She shares the same name with the Queen of Juju music, Queen Ayo Balogun, but both of them are not related. Ayo Balogun also known as Madam TB, is a Lagos based fashion designer who has been in the practice for many years now. She bagged HND in Business Administration from the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro and had worked as a business developer and gathered different experiences in the corporate world before dumping all that for her first love, fashion designing. She also does other things aside sewing; like production of fashion items like hair accessories, clothing accessories, bags, etc.
Madam TV is also an advertising model who has the intention of setting up her own academy very soon. Last week, she was at the City People Corporate Head Office in Gbagada where she had a chat with DAMILARE SALAMI 08155134152 who quizzed her about her fashion brand and other related issues, enjoy.
You are a business administrator and that’s quite lucrative. Why did you decide to dump that for fashion designing?
I’ve always had a passion for fashion designing even while I was in school, I don’t want to say that I went to school to study a course I am less passionate about but if I had gotten the opportunity to pick at that time, I would have chosen fashion designing over business administration. While I was in school, I was equally sewing but not professionally. Because of the fact that I dress very well and admire people who wear fine designs, this gives me a reason to always imagine how those beautiful designs are being constructed. We also used to have a tailor in our house but I can’t say I learnt from her because I only watched how she wheels the machine repeatedly and one day, I just climbed the machine and I started paddling. I also made a few efforts to sew clothes without any prior training. Sometimes I made a mess because I didn’t have any teacher but sometimes too, I did very well. I made beautiful clothes and I discovered that the passion in me was really high as a student. Although I went back for professional training after school but it wasn’t immediately. I had to practice business administration for some years before going back to my first love which is what I now do today. I was always wanting to sew something for myself, sometimes when my tailors do my cloth and they were not well done, I would adjust them myself and they will come out beautifully well, just fitted on me and the way I like them. That passion didn’t just die, it was constantly fuelled and I just saw myself thinking about it and fantasizing all the time. I had that dream of becoming a successful fashion designer and I wasn’t feeling good with myself until I started pursuing the dream.
Putting it into figures, how long would you say you’ve been in the fashion business and what would you say motivates your creativity?
I have been having different trainings even while I was working in corporate organisations but I didn’t complete my training until 2010. I did a two-year training in fashion designing and then went for another training afterward to brush up myself. Then I also went for an internship in two different places. Basically, I’ve been practicing professionally since 2015. Talking about what motivates my creativity, firstly, my inspiration comes from God who has been my strength. I also do a lot of imaginations. I imagine things in my head and then try to put them down. I read books, I watch TV, I read fashion magazines and basically things I find around me give me inspiration and God gives me the wisdom to put them down.
What kind of designs do you create?
I do unisex, male, female and children. Let me just say that I am versatile. I can create anything as far as you are putting on clothes.
How has the knowledge of business administration influenced your fashion design business?
Business administration is very key to the development of any business idea because it is all about how to manage your business. You will need a bit of marketing to know how you can connect the people that need your product and service and also influence them into buying what you are selling. You will also need to learn how to manage people and deal with them with their uniqueness because people have different qualities and characteristics and you need all of them for your business to thrive. So you have to learn how to manage people. You also have to ensure that your product is at least near perfect so that you can have a happy customer at the end of the day. Business administration also teaches that you have to learn how to make your products appeal to the public. It has also helped me and fine-tuned me in such a way that I know how to produce and package my products and get them to the right people and the right place where they are needed. It has also taught me how to navigate the market and the best price to sell to the people. Of course, you have to know your competitors and what they are charging. You also want to know what’s trending, what is in the market, what the competitors are producing and how you fit into the market. You just have to be on point and updated. With all these strategies in place, one would do good for herself.
Let’s go back to your brand. At what point in your fashion design career would you say you made a good success?
