After her master’s degree programme in Swansea, Jennifer Lami launched fully into the passion she shared with her mother – fashion. The Chief Executive of Lami Fashion Hub tells KATELEMI CLAUDE, in this interview, how vital public relations is in the fashion industry
Unemployment and other necessities push people, especially graduates, into business. What is responsible for your venture into the clothing business?
I started making clothes way back in Igbinedion University Okada. I started with printed T-shirts and after awhile I decided to make couture dresses for my friends because of the demand for dinner dresses at the end of session.
With a little recognition in school, I decided to push myself and expand my client base; thus I introduced new designs. By 2012, I was making denim and ankara pieces that were in vogue then. I would take orders during vacation and resume school with them. Though sometimes I would have to call my contact in Kaduna to send more designs, depending on the number of orders.
After my degree programe, I decided to learn tailoring properly. So I enrolled at a fashion school in Kaduna, and that has been one of the many things I am thankful for. Entrepreneurship then wasn’t as it is today; a lot of people didn’t understand why I would learn tailoring just after a degree from a private university. As a matter of fact, even my father didn’t get it, but he supported me anyway because he thought I was bored and needed to leave the house.
After my master’s degree, I figured it was time to start tailoring full time. The time felt just right. In 2016, I got a small space at a residential market and started with two straight sewing machines and one employee.
How much capital was involved?
The estimated cost for operating from a physical store when I started was about N500,000, rent inclusive. That was my first physical store.
How difficult is it managing your clients, in terms of meeting you with deadline?
This actually is one of the greatest challenges we face as service providers. We come across all kinds of people and must learn human relations to maintain a good relationship. Thankfully, I took a course in Public Relations and that really helps me with communicating clearly with clients. There are few occasions when we have to push back dates for fittings due to unforeseen circumstances, and clients got frustrated. But I prefer a quality job to a rushed one. That is why I maintain that learning good human relation is paramount in the fashion business. I personally hate to disappoint clients and would go to any length to please and deliver, and to change their perspection of the typical “Nigerian tailor.”
Have you ever received support from the government or corporate bodies?
No, but I know a lot of people that have.
With an MSc in Media and Communications, what is the motive behind your switch to the fashion business?
Truthfully, my passion for fashion came from the love my mother had for it. When she passed, I wanted to do something that would make me feel closer to her. That was why I started making clothes, and in the course of it I fell completely in love with it. For every time I’m appreciated for my art, I find fulfilment, which is why it’s primary to me and I don’t see myself stopping or switching careers.
I also run a media firm, which I started in 2016 temporarily. I will definitely take it a notch higher once I find my balance.
How are your products accepted in the midst of western fashion?
The Nigerian fashion industry is growing and there are a lot of demands for bespoke clothing. This has encouraged a lot of us to deliver quality jobs and fill the gap.
Who among your clients is prominent to you?
All my clients are special to me. I get the same appreciation and recognition from all of them.
Have you ever participated in any Nigerian fashion show?
Yes, in Benin City, Edo State.
What is your area of specialisation?
I make clothes for both male and female, particularly bespoke. At Lami Fashion Hub, we have been able to cover a lot of ground in fashion and style. We combine both urban and traditional clothing. We make kaftans, agbada, tuxedo, corporate clothing, bridals, aso-ebi and T-shirts.
How long does it take to perfect the skill in clothes-making?
Clothes-making is a learning experience; you never stop learning or acclaim yourself “perfect” although you need between six months and a year to have basic knowledge.
What is your message to youths who would want to venture into this line of business?
Make sure you have the passion for it because when you get stuck, that’s the only thing that can get you out and keep you going.
What other information would you like to share?
Branding is key in any business. Give clients value for their money and they will keep coming back.