When Oluwafemi Opeoluwa found out he had an extra year at the university, he realized he had a dire situation in his hands as he was uncertain of getting funding from his parents for the next academic year. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, Oluwafemi decided to lean on his tailoring skills to see him through school.
From investing N2,500 to make his first outfit, Oluwafemi’s passion for fashion evolved into Oluwafemi Clothings – a successful fashion brand in Nigeria. Oluwafemi later graduated from the Lagos State University with a degree in Philosophy and eventually proceeded to London College of Fashion where he honed his skills as a fashion designer.
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Prior to Femi’s university days, Fashion had always been a part of his life. “I have always wanted to work in the fashion industry. I started selling some of my clothes to friends and family while at the university. It was just a natural progression so I’ll say fashion found me.”
Over time, the mission and direction of Oluwafemi’s clothing evolved to serve the needs of middle class people who love to wear quality, durable, and affordable outfits. In Femi’s words, “Oluwafemi Clothing grew to become the go-to name for working class individuals who wanted to look great without going bankrupt. The brand is about finding the sweet spot for our clients, nothing too expensive or too cheap. Just the right mix of great quality and affordability.”
To this end, Oluwafemi, who runs the business with his wife, has opened four stores with twelve staff spread across Lagos metropolis. One of the stores is dedicated to female clothing while three others cater to the men.
Despite the presence of his physical stores, Oluwafemi is a big proponent of E-commerce platforms like the SME MarketHub where he has his store front. “The SME MarketHub has opened my eyes to how varied sales can be. There is a wide market outside Lagos, and best of all, I get to put my goods on the SME MarketHub without paying commissions and other fees unlike the other e-commerce platforms.”
Another platform that has been of benefit to the Oluwafemi brand is the GTBank Fashion Weekend of which he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the debut edition in 2016. “It’s rare to have a fashion fare where every outfit you display gets sold out. That was the exact case at the GTBank fashion weekend. We sold big and also attracted new people who have become loyal clients,” he enthuses. “We look forward to featuring again at this year’s event.”
Oluwafemi Clothing keeps thriving but he believes things can be better in the Nigerian fashion industry and the country as a whole. “We have the skills to make any kind of outfit here in Nigeria, but getting quality fabric and in large quality for bulk production is a problem. We had to set up a production facility in Indonesia where we buy fabric and then import the finished products. There’s no proper infrastructure and resources for making fabrics and other accessories like buttons, zippers. We need a self-sustaining fashion industry here in Nigeria,” he says.
Having tried the ropes, Femi has this to tell anyone who wants to go into the fashion industry. “You need to be creative and very enterprising to succeed in the fashion industry. It’s easy to get sucked into all the glitz and glamour. Being able to separate the business side of fashion from the glamorous side is a skill in itself. Draw a plan, stick to it, and be business minded.” He goes further to say that ready to wear is the best way to take on fashion rather than bespoke (made to measure).
Oluwafemi is sure to be in business for a long time and believes that the right way to stay afloat is to keep up with the times – keep things modern and fresh. “Fashion changes every six months in the general sense of it. However, in reality, fashion changes almost every day.
A new music video from P-Square can alter the fashion trend – one minute, skinny pants are the coolest things ever and the next minute they are done. To stay relevant in the fashion business we need to stay abreast of all the new trends.” He says.