THE THINGS THAT CAN TAKE ME OUT OF FASHION – Mai Atafo
Celebrity designer, Ohimai Atafo of Mai Inspired, is really doing well in his sector. The father of one who clothes some of our biggest stars and fashionistas told YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine the things that can make him quit the business…
How would you describe Nigeria’s fashion industry since you joined?
Fashion industry has been doing fine and actively as well. I will rate it on the scale of 90% compared to what we used to have before now.
What does it mean to be fashionable?
I think that is very subjective, because everybody is fashionable in their one right. So, there is no common ground to say this is fashionable or this is not fashionable.
What is trending now?
Unfortunately, I do not follow trends, so I don’t know what’s happening for now. But in terms of how you should look, everybody has what they are comfortable with. That you always wear native attires doesn’t mean you are not fashionable compared to someone that likes to wear suits. Your President (Goodluck Jonathan) wears a South-South attire, single colour, all the time. Is he fashionable? I think he is. So, there is no right or wrong. Look at that man who wore buba and snickers. Is he fashionable? I think he is. Is he wrong, you may say yes! So, it’s subjective.
What were some of the challenges you encountered when you started?
Trying to get tailors to work with me, trying to even get people to help me out in the administrative aspect of my fashion and power supply. It’s still a problem even as at now and non-government support is also there as well. Even if they can give us only power supply, we are okay.
If not fashion, what else would you have been doing?
But within a few years, you have recorded success in the fashion industry. What is the secret?
Not only me, but it depends on the response people give back to you. Anyway, I don’t think that I’ve achieved a lot compared to what I want to achieve. But all I’ve been able to achieve is due to the glory of God and people that have been supporting me as customers. They have made me who I am today.
When you started, who was your target audience?
I was not that smart. I just make good clothes and didn’t target any segment. But as I grew, I now thought of making suits for men and wedding dresses for women. But when I started, I was just happy making clothes.
How much does it cost to own a good suit?
It’s also subjective. But anywhere from one hundred thousand to as high as two hundred and fifty thousand.
Aside fashion, what are the other things you are passionate about?
How do you relax?
I watch movies and listen to music.
Most of your clients are young women. How do you cope with them?
Most of them would want to say hi and hello to me, but beyond that, nobody has tried to be closer like that to me and I’ve not experienced such before. They might want to take pictures with me, but that is just it.
What was the best idea you ever thought of?
Going into wedding. I mean, providing clothes for weddings. An idea that I formulated by myself.
What prompted such?
I did an analysis and discovered that the wedding industry is big and chose to fulfill it. So, I keyed into it to become one of those that provide clothes in Nigeria because people actually borrow clothes for wedding.
How would you assess the industry since you started?
Absolutely fantastic and I think we are making talents that can actually rule the world of fashion. But we just need support.
For anyone to achieve success in your industry, what must the person do?
He should realize that fashion is a business and not just fashion. Once you realize that and you take it as a business, all you need to do is to follow it up with your passion. No extra steps to follow, just the normal steps to start any form of business. People always get it wrong because they don’t take it as business and thereby fail to write a business plan for it. Follow the plan just like any other business and you will achieve success.
How do you balance your home with your business?
Family is part of my business. They work with me. I have a little girl, but my wife works with me, so we work and balance together.
When was the most memorable moment of your life?
I have not seen one. But I would say maybe when I had my little girl, my daughter.
Has there been any moment you felt like quitting this job?
Many times. It even happened to me today. I think it’s human because you may think of how much you should be making and you have not been able to make such. So, you think of backing out.
Have you ever made a fashion mistake before?
I’m sure I have because fashion changes from time to time. Definitely, I have, but I don’t know what it is because fashion is so dynamic that what is nice today is terrible tomorrow. So, when you look at it, you are laughing at yourself.
How much was the costliest wedding gown you ever made?
I don’t think it has come yet. But from the ones I’ve done, I think the costliest was about eight hundred thousand naira for a wedding dress here in Nigeria.
Whose wedding was that?
No, I can’t give you that. Clients demand confidentiality.
What of a suit?
The costliest was three hundred thousand naira and I wish it comes every day because that would be good.
Is there anything that could make you leave the fashion business?
Yes! Many things. For example, if you give me a powerful job in marketing in a company that I like the product, I will consider taking it. If you give me an appointment to help move the country forward; that is bigger than my own desire, I will take it on board. If I get a call from the Lord to be a pastor today, I will answer it. There are some things that are more than your own interest. I’m very passionate about the youths in this nation. I’m very passionate about Nigeria being better. Like I said, I want to fix light, so if I get a call to come and have the project of fixing light in this country, I will like it.
What is your advice to upcoming fashion designers?
If you want to come into fashion, know that fashion is not just glamour, but a business. So, take it seriously like a business.
NB: First published April 2015
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