Innovating in the Nigerian fashion industry.

17 Sep, 2019 • by Bibi Aji
Innovating in the Nigerian fashion industry.
Bibi Aji
Written by Bibi Aji

Disclaimer: This is not your regular fashion article telling you how to be different by actually going to fashion school to gain quality skills that would differentiate your fashion label from the myraids of other fashion outfits that disappoints and feature weekly on the 'what I ordered for Vs what I got'.

No, you would not see how to offer excellent customer service or sew neatly.

This articles makes you think like an innovator, someone coming into the Nigerian fashion industry to do things differently and put Nigeria more firmly on the global fashion map.

If I haven't lost you already, welcome to being different.


The Nigerian fashion industry is booming. Imagine having a total output of $2.6 billion in 3 months. Yes, that is solid data from NBS (National Bureau of Statistics). According to FBN Quests January 2019 article, the apparel and garment industry's total output on Q3 2018 was ₦799 billion representing a whopping 22% of manufacturing GDP.

This indicates a huge market for fashion products, but despite these opportunities, there still lies a huge skill problem facing fashion entrepreneurs.

Dressmakers, jewellery designers, fashion illustrators, bag designers, and even those who sell fashion products all have the same problem which is getting skilled staff to take on managerial roles.

A lot of Nigerian creatives tend to look towards the borders for skilled staff from countries like Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Benin Republic and even Senegal.

After figuring out the problems, I decided to solve this skill problem by having an online platform (I started with Whatsapp) where I could teach designers, tailors who own their businesses how to draft patterns and sew. I have taught about 70 women from different countries and I'm currently expanding and changing from WhatsApp trainings to owning a website where my videos would be hosted as WhatsApp exposes my videos to theft and fraud. Anybody can claim to be me or FashionCity and scam unsuspecting individuals.

The essence of this article is to help fashion enthusiasts look at the markets they want to operate and look for ways to build a niche, be different and unique.

I chose online classes because I saw that most fashion creatives earn very little and cannot afford the fees of expensive privately owned fashion schools.

Some don't even have enough staff, so you will find these creatives doing everything from cutting, sewing, ironing, purchasing fabrics to deliveries. Now do you tell her/ him to attend a fixed scheduled class. It would mean closing down their shops till classes are over and that is not a great financial choice for them.

But with a WhatsApp class offering the same curriculum using video and pictorial illustrations, they can work and learn at the same time, increasing the knowledge and capacity to make more money.

So you can say online fashion trainings is my niche.

What is yours?

60% of the fashion enthusiasts I come across indicate a desire to learn how to sew but the reality is there are so many career pathways in the fashion industry of today.

This is 2019 where individuals are disrupting different sectors with innovative services. You have to ask yourself what field you want to specialise in and then develop yourself into an authority figure in that field.

There is womenswear, menswear, childrenswear, fashion illustration, fashion styling, fashion merchandising, apparel product development, etc.

So let's do a quick quiz/ self appraisal.

- Do you love fashion but you don't like cutting or sewing fabrics. You just know you love drafting patterns. Why not go to school to learn pattern cutting and become a pattern maker. You can make huge profits by helping designers who outsource sewing abroad to create their patterns, you can teach in schools or even run your own school.

- Are you that artsy creative who loves drawing beautiful dresses? Have you thought of becoming a fashion illustrator?

You might think you won't make money asides teaching others how to sketch both manually and digitally.

But then, let's take a look at Claire Idera... Claire is a dope fashion illustrator who has had numerous paid classes. But her business skills are tight. If you go through her Ig page @claireidera, you will see she has numerous streams of income: She created prints for Shoe designer 'Kene Rapu", sold artworks and has done numerous paid workshops and appearances.

Peniel Enchill of peniel_enchill is another fashion illustrator that creates stunning digital designs. Her drawings look really real but then how has she been able to monetise her skill? Let's figure this out.

She makes customised calendars and phone covers with her designs.

If you have heard of the smart woman money book by Arese Ugwu, then you have seen Peniel Apenteng's designs. Arese used her sketched design as the smart woman book cover. Peniel has also done a couple more book covers. All these brings money to the table.

- The truth is people are looking to sell products differently so if you just  happen to love textile design, you love creating new prints on fabrics, why not become a textile designer and start making your own prints as Ankara or silk and sell it to fellow fashion designers.

The fashion industry is bustling with opportunities, don't forget Nigerian designer Ituen Basi created her Spring Summer 2015 collection with the fabrics containing the artworks of renowned painter/ artist Victor Ehikhamenor. You know she definitely made money right, selling these dresses here in Africa and abroad.  ????

As we approach the end of this article, you might be thinking, I don't like to sew, can't draw but I know I want to do fashion different.

Have you thought of building a niche? Maybe focusing on a different segment of the fashion market. Uniforms.

Wait, just hold on a bit. Breathe and think deeply.

Has it not occurred to you that there are numerous professions in the world that use uniforms. So maybe you had that edgy sense of style with a knack for being different. Why haven't you started creating extremely stylish uniforms for nurses, chefs, or maybe airplane hostesses.

Yes.  I said it. Airplane hostesses.

Nigerian airline 'Air Peace' had a competition in January encouraging designers to come up with a nice uniform design for their cabin crew. This shows they are aware of the need to not only look professional but aesthetically pleasing.

Now, imagine you have serious tummy pains, say you are stopping right, and you know "Flagyl" is your answer but you don't want to sell medicate. So you carry yourself to that newly built private hospital that you have been seeing flyers of in the supermarket, you probably have passed by abd said to yourself 'Na dem, all na packaging, these hospitals are all the same with their poor management and bad customer service.'

But then, immediately you enter, you see these doctors and nurses wearing this really nice looking outfits, What would be your impression of the hospital.

It might change, right?

Well, there are numerous fashion businesses in America making edgy uniforms. One in question called "FIGS" founded by 2 women who saw boring uniforms as a business idea, manufactures medical uniforms. In january 2018, they raised an investment of $65million.

My question to you is simple... What is the niche you are building in the fashion industry today?

Tobilola Ajibola / Pattern maker / Online fashion trainer @thepoisedpatternmaker

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