“Nigeria has plenty of fashion talent, but most of the designers survive”


Ismael Adeleke Kalejaiye, a university-educated social worker, is now an internationally renowned fashion designer who is well versed in the fashion industry in the country. In this interview with ADEKUNLE SULAIMON, he shares his struggles and rise to stardom in the fashion world, explaining the difficulties that come with starting and maintaining SMEs in Nigeria. Extracts:

Tell us about your journey to become a fashion designer

The trip is simply of grace. In 2008, when I made the decision to acquire a fashion skill, the goal was to avoid being inactive after my WAEC. However, I didn’t start in a business, but the passion to be better drove me to learn how to make bespoke suits, blazers and other dresses from a friend. I shared a store with him on the spot; my dream of becoming a global fashion designer grew bigger. At the time, I was also learning the business side of fashion while understanding the trade. In this quest, I was able to match the personality with the dresses, as the uniqueness of fashion can only be revealed when the stylist makes it more attractive and exceptionally different from the usual.

How did you learn to sew and create your own brand, Laykay Apparel?

I learned this in high school while preparing for my High School Certificate Exam (SSCE) because of the skepticism most of us were harbored with, especially since we probably won’t be admitted with our first graduation exam. jamb, I learned it not just sitting at home doing nothing, it became a hobby for me and I started to build a fashion empire. I kept the Laykay clothes because my friends already know my name and because I wanted my CAC registration to be easy.

What do you like about being a fashion designer?

I love it when I sew for people and they wear my outfit in style. It sounds like an accomplishment. It makes me more creative because every moment I want to do things that my fellow stylists don’t. It also gives me more associates and connections. It also helped me to be open-minded, especially in human relationships.

When did you start Laykay clothing and what gave birth to the idea?

I started Laykay clothing in 2019 after recording it. And the idea arose out of providing quality pocket-friendly clothing for everyone. The search to involve everyone regardless of their status gave birth to the large clientele that we enjoy today.

What skills do you think are needed to become a successful fashion designer or entrepreneur?

First, you have to be prolific in research; researching fashion trends will help a stylist keep up to date. Another is listening to details, some clients always like to do something new even in a trend, so listening to them while explaining to them gives them a sense of belonging. In addition, communication skills are essential, it will make it easier for both parties to understand. Being limited in time is also a skill that shouldn’t be understated as a fashion designer. And finally to become familiar with the colors of the fabrics because in fashion, the colors go beyond the primary and the secondary because they exist examples are “burnt orange”, “onions which cry”, etc.

How do you stay up to date with the fashion trends in the industry?

Technology plays a big role in this aspect, there is hardly any business that doesn’t need to be tech savvy these days. With it, the information is at your fingertips, making it possible to see the mix of styles of people at fashion events on social media and websites. Sometimes I also draw designs as I like to highlight some non-existent designs to see if they’ll be good and likable. More than once they work and others are clubbed because they appear to be non-compliant.

What are the most important facets of the fashion industry?

Equipment, location, customers, advertising and prices are the most important. In the old days, when you owned a manual sewing machine, you were a fashion designer. But these days just having that doesn’t put someone in the foreground, in fact, it’s like being left out. It takes more investment to get noticed. The location also plays a key role in the growth of the company, the establishment in a local environment distills the locality to its work. Advertising is also an integral part of this activity.

How do you define your personal style?

My style is unique to me. As part of my own primary goal, I’m supposed to distill a unique outfit at the agreed delivery time. This is what I have used as a base, and it has led to tremendous support from clients, family and friends. Of course, fashion is more about rebranding and restyling and remodeling, but I try as much as possible to be creative by giving someone even a style that has been around before.

How does “tailor-made” fashion appeal to you when you work?

I pay attention to detail, trying as much as possible to iron each part while the process is underway to have it produced as in the factory. I also take care in how I handle clients’ fabrics as it will bring in the best of those materials when fully sewn.

Have you ever obtained loans from the federal government or other plans, grants to support your business?

I attended various seminars on securing loans and its benefits before venturing into one, notwithstanding government loans and grants help businesses survive, especially SMEs. This is one of the things that led me to this, applying for most of the available. Interestingly, I was shortlisted for a recently hosted by the Kwara State government. Although I didn’t get the one from the federal government, but I hope I will, keeping in mind that grants are also my goal to grow my business.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I see myself as an international brand. I have already set myself a goal of being in the top five in the country by focusing on the contribution of my quota to the growth of the Nigerian fashion industry. I want to raise the bar for providing affordable and excellent quality clothing to Nigerians.


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