouch could mean pain. But back then that was the only way he can express how good I looked that inspired him and it goes out and I realized it was catching on like wild fire a lot of people are like oouch oouch oouch. Then later, when we were going about the name of our brand one of our mutual statement is to become globally known, we should have global presence, we wanted a name that will be global as well, we wanted a name that will not have imitation and a name everyone can pronouns, be you from Malawi, China,etc where no matter the age of the person he or she can still say “oouch” so when we have stores in all those parts of the world we will not have a problem with the people trying to pronounce our name
As a successful fashion designer give us 10 tips of running a successful fashion business
I’m flattered when you say successful because I am still learning, I may not be in a position to give 10 tips but I can honestly share few tips I have practiced all through the year. One of them is 1. Have a dream. 2:Chase the dream. 3: Be a slave to the dream. 4: Remain focused against all odds. 5: Have determination. 6: Be able to communicate your vision with people you work with that it is not just about your self, so that is the big challenge with the people in fashion, No. It should not be just about you.