You will agree that there are plenty of fashion designers in every state in Nigeria and most of the designers do the same thing: sew clothes for people. Not Abigail Israel. She graduated with a degree in Sociology and Anthropology from the Obafemi Awolowo University in 2015, did somebody say Great Ife?
2 years after, in 2017, she launched her fashion brand called Marble Stitches with the drive to deliver a totally stress-free experience to every customer who patronizes the brand. We can’t say it enough to fashion entrepreneurs that tech is the future and it is the tool that can help us innovate and scale beyond being small-time designers.
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In this Exclusive with Mauvelli, Abigail inspires with the story of how she runs her fashion brand, the challenges she encountered and her experience in her first year as a fashionpreneur. Let’s dig into it.
Tell us a bit about you
I am Abigail Israel and I am the founder and Creative Director of Marble Stitches. I have an MBA in Production and Operations. I am passionate about creating digital solutions to cloth making. Reliability and convenience are a big deal to me when it comes to these solutions. My brand, Marble Stitches, began officially in 2017.
I like to say that I was born into a home of cloth makers. The name “Marble Stitches” is an adaptation of a fashion house that my mum used to own. It was called “Marble Home of Fashion.”
What did you set out to do different with Marble Stitches?
I was tired of the usual gist of “Nigerian Tailors always disappoint.” My major aim at the start was to change that narrative. I believe that Nigeria has developed too much for us to still experience drama when it comes to something as basic and important as clothing.
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Did you get an MBA because of your fashion brand?
I got my Master of Business Administration (MBA) after I launched my brand. My parents are learned people and they did not want their daughter stopping at B.Sc.
They wanted me to get an MSc but I was sure that I didn’t want to go into academia. So I chose an MBA instead because I knew it would contribute to the running of my business.
How has the mba contributed to marble stitches
It has opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities in my fashion business. Instead of a fashion designer, I call myself a fashion entrepreneur because I am more excited about the business of fashion and creating solutions for the typical individual than I am about “creating designs”. I’m more concerned about building structures that can stand, work without me and outlive me.
In the process of getting my MBA, I have met people that have been crucial to this journey.
Is lack of structure one reason why many fashion brands remain small?
A lot of fashion brands are more about creating designs and that is fine really, I need it too. But I think that we need to aim higher as fashion entrepreneurs and start enacting structures that allow the business to outlive us.
Let me give an instance, imagine if you are the person that solely illustrates the design and sews it without employing many people. You’d most likely make a lot of money.
But what happens if you’re sick for days or have to take maternity leave? Should the business pause because having new designs are dependent on you?
Should the business pause because having new designs are dependent on you?Abigail Israel
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In my work with Marble Stitches, I believe in the art but I am more interested in structures and building a business that can operate as a separate entity from me.
We want people to go to their Tailor’s shop on their device, get their clothes on time, and look so confident, gorgeous and happy in their outfits. All of this I’m trying to build to outlive me and be less dependent on me.
So, what kinds of structures do you advise designers to put in place?
People need to realize they can’t build the business alone. First, build a team. Have a tailor or tailors to work with you then instil discipline or guidelines. Next, set your fashion business up as if it is an office because it is.
Do proper accounting and keep your books as if you have an auditor that is coming to inspect. Build structures around your customer relationships that are professional. Create digital invoice for your customers.
All of this help when you grow really big and have huge orders to attend to. You can then start hiring people to manage each of these departments.
Create a structure for carrying out customer research from time to time. It should help you to ask customers what they’d like and what they want you to improve on.
That is one key to innovation as a fashion business that has helped me. Our latest innovation is a result of a one on one customer research that we carried out.
Great. What was your first year as a fashionpreneur like?
It was very challenging especially in the areas of Hiring and Market penetration.
How did you solve them?
For the market penetration challenge, I used a pricing strategy to enter the market and make people believe me.
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I started with a promotion of the “7k shop” where we sold all clothing for N7,000. People bought and started trusting us. I did it for 3 years, every July and I acquired a lot of customers with that. Those people got me other customers through referrals and we’ve been able to up fabric quality and pricing since then.
Hiring is still a challenge really, but it’s better in the sense that, now, I can easily spot what I’m looking for compared to when I started. Getting people that share your exact vision and are as passionate can be a little hard but I still get some.
As we rounded up the first part of the interview, it was obvious that Abigail Israel is a woman on a mission and she is not afraid to battle odds. Look out for the concluding part of the interview on Thursday and do not forget to allow push notifications so that you won’t miss a single one of our insightful posts.
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