Clement Mudiaga Enajemo is unarguably one of Nigeria’s biggest fashion designers. Abundantly gifted and immeasurably creative, the Delta dude calls the shots at MUDI, and has branches in about five different countries. In his 40s and fiercely focused, the dresser and dazzler had a beautiful dialogue with YES INTERNATIONAL! Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE…
What makes a good designer?
Number one, you must be creative. You must be very creative and then you must know how to dress very well.
Who would you like to clothe or design for but hasn’t been able to?
In Nigeria? (Thinks). Hmmm! This is a difficult question. Difficult question! Difficult question!! Difficult question!!! Do you know why? If you had asked me this question may be a year ago, I would have mentioned a particular name, but the guy did something that put me off. But I don’t want to mention his name. He’s someone I respect. He has a good sense of style, but I don’t want to mention any name. I invited him to be part of my show and it didn’t even occur to him to call to say sorry o!, Mudi, I couldn’t make it. So, I’ve just brushed him aside.
Besides that person, is there no other person?
Well, for now, I can’t really remember any other name.
When did you break even as a designer?
I haven’t gotten a breakthrough. The level I am now is as a result of hard work, discipline. But I’ve not gotten a breakthrough. It’s hard work and discipline that are working for me now.
So, when do you envisage that you will get a breakthrough?
Most times it’s difficult to answer that question because the level I am today, it’s not easy to say tomorrow, I will be in so, so place. No! Most times I allow God to play His role. So, I just do my best; put in my best.
Why do most designers fail?
I think most times it’s the glamour. Some get carried away by the glamour and they begin to lose focus. Some lose focus easily because we are in a society where there is so much distraction. People go into the profession for three major reasons. One, the glamour; two, the passion and three, the monetary aspect. Some are into it because of the money they can get as businessmen and women; some are into it because of the passion they have for the job and some are creative. So, they put in their best to make sure that they stand well and the most dangerous aspect, which is the glamour aspect. Once you get carried away by the fact that people know you as a designer, they hail you; before you know it, it will get into your head and you will begin to lose focus.
What fabrics are you most comfortable working with?
Linen. I use more of linen because it’s the best fabric. It is very versatile. You can use it to make anything; both casuals, kaftans, jackets, suits. It cuts across.
What do you like most about being a fashion designer?
I think it’s the joy, the passion with which I do the job. That is the main thing; it gives me joy and then the passion.
What don’t you like about being a fashion designer?
At times; most times, the glamour it brings to your life – people now begin to see you as a celebrity and because of that there are things you can’t do in public. You have to be more careful. So, most times, it takes away your life from you. Most times, it has its own negative aspects and for you to manage it is not easy.
What is the greatest thing that being a fashion designer has done for you?
I think the fame. Let me say the fame. Because at times, you go out and people say: ‘Are you the Mudi?’ And you have access to other things through the name that you have built over the years also.
What has it not done for you?
Let me think…Because the way you answer it, people might read different meanings into it…Ha! What has it not done for me? I think what I have not enjoyed so much is creating time for my family. I think most times, I hardly stay at home; I get home very late, I travel most weekends; no time for the family. I think that is it.
Why do some people attain success, but find it difficult to sustain it?
Discipline! Discipline!! But most times, when they say discipline, people will just narrow it down to maybe one thing. But it cuts across – your eating habit, the time you resume at work; I get to my office by 7 O’clock in the morning. There are some designers that get to their offices around 10/11am. Most times they get carried away by the little success they’ve achieved. So, discipline is the key. Discipline! Because you might have the passion, you might have the flair, but discipline is the key.
What is your dream for MUDI?
I am contributing my own quota to the fashion industry, so my dream is to for God to take me to where He feels I’m supposed to be.
Besides Nigeria, where else can people find MUDI because you seem to be expanding rapidly?
Accra, Ghana; Nairobi, Kenya; Jo’burg, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal.
Mudi is currently in South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Kenya and has about three branches in Nigeria, are you not over expanding and spreading yourself too thin?
No! What matters most is when you have the structure on ground to sustain and to monitor whatever thing you are going to set up, the rest is secondary, because the most important thing is to keep coming out with new ideas; you keep stocking all the outlets, it’s simple. But you must get the structure right first. Because people wear clothes every day. The demand is there. People must wear clothes. So, you can’t wait till people place orders, you must keep working. It’s like asking Georgio Armani or Versace why are they all over the world. They have shops all over the world.
So, how lucrative is the fashion business?
It is lucrative because fashion is a must. For example, when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is that you have to eat; then you must wear an outfit. You must wear clothes. You can’t go naked. So, it’s a good business that once you know it well and you are doing it well and you are happy doing it, you will make it. But you must be creative.
What is the best way to build a man’s wardrobe?
