Afew years ago, a young vibrant lady decided to pick up tailoring as a skill useful for herself and her family alone, a few years down the line that same lady is found nursing a brand with the prospect of a promising future.
Mauvelli had an exclusive fashion chat with Adefioye Adesewa Adebola, a fashion designer and lead Creative at Desewa Endroit (A fashion institute that focuses on contemporary female wears and also trains fashion students) and it was nothing short of inspiring. The fabric surgeon who is also a Masters degree holder in Peace and Strategic Studies shared with us how she started her brand.
How did you start your brand?
I started the brand in 2014, just before Nysc. I was waiting to be mobilized so I thought to do something with my time. I have always loved fashion, so I decided to learn how to sew. I had no intentions of going commercial with it at all. From sewing for family and friends during my service year I started to make clothes for other people, especially when my Nysc allowance was no longer enough.
The few people I made clothes for back then kept coming back and kept referring others, some people also started asking that I train them, and before I knew it, the brand started expanding.
What were the challenges you faced in the beginning ?
When I decided to accept the fact that this fashion business was just it for me, I faced a few challenges here and there . The first was funds, I didn’t have capital to start properly .
I only had one sewing machine that my parents bought for me when I was training . They weren’t ready to do more than that because what I told them then was I just wanted to learn it for personal use.
So, technically I was on my own . They would rather have me look for a 9-5 job . Immediately after my service year, I left for my masters and had to move to an apartment close to the school. In that one-room apartment, I began using my machine to sew for people.
Some people loved me for my craft and overlooked the location while some people didn’t think I had anything good to offer from a one-room apartment. It was tearing me apart inside, so decided to work even harder so I could get a bigger space and more machines.
So all the brand is today came from just one sewing machine that I was given and hard work.
It is amazing how a brand can move from one sewing machine to employing labour. We wanted to know more so we asked about a very daunting project she recently completed.
You recently had an experience with your first bridal dress, can you share a bit of that with us?
Well it was not my first bridal dress, the first just never made it out there . The pictures didn’t do justice to the dress so I couldn’t post them.
About the one I made recently, it was not an easy one for me because of the time frame and so many other things taken into consideration.
The details of the dress were more than I envisaged; What I estimated about 140yards for took approximately 290 yards eventually.
I almost lost my mind, but the good part is I have the best team anyone can ever dream of, the support was massive.
Eventually, the dress turned out really beautiful. The sleepless nights and body pains seemed to be worth it, until the dry cleaner I paid to clean the dress returned the beautiful white dress to me brown . It was a very traumatic experience. It was a hard one getting another dry cleaner to help restore the glory of the dress less than 24hrs to the wedding . I must say I learned a lot of lessons on that one .
The wedding dress turned out to be mind blowing and a total work of art.
We went beyond her everyday work and delved into financial talk because we were curious to know how the brand has survived so far.
As a budding brand how do you handle funding for your business?
Let’s just say the business has been funding itself. I put back money from sales and training of students into the business, and yes, my personal money goes in too.
Have you had instances of your products and services being underpriced?
This is almost inevitable actually and has happened a couple of times.
A client once sent in a design and when I gave her the price she said it was too expensive that she had someone who would do it for half the price . I insisted on how much I was going to collect and she went ahead to give it to someone else. It was supposed to be for her introduction. The person she said would do it for half the price delivered and she couldn’t wear it. She later came back to me to fix something for her in less than 48hrs to the event.
And of course I charged her even higher than the initial price I gave her that she refused to pay.
How do you prevent your services from being underpriced?
I’m not sure you can actually prevent your brand from being underpriced or should I say in due time people will adjust.
I have clients that already know how much I charge and as long as I give them what they want they don’t have a problem, while some still try to underprice.
However, it is left to you to decide whether or not you want to take such. Some people leave and never return while some actually return.
How do you arrive at the ‘right’ prices for your services?
The first thing I do, usually, is to calculate the cost of production of a particular dress, then I decide how much I want to add to that as my charge for making of the design. The time and how complicated the design is are some of the things I look at.
How do you balance right pricing, attracting and keeping the right customers?
This is based on the value you give. Truth is you can’t keep everyone as your customer. Some people are willing to pay provided they get value for it.
I just focus on getting better at what I do. Having them adjust to these prices is not exactly easy but with time they will adjust; provided you give customers value for their money.
Businesses experience loss every now and then; as a fashion brand what are the factors that contribute to making losses?
The factors for me are majorly fluctuation in market prices of fabrics and unstable power supply.
What bookkeeping practices does your brand engage and how do you track your sales and cash flow?
I don’t have any special practices, but I have my own book that I designed to my own understanding for tracking sales and cash flow.
Any software that helps you with book keeping and finance?
For now I don’t use any software, although I have been introduced to one or two by a few friends who are entrepreneurs too.
Hard work and resilience are important things that have contributed to the growth of the Desewa Endroit brand, but we wanted to hear from the brand owner herself as we rounded up the chat.
What are the lessons you have taken away from your journey so far?
One major lesson is patience !!!
Having to deal with different people daily isn’t what I will call easy. I have also learnt that consistency and hard work goes a long, both have yielded good results for me the past years.
Building a fashion brand is definitely not an easy one, but Adesewa’s journey so far shows that when you give value and are consistent with it, you are well on your way to success.