Princess Adetola Ibiyode, a Banking and Finance graduate of the Federal Polytechnic Ede, Osun State, and the Creative Director of Princess Adetola Couture (PAC), in this interview by TAYO GESINDE, speaks about her passion for fashion and why she opts for entrepreneurship instead of a banking job, among other issues.
What is a Banking and Finance graduate doing in a fashion business?
I will say the government pushed me. I started learning fashion designing when there was a workers’ strike in school then, and I didn’t want to go worker’s home. I first learnt from a road side tailor in school. From there, I went to learn at a bridal store in Osogbo and from there, I went to Lagos to learn at Ibile Vogue Academy. I started my fashion line five years ago.
What were the challenges you faced when you started?
After I graduated, I searched for fashion schools in Ibadan and Lagos to learn how to relate with customers. I worked with them as a stylist and it helped me to build my confidence to some extent before I started my own business. My major challenge is the fear of whether my customers would like the dresses I made for them. Another challenge I faced that I feel is normal for all entrepreneurs is electricity problem because I did not have a generator then. But now, we have been able to overcome those challenges because now we do not have to rely on the electricity supply from Power Distribution Company and we have even been able to make dresses for people we haven’t met physically before and we usually get good feedback from them.
Did you ever work with your certificate?
When I wanted to work during my industrial training, I went to a place and the manager insisted that he would sleep with me before giving me the job and because I refused to do what he wanted, I didn›t get the job. I was put off by the experience and was determined never to work under anyone. I made up my mind to be my own boss.
What type of fabrics do you like working with?
I like glamorous, celebrity kind of styles based on contemporary sewing like costume-made dresses. I like making complex styles.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Sometimes, it depends on the fabric or the event my customer is going for. Sometimes, I might be listening to music and I would come up with something. I can be inspired by the fabric, colour or the environment. Also, particular word could inspire one, especially when one has to go for a fashion show.
Who are your role models in the fashion industry and why your choice?
My first model in Nigeria is Deola Sagoe. She is an African woman who has put Nigerian on the international scene through designs made from indigenous fabrics like aso-oke. She makes different kind of exquisite designs with aso-oke. Outside Nigeria, my role model is Michael Chenko. He is based in Dubai and he is very good with wedding dresses and lastly, my mentor, Mrs Tope Olanre Alade of Ibile Vogue Academy. She has put youths in the limelight by training them and even after you finished from the school, she does follow up.
How will you assess the Nigerian fashion industry?
I think we have done a really good job so far. Before, we weren’t wearing ankara outside Nigeria but now, people wear Ankara, Adire and Aso-oke. There was a time Beyonce wore ankara. So, I believe Nigerian fashion industry has moved forward.
How do you think government could assist the fashion industry?
I wish electricity is more stable and we have good roads. Both constraints affect the prices of imported goods.
As an entrepreneur what was the greatest lesson you learnt during the pandemic?
You should not box yourself as an entrepreneur. You can be anywhere and be productive. You don’t have to have a particular location to start making money. You can make money anywhere.
What does style mean to you?
Style is an expression of yourself. Whatever you feel comfortable wearing is your style. If your style is well defined to people, they might imbibe your styles to theirs. Style is best defined by you.
What are the things needed to start a fashion business?
You should take passion out of it. Doing business is different from having passion. You might start out with a passion but as time goes on you might need to draw a line between your work and your passion. The first thing to do before starting a fashion business is to learn a skill, go to a fashion school if you can afford it. You can also go online and learn about the recent trends.
How have you been coping with competitions?
First, I do to tell myself that I am not competing with anyone. The fashion industry is big enough to accommodate all of us. So, to me there is no competition, I am only working on myself to become better by the day.
What’s your unique selling point?
PAC (Princess Adetola Couture) is stylish, PAC is comfortable; when you wear PAC you feel comfortable, The confidence and vibe that PAC gives is our unique selling point
How have you been balancing your business and your personal life?
Most times I take vacation off from work. Also, when I am home, I try as much as possible not to work. So, one doesn’t affect the other.
If you have the opportunity which other career would you have chosen apart from fashion?
I haven’t given this a thought before but I don’t think I can do anything else aside fashion. I have always loved the corporate world, so I see myself building my brand to fit into the corporate world. I do not see myself doing anything else other than what I am doing presently.
Where do you see PAC in the next five years?
I see PAC going global in the next five years. Our headquarters might be here, but we would have branches in other countries.
Why do you chose in Ibadan rather thans Lagos that is believed to be the best place for an entrepreneur to stay and thrive?
I felt the same way at first when I got to Ibadan but as the brand started to expand even people from Lagos started sewing from me and even people outside the country. So, to me location isn’t the problem, but you being good at what you do. When you are good at what you do, people will look for you wherever you are.
How do you manage difficult customers?
You have to be professional about your job. For instance, when someone brings a style that doesn’t fit her body shape, I will advise her to opt for a better style. If she agrees fine, but if she doesn’t, I will go ahead with the style she requested for but I would make sure I document our conversation so that when she comes back to complain about the style, I would remind her how I advised her but she didn’t listen. Another thing is our manner of approach to clients, this is very important. The way you approach them will determine how they will react.
As a designer, what do you think are the basic essentials a woman should have in her wardrobe?
You need a white shirt, black bag, blue jean, sunglasses, lip sticks and perfumes.
People usually complain that most designers disappoint their customers. Are you also guilty of this?
Most designers who disappoint are selfish. They want to sew for everybody which isn’t possible. Hence, they end up collecting jobs they won’t be able to meet up with its deadline. Also, if you won’t be able to meet up with a client’s deadline, you should inform him or her. If you are really good at what you do, they will wait for you.
What advice do you have for young girls aspiring to go into this line of business?
So far, I will say I am impressed at what ladies are doing in Nigeria. Many of them are enterprising. For people who intend to start something, my advice for them is that they should stop procrastinating and start whatever it is they want to do.
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