Every fashion entrepreneur has a unique journey that pushes them into the limelight. Taking that leap from being a brand no one knows to one that slowly begins to grow and catch attention is tasking but highly rewarding. It’s a journey of skill, as you will see with Leathered.
Last week, we had an interesting chat with Rahimat Adetunji, where she shared with us how she was able to sell over 2,000 footwear in 4 years. This week, our eyes are on Rofiyat Wuraola Bajepade, the founder and creative director of Leathered. She shared with us how she attracts customers to her brand with top-quality goods and premium packaging. Here’s how it went.
Please can we meet the person behind Leathered?
The person behind LEATHERED is Rofiyat Wuraola Bajepade. I’m the founder and creative director of Leathered. I’ve been running this business for about 4 years now. The business started with just the sales of regular bags like backpacks and lunch boxes while I was studying at the university.
I yearned then to be able to produce stunning and professional bags like RattanbySandrah, Beca Wax, and so on. So, in 2019, for 3 months, I learnt footwear making. This was shortly before my NYSC. I then furthered my knowledge of bag making online in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nice to meet you, Rofiyat. In your words, please describe Leathered.
Leathered, formerly known as Brwdesigns, is a Nigerian brand that specialises in creating unisex handmade fashion accessories like bags, footwear, and belts based on our designs and customer’s specifications. We do this with the knowledge that it will inspire our target customers to order one or more of our high-quality items.
For our design creations, we make use of leather, denim, ankara, gum and so on. All our materials are sourced locally from markets here in Nigeria. So, we are a brand that prides itself on creating high-quality fashion accessories with our local materials.
Nice! How would you describe the ideal Leathered customer?
The ideal #leatheredman or #leatheredwoman is high-spirited, fun and loves to try out new things. They love to stand out in the crowd and be different. This means channelling their personality through the items they put on. This is exactly what our brand offers them, YOUnique pieces that make them distinct and special. It is a sign with the brand that cannot be taken away.
Wow, that’s really something. From where do you get the inspiration to create these outstanding pieces for your customers?
My inspiration comes from everything and everywhere. I envisage bag or footwear ideas in my head and then try to bring them to life. Some become a hit while others don’t sell. Either way, I live for creativity. It’s exciting to create something entirely new from scratch!
For those that don’t sell, I either dash them out or rock them myself. After all, I cannot let them go to waste, they are still works of art. Sometimes, I leave them in the workshop hoping someday someone would see the beauty and buy them. This has happened once or twice now.
At times when I don’t get inspiration and have creative blocks, I have come to see the cause for them. What gives most people, including me, creative blocks is pressure. When trying to create a new design, I give myself time and allow myself not to feel pressured. That’s why a new design takes more time to create than an existing design. If a customer brings a new or complicated design to me to produce, it’s either they give me enough time to produce it or take it somewhere else. I would rather let it go than work under pressure, I don’t create well under pressure.
That makes sense. What have your greatest challenges been while building Leathered? How did you overcome them?
Being an entrepreneur comes with its challenges, but being an entrepreneur in Nigeria, now that’s really crazy. My greatest challenge is getting the right materials of the right quality. There are so many substandard materials in the Nigerian market and getting the right one can be work.
Another one is how each time I go material sourcing, the price of everything seems to have increased. The rate at which the prices of materials are increasing is alarming! The market is so unstable that it’s rare to find materials at the same price each time I go shopping.
Also, I have single-handedly managed the business for the past 3 years and this makes the whole process extra stressful. Everything from running errands to making deliveries, sourcing for materials, production, attending to customers online, and so on is done by me. This has made the work more challenging. However, I recently moved to a new workspace and I got an intern. I must say that the workload has reduced significantly and I’m so loving this feeling!
Hmmm… Being an entrepreneur in Nigeria can be pretty challenging. But, even with that, what would you say your biggest milestone has been?
My biggest milestone is always seeing the joy and excitement people radiate when they get their Leathered products. They even go the length of referring us to family and friends. The fact that when they think about quality leather items in Nigeria, my brand comes to mind is really a huge milestone for me.
Someone messaged recently and told me how he saw a Leathered Package bag somewhere far from here. That gave me goosebumps because even though we’re just getting started, we are already spreading across the country. That’s a beautiful thing to experience/see.
Nice! Do you do anything to encourage your customers to refer your brand to others?
Each Leathered piece is made with the mindset that it is going to a very important person, like the president or a very important celebrity, so we put our best into each piece. This encourages each individual to refer us to others out there.
Everything from the way we package our items to the way we handle customer requests screams prestige. Through this, we always attract the right attention and get our products to go far and wide.
That sounds nice, how do you package your items?
Before sending off any Leathered product, the first thing we do is to add our card and a personalised thank you note to the customer. It’s a small gesture, but it means a lot to many people. It makes them know we see them as individuals and not just customers.
Next, we put the product in dust bags to prevent them from dust or any external damages that might occur on the way to the owner. We always want our products to reach their owner in the best state. We then proceed to put them in the glossy Leathered Branded bags.
Then, we seal off the mouth of the bag with a sticker that says; “Opening this package would result in extreme happiness!” That message never fails to bring smiles to the lips of our customers. It makes the entire process worth it and endears our clients to us. Top-quality items plus great packaging always does the trick.
What are the biggest lessons you have learnt as a fashion designer in Nigeria?
I’ve learnt many lessons as an entrepreneur here in Nigeria, I’ll share some of them with you.
- Always give quality.
- Know your value and worth and sell your products accordingly.
- You can’t do it all by yourself, hire an extra hand.
- Produce each piece with the mind that the owner is a perfectionist and every little detail matters.
- I know it sounds cliche, but, “Be your biggest cheerleader.” Clap for yourself when no one is clapping.
- Always give yourself room for improvement.
- Carry your business on top of your head like “crayfish”. No one would do that for you!
- Never underestimate the power of good customer service, customers love this and many come back mainly because of this. Just make every customer feel very special and comfortable and do not be rude because even rude people hate rude people.
What do you like most about the Nigerian fashion industry? What do you like least about it?
I like the fact that it allows for growth and competition. That saying about there being enough room for every bird to fly is true. There are a lot of fashion designers out here and everyone is still doing their stuff nicely and comfortably without disturbing others. For now, I have never really thought about what I don’t like about it.
True, every fashion designer has enough room to soar. Finally, who is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspirations are Femi handbags, Beca Wax, Penchant By SHC, and Aaboux. They are evidence that true greatness exists in this country we find ourselves in.
Awesome! Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you so much too.