Ademola Ajibola was a guest at the ZEE STITCHES plaza a while ago and he had a chat with the CEO and Lead Tailor, Abimbola Bakare on things most folks don’t know about her business. Enjoy.
What has been the unique selling point for the Zee Stitches brand over the years in the highly competitive fashion industry of Lagos?
I won’t like to put it as I have a selling point rather, would say HIS grace speaks for my brand. Like you rightly said, the fashion industry is highly competitive and trust me we are ALL doing well. All glory belongs to God but from our end, I would say originality and fair rates. Our unique embellishments make wow statements that gives extra confident when rocked. As we have stones and beads custom made for us and no other fashion house has. You can’t come across our pieces and not know its from us, they’re kind of uniquely different and we keep stepping up our game. Also, our finishing plus our rates are highly competitive.
At what point in your life did you decide to be a fashion designer? And what informed that decision?
My love for blings got me here. I’m a bling addict and I’ve always been a lover of creative fashion. I remember growing up, my parents used to beat me for ripping my clothes and sewing on badges and sequins i pick from my mum’s lace fabrics. I pick out stones from her laces and clue on my nose, teeth, nails and books!!! People used to compliments my “altered” clothes and look alot. I always draft my designs and gave my then fashion designer, I combine different fabrics and accessories and tell her what to do. She kept telling me how her clients always loved any outfit she makes for me and order same so anytime she has a special order she comes to me for advise. Over time I started asking her to produce for me in bulk while I embellish them and take around offices to sell as ready to wear. Business was so good that she hardly had time for her own clients as my orders were overwhelming. So one day she came to me and spoke to me about setting up my own fashion house since i had the resources. Haven’t looked back since then.
Almost all business people encounter certain difficulties when starting out. What was your experience like? When would you say you got your big break and how did you know you’ve become a force to reckon with in the Lagos fashion industry.
The first challenge was I wasn’t a professional tailor so not knowing so much about the basics was a major set back. It made the tailors take advantage of me. So it wasn’t easy at all. Our major break came when we started having celebrities and politicians wear our pieces. It was a major door opener for us. Well we’re still a work in progress but God has been extremely faithful as we have wholesalers home and abroad, we also have some Nigerian designers come to us to embellish their clients outfits for them which is indeed an humbling honour.
Who are some of the names you’ve worked with on projects, collaborations and all and how do you manage uncooperative clients who want to be right at all times?
We style a few serving and former first-ladies in Nigeria here. We have collaborated with living legend, RMD, to style on his popular TV series Mr X. We have equally styled a couple of actresses in the movie industry like Jaiye Kuti, adunniade, Ego Boyo, Mercy johnson, Ebube Nwagbo, Omoni Oboli, Chioma Chukwuka, Ronke Odusanya, Ayo Adesanya, Bimbo Oshin, and a host of plenty others. Hmmmmm, uncooperative clients! Used to be a big deal in the past but I learnt “CUSTOMERS ARE KING” so it takes patience, love and perseverance to manage them as they put food on our table.
You’ve won a couple of awards for your ingenuity and creativity. Do you feel awards are needed by brands like yours?
Yes, to the glory of God, we have won alot of awards. These awards are well deserved as it makes us know we are doing something right and being appreciated leads to a driving force to make us strive harder to get better and staying. The awards are needed.
If you are to advise young people who look up to you as a mentor in the fashion industry, what are the 5 main ingredients you’d tell them to cook their soup of hustle with?
For those who look up to me, i will advise them to stick to these principles: One, God should always be put first in everything they do. Nobody makes mistakes with God. Two, They should work diligently. Nothing comes easy. They need to sow their labour with love and hardwork so they can reap in abundance. Thirdly, 3. Humility. They need to learn to be humble and let God lift them up. We never know who we’ll meet on our way up or if we’ll need them to get to the top. 4. They should not see their colleagues as competitions. Fourth, The only competition they should be in should be with themselves. They should work on watering their grass to make it greener. Lastly, they should always up their game. The fashion industry keeps evolving and trends keep changing. They must try to set their own trends at their own pace. There is nothing like being original and creative.