What you wear determines to a large extent how you will be perceived by others. This is why we gave fashion designers who create fashion pieces to our taste. They help us slay and steal the show when we want to and they also help us be calm and blend in when it’s needed.
Previously, we interviewed Oluwatosin Adegbesan on the creative process behind her powder blue lace owanbe outfit with fascinator. This week, we spoke with Modupe Aina on the creative process behind her classy white leather sandals.
Modupe Aina the creative director of Dupsie Footies. Dupsie Footies is a footwear company that specialises in the creation of beautiful and lovely unisex handmade footwear for people of all ages. A graduate of Mass Communication from Lagos State Univerity, she ventured into footwear making by chance.
After a friend of hers introduced her to his shoemaker, she proceeded to help others connect with him too. From then on, she moved to being a middleman between the cobbler and others before she left the business. On graduating from the university and not finding a suitable job, she proceeded to learn the art of shoemaking. So, Dupsie Footies was born.
What was the Process of Making the Classy White Leather Sandals like?
This footwear was inspired by a client of mine. She came to me one day, showed me a photo of a pair of sandals she wanted and asked if I could make them for her. I looked at it, studied the design and came up with the pattern for it.
The first step in making any footwear for me is to visualise what I want the footwear to look like. I decide what I went to achieve with the footwear then make a pattern for the upper part of it.
Next, I get the leather and cut the pattern out on it. The lasting process comes next. Following the lasting process comes the process of folding the leather and sewing around it on the machine. Sometimes, this is not needed, but for these particular sandals, I did that.
The next step was to get the heels I wanted to use for the footwear and work on the insole – the part the foot stays on. After that, I gummed the insole to the heels using the chemical gum used for shoemaking.
After preparing everything in bits and pieces like that, the coupling process came next. It is the last process. I took all the pieces together and coupled the sandals using the chemical gum. In shoemaking, using the chemical gum is important because, with it, the shoes will last longer than when regular gum is used.
What Inspires the Designs for Each of Your Footwear Pieces?
Most of the time, clients come to us with their designers. To make it unique to us, we usually add a few things to it so it won’t look like what every other person has.
Sometimes, however, I see some designs and instead of making it exactly the way I see it, I look for ways to make it different. I could keep the heels the same way and change the pattern of the upper part. I could reduce straps from 4 to 2 and add some embellishments to it like roses or beads. This is just to make it more beautiful and unique to my brand.
What Factors do You Consider when Making Footwear?
Firstly, my brand runs as a made-to-order brand. I don’t dabble much in ready-to-wear pieces. However, when I am going for exhibitions, I have to make some ready-to-wear pieces because potential customers have to see something to be able to place orders.
The shoe size of an average lady ranges from 38 to 41, extremely big is between 42 and 44 and extra small is 35 to 36. So, when I am going to exhibitions, I make shoes in sizes between 38 and 41.
Another factor that I consider is colours. I usually make colours that will attract people to my footwear. Then, I also make colours that are not picky because the average customer wants to be able to wear their footwear with every and any outfits. Colours like black, navy blue and red are my go-to.
When you get to the market, you see all sorts of materials. You don’t want to do a job today and get calls in 2 months because the material is peeling or something else. We look out for how good the quality of the leather or accessories we use is.
We also look at the insoles. Some of them are very hard and we don’t want that so we look for comfortable alternatives.
If the customer brings a style but doesn’t specify a colour for it, we try to make sure we look out for colours they can wear at any time or any day.
3. Heel Height
For ladies, another thing to consider is the heels of the shoes. We don’t want to make something that will be too high for her. To be on the safe side, we go for platforms many times so they will be comfortable in their shoes. Comfort is very important.
What are the Major Challenges You Face as a Footwear Designer in Nigeria?
1. Bias Against Nigerian Made Footwear Pieces
People prefer to buy things abroad. They don’t usually want Nigerian made product and it’s a major challenge. It’s just recently that people started pushing Proudly Nigeria, but even at that, when you look at the percentage of people that want to buy locally made products it’s still about 30 per cent. 70 per cent of Nigerian buyers prefer to buy shoes abroad because they believe they are of better quality.
This idea is not true because I have made shoes for customers right here in Nigeria with products purchased from Nigerian markets that last for 4 to 5 years without any issues. There is no better quality than that. It is getting better by the day and we hope it keeps improving.
2. Access to Funding
We want to do more and move to higher levels but there are money issues. Access to funds in Nigeria is hard. Even when you want to get a loan from the bank, the percentage interest on it is very high.
This discourages entrepreneurs from going for it and we just pray to get a grant. At least with a grant, all they do is monitor how you use the money unlike with loans. We often have to rely on family and soft loans which cannot really help.
In closing, she said, “Stick to quality. Don’t ever buy poor quality materials because you want to make more gain. If you do this, you will lose your customers because it is what you do today that will keep them coming back. Give them good quality products and they will keep coming back for you.
I have met random people at exhibitions that are still my customers 4 to 5 years down the line because they see I give them quality. Always be consistent.”