Dear IWAB Readers,
Welcome to Hot Gist on Influence. Today, join me as I take you inside Nigeria, from The City of Lagos -Africa’ Commercial HotSpot to inspire you with insights on faith and fashion shared by a super talented, creative and fast rising Nigerian Fashion Designer Irene Alabi during a recent interview with a Nigerian Newspaper ‘Nigerian Tribune Glamour’. I am also glad to inform you that today 8th June is the Birthday of this Fashion Diva. Smh huh!
Enjoy the read
Irene AIabi is the Chief Executive Officer of Iryanthys Couture. The graduate of Computer Science from The University of Lagos, in this interview with TAYO GESINDE, speaks on her brand, driving force and her fashion preferences and her faith. Excerpts:
How it all began
I have always had a flair for fashion right from my secondary school days. I had many tailors around me but whenever they made any dress for me, I was never satisfied with whatever they made because I really loved looking good. That was why I began showing more interest in sewing. I learnt how to sew from my aunty for about two years after which I worked with a guy called Martin Couture at the Island. Later, I went back to school to further my education. I studied Computer Science at the University of Lagos. When I graduated, I worked with Eyiyemi Pratt; she was a presenter and a fashion designer. I upgraded my fashion skill at her fashion outfit.
I started my fashion business in my father’s house. I had just one machine at the time and I was sewing in the passage so the major challenge I had was to get people to appreciate my work. Being a beginner, many people felt that, “what can she do?” Because I was not a known name, they didn’t appreciate what I had to offer. Many of them felt they were doing me a favour by patronising me. They would tell me that they were just trying to encourage me. “I have my regular tailor, I just want to help you,” many of them would say. So, the major challenge I faced in those days was patronage. It was when they started seeing the quality of my work that they began to appreciate me My label, Iryanthys Couture started officially in 2010. The journey so far has been very interesting. I am not where I want to be but I am not where I used to be. There is no occupation without challenge. Another challenge I had was human resource. Of all the resources you need as a designer, human being is the most difficult to manage. No matter what you have to offer, no matter how fair you are, some would never appreciate what you do. Most of the time, I had to go to God to see me through. No matter how truthful and plain you are with your workers, you never get the same type of honesty from them. So, I believe in just doing my best and leaving the rest.
What stands me out from my competitors
Finishing. My motto is: “Simplicity at its best.”We can do anything; bridals, couture, name it. With the way fashion has turned out to be these days, your finishing counts more than what you think you can do. I have clients who no matter what you do on the outside of a dress if your finishing is terrible, they won’t wear it on their body. So, for me, it has been a selling point. My experience with my customers has taught me that your finishing should be as good as what is on the outside.
Fabrics I love working with
I love to work with Ankara. From fashion Hollywood, woodin, Da Viva to Nigerian wax.
I have attended a lot of fashion shows that I have lost count of the numbers of shows I had participated in.
Assessment of the Nigerian fashion industry
Nigerian fashion industry has grown so big and every day, it keeps expanding. It has given us a head way on the international scene. I am happy to say that Ankara is worn everywhere in the world and it has been a major employer of labour in the past ten years. A lot of young people are into fashion now. It is very, very lucrative for those who are serious about it. We even have actors now having fashion labels. The industry is growing in leaps and bounds and this I believe is the reason government should provide capitals to those who want to go into the fashion business. This will go a long way in reducing the rate of unemployment in the country. Government should invest in the fashion industry.
My inspiration comes first from God, the author and finisher of everything. I also get inspiration from art, the fabric and from understanding the kind of person I want to deal with. For instance, I can be inspired to sew a particular design but one needs to look at who one is sewing for. Is the person plus size or slim? There are some things that plus size people cannot wear but will look nice on slim people. And there are certain things that they (plus size) will wear that slim people can’t wear. So, the inspiration is basically from God and other designers.
Basically, I have a passion for fashion but asides that, money is the major motivation. I enjoy doing fashion. However, the number one motivator for me is money.
Where I want to be in five years time
I should be participating in fashion shows around the world. Having and opening branches all over West Africa by God’s grace.
Combining the home front with my business
It has not been easy but this is the place where priority comes in. You need to priortise. God first, family first and business second.
Definition of style
Like I said earlier, style for me is simplicity at its best. As an individual, when going for an outing, the first thing I consider is the type of event I am going for. This is due to the fact that you can’t dress for a cocktail party and a dinner party in the same way. Just as you can’t be going for a Nigerian fashion show and dress as if you are going for the Oscars. So, the event one is attending is key in choosing your outfit. After that, whatever you are going to wear, let it be something that will suit your body shape.
I don’t have any role model. Most of the time, I just think of how I want to look. I combine things; check out the outcome, think of how I can manage them and if I am satisfied with that look, I go for it.
My opinion on provocative dressing
I am a born again Christian so I don’t encourage provocative dressing. It is not ideal. It is not until you show off sensitive parts of your body before people can see that you are beautiful. As a designer, I have had instances where customers would ask me to sew provocative styles for them. What I try to do in such cases is to try and convince them to sew other styles. I always look for a way of selling what I feel will look good on my clients to them and most of the time, they tend to agree with me. So I try as much as possible to encourage and build their confidence that they don’t have to expose their bodies to look and feel good. Some want to show off cleavage, some their breasts and you find out at the end of the day that they usually look better when they are decently dressed. I have come to realise that many of my clients are plus size. An average plus size person usually lacks self confidence. No matter what you make for them, no matter how good it is, they are never satisfied. What I do is that I sell whatever design I want to make to them, then, I build up their self confidence and self esteem. Those two attributes are very important in human beings especially plus size people. After building their self confidence and self esteem, they wear the clothes and they are happy. There was a time I had plus size people and when I want to sew for them, it was a headache. You are about to cut their clothes and you are afraid. But at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit showed me how to deal with them. That I should just build their self-confidence and self- esteem. No matter how beautiful what you make for them is, if they don’t have the confidence to wear it then it won’t work. So, the trick is to tell women that they don’t have to expose their body to be beautiful. Your face, your body structure and even your carriage will showcase your beauty. Instead of wearing a provocative dress, you can wear a mono strap dress.
It is simple. I wash my face before going to bed, clean my make-up, bath regularly and I don’t use harsh creams on my body. I use Shea butter and coconut oil. I apply my make –up, make sure my hair is neatly done and I am good to go.
Choice of accessories
Shoes, I love heels a lot. Then probably, wrist-watches and earrings. I am not a necklace person neither am I crazy about bags. I can go out without carrying bags.
Cost of looking good
Looking good does not have to be expensive. It is your carriage that matters. Your self confidence and how well you can match up whatever you want to wear. As a designer, I should be able to wear anything that when people see it, they will want to have it.”
As a designer I should be able to match all colours but I get attracted to red and yellow a lot.
What I will like to change about myself
Nothing. I am wonderfully and fearfully made.
Take a nice shower and take a long rest. If I want to pamper myself, I go for body massage.
Advice for young people
Be patient; don’t be in a hurry to make it because life is not like that. Everything is step by step so, I will encourage them to be patient, to be focused and get educated. The sky is the limit when they do all these.
Source: Nigerian Tribune Glamour
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