The best way to build a wardrobe is one, you must consult a stylist. Unfortunately, we don’t have them in our society. People who take care of people’s wardrobes. I’m a designer. I’m not a stylist. There are people who are there, who you consult to tell you what and what to wear at a particular time. So, they come to your wardrobe and tell you what and what to wear. This is nice, but for summer; this is nice for a dinner, this is nice for an outing or a birthday party.
So, you must consult a stylist?
What are the must-haves in every fashion-forward young man’s wardrobe?
One; jeans. It’s important. A jean, a black trousers, a black belt, a brown belt, a black pair of shoes, a brown pair of shoes. Those are the basic things you need to stock your wardrobe. The other things are just secondary. And the most important thing, once you know what you want and you are someone who likes good things; then you go and buy.
Besides clothes sewn by you, who are the other designers you patronize?
I don’t wear clothes by the other designers. I wear my clothes from January to December. I only have just one pair of jeans by D & G and I wear it maybe twice in a year. I hardly wear jeans. I make all the clothes that I wear.
What is the greatest fashion mistake that most people make?
Most times people abuse fashion. What we call fashion victim. If you overdress, it becomes a problem. So, most times it’s either they overdress or under dress. Someone who lacks a sense of style. They want to do what someone else is doing. It’s either they overdo it or they under do it. So, it’s a two way thing and you need to be very, very careful to balance up.
When can a man be said to be well dressed?
One, your shoes must blend with your belt. It’s not about the amount, the value of your clothes or how much you bought them, what matters most is the cut, the fit, the carriage and how the cloth sits on you.
Who is your best dressed Nigerian man?
Stan Mukoro. He’s a columnist; he used to write for Vanguard. He dresses very well.
How about the ladies?
For the ladies, I pick Eunice Efole. She dresses very well.
Now, why doesn’t MUDI design for women?
I used to, but I stopped because of the pressure involved. I stopped some years ago…
(Interruption) – What kind of pressure are we talking about here?
A lot of distractions; one. The pressure! You know that women are very emotional. If a woman orders for an outfit and it’s not ready at a particular time, maybe due to hindrances; when you give an excuse they flare up. But a man will understand, he will say okay, when can I come back? So, they are too emotional and I stopped making (clothes) for women. Though I still make for a few friends of mine – who I make clothes for their wives. But I don’t take orders. I make them at my convenient time, I deliver to you and you pay.
What singular decision would you say turned around your life?
Discipline! Discipline!! There are designers, even in Nigeria here; they get to their offices 10 O’clock, 11 0’oclock. They delegate from home. But I get to my office 7am everyday (stresses it). Discipline! It’s beyond having the talent; you having the will and everything. You must be disciplined. Discipline is very important. Let me give you an instance. There was a day I went to VGC (in Lekki, Lagos). That was about seven years ago to deliver some clothes to one of my clients. Immediately I left his house, I said let me just take a drive, so I drove farther VGC. I saw houses, I stopped and I said men, all these people that built these houses, dem go wear clothes now! This thing that I am doing, if I do it well, these people, dem go wear clothes o! What am I saying? There’s so much money to be made. And that really gave me a push. Because people will wear clothes.
Who are the fashion designers outside our shores that you have learnt one or two things from?
Over there, the structure is there for them to work with. But here it’s at the individual level. People just do things on their own. There is no structure. Even the level I am now, there’s no bank loan. I’ve not taken one naira before from a bank to operate my business. Each time I open an outlet, I go down. Immediately I open an outlet, I have to start saving again. Because what I do most times is I just take my savings, go to their country, get a lawyer, register my brand there, get a shop and set up the business. No bank loan. Just my personal effort.
When did it occur to you to start moving outside Nigeria?
That was 2008.
So, what prompted it?
I was in Ghana for an October 1st event. Obanikoro, the ambassador, hosted Nigerians. It was a cocktail and I was invited. Obanikoro’s wife and I were just discussing and she said Mudi, why can’t you open a shop here? And I said it’s true o! So, what I did then was; I have some friends who are Ghanaians, I just did a survey, went out with them and started asking questions. They gave me the go – ahead, I came back to Nigeria; I travelled back the following week, got a lawyer there, established my brand, registered it, got an auditor and just opened.
How much did you start out with?
I started with no capital! Let me tell you something, when I was starting, there was no capital. I was saving to get my first shop. The first shop I got was for N37,000. I had only N17,000. RMD (Richard Mofe-Damijo) gave me N20,000 to balance up and to pay for my first shop in Anthony, Lagos. A – room shop!
At the time you started, what gave you the courage that you would succeed?
One, I had that belief. People must wear clothes now! People must wear clothes, people must wear clothes… And once you believe in yourself and you have the talent, you are creative, just keep working, keep working and it will work.
How do you come about your customers?
Most times it’s the individual. When you wear something nice, well tailored and people ask, where did you get this one from? MUDI! It’s the word of mouth. It’s not just the network. You must also have something to offer. You can’t just be networking when you have nothing to offer or sell. You must have a good product before you now start networking.
NB: First published April 2014