Oluwatobi Abisola Odukoya (nee Martins) is a multifaceted creative and talented entrepreneur who has a core passion in fashion designing, agriculture, creative and business consulting.
She is the Lead Creative Consultant for OO Creative Consulting Services, Founder/Program Director, Business of Purpose and the Creative Director/CEO, Prima Rouge Limited – a unisex fashion enterprise.
FirstNews interviews Odukoya and she shares her experience in the creative world and how her business has thrived.
Share with us your core passion in life
My core passion is bringing people to the knowledge of the truth of God and His Word. Everything else I do is for the fulfillment of this purpose.
Wonderful! As a woman who is into many things, let’s talk about your multifaceted personality.
As a creative consultant, I write business and career profiles; business proposals, as well as create marketing content and strategies for companies. As a fashion designer, I design and manufacture clothing, as the Program Director of the Business of Purpose, I facilitate business and personal development for enterprise owners in partnership with government agencies, financial agencies and multinationals.
Furthermore, I engage in public speaking because the real change will only come when people see and have insight into purpose. The life of every Nigerian is precious and each person has the capacity to become the greatest vessel of God’s power that has ever walked the face of the earth.
You’re really a super woman. Can you share what interests you in the fashion industry?
Fashion itself is an outlet of creativity. Colours, textures, shapes and form. What is there not to be interested about? The best part of fashion has been the ability to design and it is something that I have the natural flare to do. The industry itself is huge! From manufacturing to marketing and merchandising; there are so many avenues to jump in and add value along the chain. And this is one of the biggest markets in Africa so it’s a viable industry for sure.
What is your fashion philosophy?
If you ask me about my work ethics and value system then I can say each entrepreneur can be a unique expression of God in their own industry. The main problem or one small problem is the need to compare oneself by other people’s standard and try to fit into the norm or remain with the life philosophy that if it is not broken, then don’t fix it. That is why we have many people copying one another, doing the very same thing when in fact, each of them has a unique flare that will add something unseen to the mix. Don’t be afraid of failing at first. That being said, be intelligent and diligent. Learn, research, pray, plan and be completely honest with yourself. It will surely show in your outcome. Be original and be honest.
It may be interesting to hear efforts your brand has made towards CSR
Because of the innate desire to drive solution where issues abound, I rebranded Prima Rouge into a social enterprise, such that we began to partner with established projects that supported women and children. With a marketing background and a natural creative flair, we featured around the world (Lagos, London, Ireland, Fiji, Washington, Texas, China, Australia) in fashion shows, exhibitions and sales; building momentum with our then social media engagements as well as creating unique pieces of clothing that became signature looks affiliated with the brand.
How has creativity enhanced your brand image in the past years?
It’s like asking how has breathing air enhanced your ability to live? You cannot be a fashion designer without being creative. It can’t be taught, it’s just a God given talent that you can now develop and fine tune but the ability to be creative itself cannot be learned. And because it is fundamental to the aesthetic success of the business, without it, one cannot really do much but be a copy cat and soon enough, one can get frustrated with being limited in that regard. Or one can hire good hands of course. My brand was built on the ability to create beautiful designs and market them effectively.
We are aware that you are an Agriculture enthusiast, please tell us about the fusion of Agriculture and Fashion
There are quite a few ways Agriculture fits into fashion if you think of raw ingredients. From the cotton to the plant based dyes. We can actually curate a story that shows how both industries support each other and that is what we intend to do over the next decade. We want to find a way where we can lend our skills and knowledge to improve some of the agricultural practices that help us to do what we love to do and remain environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Apart from fashion designing skills, what other skills are needed to start a fashion brand?
As with any other business, a good place to begin is a well articulated business plan. That way you will know where you need help, expertise and how to achieve your goals measurably.
What role can the Nigerian government play to make fashion designing a profitable revenue pool for the nation?
They are actually trying to help with many enterprise owners having access to training and then loans via agencies like SMEDAN, who we have worked with over the years. Its about the designers themselves finding the available avenues to make sure their businesses can thrive.
In today’s Nigeria, what challenges do fashion designers face?
High production costs, skilled manpower, poor marketing and sales knowledge, limited financial resources.
The cost of producing a quality garment may vary depending on the taste and preference of a fashion designer as well as his or her target market in terms of what they find appealing. Offsetting the cost is key to a business to grow. Good margins alone can’t help a business develop.
Skilled manpower in terms of able and willing tailors. As business grows, it turns from a one man show to a team of producers. One must have the diligence, wisdom and patience to work with tailors. They can be very volatile to handle on a daily basis.
Without marketing and sales know-how not even just knowledge but knowledge and experience, even the best wears can go unnoticed. As stock develops, one must have a marketing channel to distribute or sell items quickly.
Without accurate financial resources, one can be hindered in starting and maintaining production. The cost of changing fabrics into finished garments entails a production line with people who must be paid salaries one way or the other and other bills that must be settled. If one doesn’t do financial planning to take all costs into consideration, one may oneself in deficit or even unable to finish the production.
In conclusion, let’s hear three things you consider critical and important for any fashion designer in Nigeria who wishes to be successful in the business
One is experience through internship. It is important because you learn valuable lessons and gain experience, knowledge and exposure. Search out good solid fashion houses and put in an application but don’t expect to be paid.
Two is a well crafted business plan (with the help of a professional). This is key to accessing finance and knowing what exactly one wants to achieve and how.
Three is passion. It is not going to be easy when push comes to shove. So, one should really count the cost and determine to follow through regardless of inevitable obstacles.