I would say that success has come in repeatedly because since I have been in this business, I have been having relative successes and I give thanks to God because he’s been doing it. Of course, when you start a business, you don’t expect to start making it big immediately. There are times you have to do things for people free of charge because you want to promote yourself. I was once at that stage but we’ve gone past that now. Of course, in the course of doing that, you are also developing yourself and you have to move from that level to another stage. You can’t compare what you are doing when you are five years old to when you just started. You have to gradually develop yourself and with that development comes another level of success. I don’t stay to celebrate success for too long, once you attain one level of success, you move on to other levels. So, God has been kind to us and we’ve gone past that stage where we are agitated because we are not sure of what our customers want to pay or how much they want to offer us. We’ve learnt to develop ourselves and charge what will help us and what would keep us in business and the success comes for us when our customers are satisfied with our service delivery.
How visible is your brand to your customers?
We deal with our customers through personal contact, we get orders through phone calls and we deliver the products once they are ready. That was how we started but right now, we are on social media and we are currently working on our website which will be available any moment from now. We are on Facebook as Tender Value Fashion Academy and also on Instagram@tendervaluefashionacademy.
Is that to say that you also run a fashion school?
Yes, we used to run a fashion school until we changed location. But we have a plan to resume as soon as possible. We are looking at the end of this year or early next year to begin.
What is the difference in the fashion industry when you started and now and what can you say is evolving in the industry today?
We are very fashion conscious as a country and we love to look good and dress well. Back in the days, we were good with what we had but if you compare what we had in those days and now, you will realize that fashion has really come a long way with us. Now we make beautiful Ankara prints into office wears, it wasn’t like that in the past. That’s a plus for us now. We are also in a position where we compete with the whites because they’ve been known for creating perfectly made office wears. Now we also have many ready-to-wear outfits that look like imported but they actually made in Nigeria. We also make very sophisticated and elegantly looking designs, so fashion has really come a long way and we are anticipating that in the near future, we will stand in a place where we can say that we produce something and we want to take it abroad to sell and it will do good. So fashion has really come a long way and we are aspiring more exploits.
What brands would you say you are looking up to in the industry?
We have brands like Tiffany Amber, she’s good, someone I respect and I’ve known her for a long time. I know she’s still in the business if I’m not mistaking. We also have brands like Zizi Cardow, she has done a lot for herself, Isa Folawiyo, she has also done well for herself, because I do unisex wears, I also look up to brands like Mai Atafo, Frank Oshodi, and so on.
Tell us something about the modeling aspect of your business…
I have actually been dreaming of modeling all my life. When I was way younger, people used to commend the way I walk because I catwalk. But after a while, because I didn’t have the perfect model figure, I felt like I might not fit in and that killed that passion for a while until recently when I participated in a fashion show and I met with the organizer to tell him about my daughter who I want to be model because I felt it was too late for me. But he corrected that impression and that modeling is not for only slim people with a perfect shape and that there are different levels of modeling. So he encouraged me and I feel like I can perform in that line too. The world will be seeing more of me in the modeling aspect too.
What would you say is the biggest project you have handled as a fashion designer?
We’ve worked with the Lagos State Government in the past where they gave us a contract to sew clothes for a number of people and subsequently we did that for a number of times. It was a challenge initially because we had to deal with people with irrational behaviours and we had to try our best to management them so that we can get the job done. I am someone who has a knowledge of many things but I can’t do the work alone, I have to get people to do some things for me. If I have a job sewing for 100 people, there is no way I would be able to do it alone. At that time, I had a challenge with the people working with me but we sailed through. Right now, I know that I can delegate duties and the job will still be perfectly done.
What would you like to say to your teeming and prospective customers out there?
I want to tell my customers to expect more from us because we can give them what they want. And whoever is sophisticated in fashion and wants to look fabulous should contact us because we are qualified enough to attend to them and give them what they need. We are also hoping that in the near future we can penetrate the international market. And move our tentacles from Nigeria to other countries of the world. We promise to continue to upgrade ourselves and not disappoint them, we are here to meet their desires and cater to their needs. Look out for tender value academy formerly 4As design and concepts and just continue to patronize us. We thank them for their past patronages and anticipated continued patronage. Thank you all for loving us.