KEHINDE & TAIWO OKUNOREN: STYLE IS ABOUT THE TYPE OF CAR YOU DRIVE, HOUSE YOU LIVE
You look more like those in the banking or the oil and gas sectors, so what on earth are you doing in the fashion industry?
Taiwo: We are in the fashion industry because we have a flair for it and we love good things.
What is your background in the fashion business?
Taiwo: Like I said, it's a flair for us; it is not that we had any formal training in fashion whatsoever; we just love good things and to always look exceptional and outstanding.
Why not something else?
Taiwo: While growing up, I saw people putting on the regular clothes. Most times, you go to a store, see a shirt and you like it. But, the problem is that it might not fit you well. So, that actually prompted us to go into the business. We produce outfits that are different.
You specialise in making bespoke outfits, what does that mean?
Taiwo: It's a cloth that is made to measure. What that means is that you tell your tailor exactly how you want your cloth to look like.
Was it in school that you discovered that you have a flair for fashion?
Taiwo: It all started in school in our first year. We used to sell ready-to-wear outfits and we had customers coming in to tell us that 'oh, we want our shirts to look this and that.' So, overtime, we met a good tailor that could sew shirts very well. That was when we decided to go into the business.
What year was this?
Taiwo: In 2002.
How did you achieve this level of success within just five years?
Taiwo: I think it's the bespoke thing because before now, people were not used to wearing clothes that were made for them. Usually when you go to your tailor, he only takes your measurement and that is it. You don't come for your fitting and stuffs like that.
What has been your experience since you went into this business?
Kehinde: It's been very tough and difficult. I remember when we started about four years ago, the acceptance was not even there. It took us a very long time to really convince people and so far, we've quite succeeded in that. Now, we've been able to prove that whatever you buy in England, you can also get it here, with the same quality and at the same price range. It's been very rough, but a man has got to do what he's got to do.
There are so many suit makers out there, so what edge do you think you have over them?
Kehinde: The simple reason is the bespoke thing, it is the made-to-measure outfits which many Nigerians are not used to. When you want to make a made-to-measure outfit, you come for at least three or four fittings and after that, we get it done properly.
What is your assessment of Nigerian men when it comes to style?
Kehinde: In the last couple of years, Nigerian men have not really done badly in the style department. A lot of men now know what they want. These days, you see a lot of senior lawyers and big-time bankers coming to tell us exactly how they want their suits to look like. Now, men go all out to search for the right glasses, ties and what have you. Style is all about your person; it does not necessarily has to do with clothes. It's all about the type of car you drive, the house you live, your mannerisms and even your pen.
So, in other words, you are impressed with what you see around these days.
Kehinde: No doubt, Nigerians are becoming more exposed. You don't have to travel abroad to get good things or have a good time. The Nigerian market is still a virgin area waiting to be fully explored, but I believe we are getting there. There is a lot of money to be made in the fashion industry.
What was your parents' reaction when you wanted to start your fashion business?
Taiwo: At first, my dad had his reservations. He was so particular about getting our degrees first, but thereafter, he was happy about it and even wanted to set up the business for us in a big way.
What about your mum, did she kick against it?
She is completely in support. My mum is also into the business as well; she deals in fabrics like aso oke and stuff like that.
It is believed that you only make suits for the rich, how expensive are you?
Taiwo: When you say expensive, it's relative. I don't like to discriminate. Our target market is… I mean bespoke is not cheap. When you talk to a client, he has to pay for it. He has the choice of picking his fabric, his thread, the colour of the lining of the suit and naturally, he should pay for these services.
Be specific, how expensive are your suits?
Taiwo: It depends on the fabric we are working with. If we are working with the lowest grade fabric which is the Super 100, it starts from N55,000 for a bespoke suit and it can go as high as N300,00 depending on the fabric.
Kehinde: Our target market is the rich and the middle-class, but our plans for the future is to be the designer of other designers where we can make close to one thousand shirts and distribute throughout the country.
Are you not bothered that a lot of people will be left out with the kind of price you charge?
Kehinde: It's very depressing. The problem is with the Nigerian economy, not with us. We need to be realistic. Look at it this way. We have a factory. We pay people that sew for us, then you have to run the generating set almost everyday. When you add all these costs, how much are we going to sell our things? But in the future, we want our items to reach almost everybody. We would like to make shirts as cheap as N2,500 so that everybody can wear good clothes. Right now, you cannot get good fabrics here. Our fabrics are sourced from England and Hong Kong and they are very expensive.
You are twins, you work together, live together, do you quarrel at all?
Kehinde: Each of us has his ups and downs. There are times we have arguments but we have been very mature in handling such cases. Sometimes, he takes decisions that I don't like but I still believe two heads are better than one.
Since you both do almost everything together, are you also planning to get married the same day?
Kehinde: It's not something I'll love to do; I don't like it. Definitely, if any of us is getting married, the other will serve as the bestman…
(Cuts in) Are you ruling it out completely that you may just get married the same day?
Kehinde: Personally, I'll not like that to happen but who knows, it's possible.
Do you disagree with Kehinde at all?
Taiwo: Of course. That's a normal thing.
What is that thing you don't like about him?
Taiwo: If he comes up with a design that I don't like, naturally we have to disagree. But when such a thing happens, we have a way of reaching a compromise.