Behind every original fashion piece is a creative genius that has put in plenty of work and effort to see their imagination come to reality. Whether a clothes designer, shoemaker, bag creator or be fed accessory maker, fashion entrepreneurs do great things with just some pieces of fabrics and lots of imagination.
For our Fashion Insider column, we interview fashion entrepreneurs in different sub-sectors of the industry on the creative process behind their pieces. Previously, we looked at the creative process behind the butterfly Yoruba traditional wedding outfit.
This week, we interviewed Joshua Igbagbodayo Ayeku on the creative process behind his Black Daddy loafers.
Joshua Ayeku is the Founder and Creative Director of Neosole Nigeria. Neosole Nigeria is a footwear brand that deals in the production of indigenously hand-made footwear from scratch for the modern and classy man.
A graduate of Accounting, he learnt the art of making footwear while in school. From scrolling through the pages of Instagram and seeing good shoes with classic designs that he could not afford, he was inspired to learn to make them. From there, this passion and hobby turned into a business.
What was the Process of Making the Black Daddy Loafer like?
I enjoyed making this piece so much! I wanted to create a pair of shoes that was outside of the regular and would be perfect with an Agbada outfit. After giving it much thought, I visualised a black piece, which of course goes with practically every outfit.
Afterwards, I created the pattern and sources for the materials needed. I had to look for what fabric to use on the inside and outside of the shoe that would best suit the design I had in mind.
Once I got these, I proceeded to the shoe-making part of the process.
What Inspired the Design?
My inspiration is always the same as what I want my brand to be known for which is “Quality and Style”.
For this footwear, I needed something outside the regular designs for shoes, I needed these shoes to be extraordinary, hence the bow. Without that bow, the shoe would have been ordinary.
Leather is my main material in shoe production, so, trust me when I say that just seeing a smooth-faced leather or repeatedly seeing the same leather over and over again can be quite boring. So I always opt for unique leather in place of the regular.
This is also what I think most customers have in mind when they are trying to get a new pair of shoes. They want something different from what they already have.
With all these unique additions, the Black Daddy shoe turned out to be our best seller for the year 2020 in the loafer category.
What Inspires the Designs for Each of Your Footwear Pieces?
My shoes are inspired by the styles people love with a little twist to them. I noticed most people still love the classic Penny loafer, Derby, Oxford shoe, Brogues etc but then a little modification wouldn’t hurt.
That is all I do, little modifications here and there to make my shoes stand out of the crowd. Remember, “quality and style”.
What Factors do You Consider when Making Footwear?
When making ready-to-wear footwear, I consider 2 factors majorly;
Before I create any ready-to-wear footwear piece, I always ask myself what occasion the shoe is meant for. Will it work well with casual, corporate or traditional outfits?
The occasion the footwear piece is meant for determines the cut I give the footwear piece and the accessories I put on it.
In making ready-to-wear footwear, I always look out for the common sizes. This helps me reduce the chance of producing shoes that no one can we because it’s either too big or too small.
When making bespoke footwear pieces, everything I do depends solely on what the customer wants. I can pitch my ideas and advice the customer on what will look good and what is in vogue but I leave the final decision to them.
The customer is in charge all the way it bespoke pieces. It is always good to remember this.
What Factors do You Consider when Combining Leather and Picking Accessories for Footwear Pieces?
The first thing I consider when getting leather or accessories for my footwear is durability. Because my brand stands for quality, I always have to make sure that whatever I put on my shoes will last long and there will be no complaint about cracking leather of tarnishing accessories.
2. Colour Blend
Another thing my brand stands for is style. I always want to make sure that the leather combinations and accessories I use go properly together.
I analyse my design and match colours that will sit well together and appeal to my customers.
3. Customer’s Preference
Especially for my bespoke pieces, I always consider the preferences of my customers in making footwear. What style of shoes do they like? Would they prefer a bold or more mellow design and colours? What makes them feel comfortable?
After I look at all of these together with whatever else they might want, I create footwear that suits their tastes and preferences.
The style of a pair of shoes can make or mar it. In footwear designing, the style is everything. It determines the cut of the shoes and the accessories that can be placed on it.
What are the Major Challenges You Face as a Footwear Designer in Nigeria?
1. Access to Funds
Every entrepreneur’s major challenge is access to funds. In Nigeria, it is especially hard for entrepreneurs to access funds to grow their business with.
Because of the number of entrepreneurs we have in Nigeria, getting grants is highly competitive. As for bank loans, those have a high-interest rate attached to them and it is just not very suitable for business owners.
2. Nigerians’ Bias About Locally Made Shoes
When customer’s see what I am doing and what to buy a pair of shoes from my brand, they always want to beat the price down to the barest minimum. Most Nigerians believe that because they are locally made pieces they cannot be top quality.
This has proven to be a major challenge for me but the quality of my shoes always speak volumes for me.
In closing, he said, “In entrepreneurship, the most important thing is to know your craft and its value. Never another your creativity and in everything you do, be original.”