•Men are becoming more conscious of their looks
By Vivian Onyebukwa
The fashion business in Nigeria is fast growing, and is attracting a lot of entrepreneurs. One of them is the banker turned fashion designer, Gabby Ibeabuchi.
Ibeabuchi is the Founder/ Creative Director, Twelve06. In this interview, he spoke about his journey into the business, challenges, and fashion generally.
How did your journey into fashion start?
I passionately love fashion. I didn’t know it would end up as a career for me because growing up, people in the fashion industry around me were not worthy of reference. I started as a model doing both fashion and photography. I have over 100 fashion shows to my credit. Working with different fashion designers influenced my desire to make a difference in the fashion space. I saw a lot of lapses and I knew I could mend them. I realised fashion is not just making clothes but a standard and worthy business. After graduation I dare not tell my family I wanted to be a fashion designer. The dream of every parent was for their child to graduate and pursue a high paying white collar job, hence I took to that route. After obtaining my Masters Degree, I went into the corporate world. I started with a telecom company (Globacom), later joined the banking industry. In all these years I would be in the market every Saturday searching for fabrics to design for friends and family. I enjoyed that creative fantasy. Despite my successful growth in the corporate world, I found fashion more appealing. After several years, I knew it was time to take up that dream because I could boldly support my own decisions. A lot of people were perplexed when I left a high paying banking job to become a fashion designer. I truly love what Ido because I am very passionate about it and it’s fulfilling for me. Step by step we are growing into an international entity. There is high demand for our craft around the world and we are constantly seeking new ways to make it easier and better for the customers, making sure you get your money’s worth at all times.
Why did you decide to go into men’s fashion?
Fashion is vast and I like perfection. When I left the banking sector years ago to pursue my passion, I wanted to focus on one thing and get it right first. I chose the male fashion because I was already styling my friends and colleagues at work and they were all happy with the outcome of my craft. I had few male contemporaries patronising me already so I decided to go that lane. Currently we are speaking with an international production company that would produce our firstfemale ready-to-wear line launching in 2024. Our footwear line is also launching same year and I assure you the female folks will be proud of us. Some say men are easier to deal with, but I differ slightly because people only complain about what they are dissatisfied with, and on the other side celebrate what they love. If we can get it right with men, I believe we will do same with women. Truly we can’t wait to hit the ground running.
How long have you been in the business?
By December 6 this year, we shall be celebrating our 10th anniversary, Twelve06. Twelve06 is a dominant lifestyle brand that specialises in bespoke menswear alongside exceptional ready to wear designs for men and women. We are known for superlative and stylish approach to traditional Nigerian and African wears. We currently have customers from all the continents in the world. Twelve06 is poised to revolutionise and showcase the African fashion to the world. I have built a mentorship programme for entrepreneurs, especially in the fashion space,to enhance their growth through practical exchanges. Fashion business goes beyond knowing how to sew. You have to learn how to make money from it; otherwise, you will toil for years without result. In the midst of competition, you have to throw in something different and relevant, per time, to attract patronage. Apart from topnotch finishing and packaging, you must bring your “A” game in customer service to bear, at all times. You must constantly reinvent yourself with one goal – “customer first”. We are also opening a training centre where fashion designers and other artisans can come for relevant training to improve their sales knowledge and grow their business as well. We have radio and TV programmes coming soon aimed at driving growth in the fashion industry in Nigeria. Fashion is gold and we must maximise all the opportunities that come with it.
What inspires you and your designs?
I really love what I do. God blessed me with exceptional creative abilities. I get inspired by my environment. Almost everything inspires me. I can actually use one particular fabric to create different unique designs that would obviously look different from every one of them. I practically pray about everything I do as little as buying fabrics, asking God to help me to create designs that will appeal to the majority. I am inspired by people who don’t settle for less. I like customers who insist on excellence all the time. Knowing I shouldn’t fail and I can’t fail inspires me. My environment plays a huge role on me. Customers inspire my designs to a large extent because a greater percentage of my customers are high net-worth, they rely on my ability to profile and create relevant designs to suit their dynamic needs. It is a big drive for me because I have to research into their personality, career, environment, age, association, religion, location and other demography. I do overall wardrobe consultation service, which puts me on edge over my contemporaries. My designs are creatively daring because I create things that ordinarily an average designer would not dare which ends up becoming trend. I put a lot into research and experimentation. Eventually it’s fulfilling when you are able to create that lasting joy for your customers and families who constantly depend on your craft.
How were you able to surmount initial challenges?
Tackling the challenges, I hire the best of tailors the industry can offer, which increases cost drastically. I am a perfectionist, so I go all out to ensure I achieve excellence at all times. All tailors, staff undergo compulsory one month intensive training, no matter your years of experience. This helps to prepare them for the great task ahead.
Why do you think people are rushing to become fashion designers?
Fashion designing is often misunderstood and mixed up with tailoring, especially in Nigeria. It is a high demanding profession. You don’t necessarily need to know how to sew to become a fashion designer, though it’s an added advantage. A lot of people think being a tailor automatically makes you a fashion designer. No. There is a difference between being a tailor and a fashion designer. A tailor is a person who makes or alters garments, while a fashion designer is a person who creates and designs new clothing patterns and styles. A fashion designer is a professional person who creates fashionable clothing. They have a greater understanding of how to properly fit clothing. They have a broader understanding of fashion design concepts. It allows you demonstrate your creative endowments, influence trends and also be part of solution to people’s style needs. People are rushing into it a lot of times because of the glamour associated with it. It can also put food on your table without much hassle. A lot of people are still dwelling in the old mentality of when there is nothing to do they would take up fashion designing. Currently people are beginning to realise that fashion designing is an honourable profession which you can take up full time and live comfortably if not wealthy.
How do you cope with the competition in the industry?
Fashion designing is very competitive in Nigeria and I love it. We have plenty of talents here. I believe competition enhances creativity. Trust me, if you are not exceptionally creative, you maynot survive in the Nigerian fashion space up to the big stage. We have been able to flourish over time because of our exceptional creative acumen. Above all, we are passionate and resilient. Those two ingredients are vital in surviving the harsh realities of a competitive fashion industry.
What is the state of business as regards to fashion in Nigeria?
The African fashion has plunged into the world scene. Our designers and clothes are in high demand around the globe. Nigerian designers are unafraid to create fashion statements embellished in colours as bold as the continent’s sunsets and in prints as culturally rich as its people. There are more educated and deliberate people in the industry. An average Nigerian appreciates our traditional outfits more than ever. Nigerian designers are recognised globally. Competition has constantly increased excellence, creativity and growth in the industry. I attended the biggest fashion week (show) in the world, the New York Fashion Week – 2022 (NYFW) last year and the buzz was amazing for our designs. This September, I am proudly taking the Nigerian craft/style to the world again.
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