Yomi Casual’s Chief Executive Officer, Omoniyi Makun, said ENENAITE’S BLESSINGS about his achievements, challenges, and other problems
What inspire you to dive into the world of fashion design?
Initially, it was not my intention to become a designer. My sister made a mistake in 2002 when she got the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board form for me. Instead of doing Fine and Applied Art, he filled Fashion Designing. That’s how I make myself into fashion. It wasn’t planned at all. I can’t even say that I was inspired to become a designer. No inspiration from the start.
Do you think you would be as successful as you are now if you decided to become a good artist?
Depends. Maybe now, I’ll be in one country or another exhibiting my work. On the other hand, the case could be worse because I could be under the bridge showing off my paintings. However, I believe God never fails. I believe it was God’s plan for me (to be a fashion designer).
What challenges have you faced in your career?
The main challenges so far are still production costs, and maintaining the standard fashion house in Lagos State. It is quite expensive. At times, it seemed like someone only worked for the government. Someone makes a lot of money and the money comes back to them. At my company, we can’t turn off the generator because we’re trying to keep costs down. Diesel generators must be turned on from morning to evening. There is practically no electricity supply today. You can imagine the amount we spend on diesel each week.
What qualities does a fashion designer need to succeed?
The first quality is for someone to be different, and it worked for me. Someone has to stand out. Don’t try to imitate people. One has to be different by the design. When one stands out, people will start asking what is being done. When people approach and they see that someone has something to offer, it means he or she has done it right.
In what ways has your older brother, Ayo Makun, contributed to your career success?
AY makes it so easy. Something that should have taken me five years to accomplish, took two years for me to accomplish. He has a platform that he uses to showcase my designs. One can be good but not have a platform to show it off. AY Show is the platform I use to advertise my work. It really helped me at that time.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’ve accomplished a lot and I can’t really pinpoint one as my greatest accomplishment. However, my children are my greatest achievement.
The fashion industry is saturated. What makes your company different from others?
My clients always say we are different and unique, and I think that’s enough for me. I just do what I do and get good feedback.
Some people argue that designer clothes are expensive. Do you make clothes for the average Nigerian?
Of course. However, it depends on what you call average. Fashion is not easy; sometimes, it is a pain. It could affect a person’s pocket. But, we make clothes for everyone.
How can the government help the fashion industry?
First, we don’t have a standard factory. I hope to take my designs to the factory for mass production, instead of me doing all the cutting and sewing all the time. Also, the government should provide us with a constant supply of electricity. This will help almost all business people in the country. (Inadequate) electricity (supply) is a major problem in our business.
Fashion designers are believed to often disappoint their customers. How does this affect the industry and how can the narrative be changed?
It affects a lot. Sometimes, it’s out of selfishness. Some tailors put together jobs they couldn’t handle. If I’m fully booked, I’ll tell the client so. I will never accept a job I can’t do. I can confidently ask my clients, “Is there a time you needed your clothes that we couldn’t meet”? There was never such a time. It gives people confidence and makes them advertise one’s business for one.
It is said that your clothes are too expensive. What is your reaction to that?
I don’t know what they mean by that (laughs). However, luxury does not come cheap.
You are friends with IK Ogbonna and Alex Ekubo. What binds you all together and how do you resolve issues whenever they arise?
Everyone was fighting, including the brothers, and the married couple. We have our differences but we are fine. They make us stronger. It is often said that if a person never has a problem with his friends, then there is a problem. While I am a designer, IK and Alex are actors. My job requires them because I use them to model my clothes. We started bonding and we shared the same dream. They want to be out there and whatever I do puts them out there. My work with them also put me out there.
Your children were born in the United States. Was it intentional?
It was intentional and planned from the start. I decided that I would not let my children experience what my parents went through. I believe if someone can afford it, it’s not a bad idea. Some might consider it a waste of money, but it just means someone is giving the kids a soft landing. There are artists who cannot travel to certain countries to perform because they do not have a blue (American) passport.
What was your most embarrassing moment as a fashion designer?
I don’t really have any embarrassing moments as a fashion designer. But, in other areas, I did. When I was in school, I used to be a comedian. During the carnival at my school back then— Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, I made a joke and people didn’t understand. At one point, a man walked up to me on stage, carried me on his shoulder, and left the stage (laughs). In the past, my banners were everywhere on campus. That night, I tore up my banner on my way home at around 4am. I told myself that was the end of comedy (my career). I myself killed the dream.
What’s the most expensive outfit you’ve ever made?
I can’t say but I’ve worked with prominent people, including governors, and presidents of various African countries, and I don’t even post (about it on social media). But, working with them means a lot to me.
What’s the cheapest price you’ve ever charged for a trip?
In 2006/2007 when I started my business I used to charge between N5,000 and N7,500 per garment.
Who is your biggest cheerleader?
In Nigeria, I have great respect for Mudiaga Enajemo (African Mudi). He inspired me without even saying a word. I look at his lifestyle and tell myself every day that I have to be like him. She is one of those fashion designers who doesn’t talk much. He just let his lifestyle do the talking for him.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
That’s way back in 2010/2011. During that period, I asked myself if I was really called to do this because I was struggling. I was the only one doing the cutting and sewing because I didn’t have a tailor at the time. I used to make clothes for men and women. Back then, I wasn’t very good at making women’s clothes, but I had to incorporate it into my own style. Some women are not happy with my style. When I came to Lagos in 2006, I was offered a bank job with a salary of N25,000/N30,000. I told AY that I would take a bank job but he didn’t agree. He said it was fashion designing I was called upon to do. He encouraged me to stay in my business. He showed me the clothes in his wardrobe made by Mudi and told me the prices. He said he believed in my creativity and knew what I could do. I then became compelled again to continue my sewing business. The rest is history.
What is your favorite fashion accessory?
I like a good watch.
Would you encourage your child to follow your path?
I will encourage them, especially my daughter. I would be very happy if he became one of the top designers in this country and beyond.
If you weren’t a fashion designer, what would you be?
I will be an interior designer, artist or stylist.
What keeps you going?
I am a loner. I can be in one place with good cloth and music. They keep me going. I don’t have to be in the midst of so many people. I grew up not having many friends. I’m used to having only one good friend and I’m fine.
How do you handle setbacks?
There are some things that cannot be controlled. One just needs to move on. I try not to worry about things that I have no control over because they will always happen in someone’s life once in a while. Things will fall back into place.
How do you balance work and family?
My wife understood from the start that I was a busy person even before we got married. When we were dating, he noticed how I usually closed very late from work. Sometimes, we make video calls and he sees me working. He was used to it now. However, I did not take advantage of the fact that he understood. My weekend is for me and my family. Also, my friends know that I am a very busy person. Often, they came to see me in my office. We are core and relaxed because they know they have to bring the ‘groove’ to my place because I like my personal space.
What is your hobby?
I like playing basketball and video games. I also love to sketch and I can do it all day long.
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