FOR THE KIND OF MONEY I WANT TO HAVE, I'D SAY FASHION DESIGN IS NOT LUCRATIVE----DATA OKORODUDU
Data Okorodudu is the owner of JD7 Couture, a label that has tremendously transformed the fashion scene in Nigeria. Her designs are wonderful works of art. She is also recognized as an extremely creative person, locally and internationally. Okorodudu, in this interview with ADA DIKE, explains why she went into fashion business, among other issues
How has JD7 Couture fared in the past years?
It has been interesting, despite the challenges in the areas of electricity and other facilities. But for me, I enjoy what I am doing. So, I have been able to overcome the difficult times.
Has there been any time you felt like closing the shop due to certain challenges?
Of course, everybody in a business feels like that once in a while. You have a design in your mind, but when you go out to look for a material to make that style, you can't find it. Also, inadequate electricity supply could hinder you from managing the fabrics at your disposal. And sometimes, one or two generating sets may refuse to work.
How have you been coping with the global economic meltdown?
The global economic meltdown is affecting everything, but women know how to manage things well. People are still getting married and people are still organizing events, so we are always waxing stronger.
Why did you change from monogramming to designing?
First, I was into corporate and promotional gift items. But at some point, the Federal Government banned the importation of leather goods and corporate gift items. What then came to mind were table linens, bed linens, jute bags and things that are African, but which you could use as corporate gifts. So, I found out that I needed tailors. Therefore, apart from the monogrammers, I also employed tailors.
Where does your inspiration to create beautiful designs come from?
Sometimes, I just wake up and find myself creating some designs. I also get inspiration from the fabrics. Also, I check the look of the individual I want to design a material for and create something for him or her. I check whether the person is conservative or flamboyant. So, it comes from God, the environment, the situation and the event my client wants to wear the material to.
Would you say that fashion design business is a lucrative venture?
For the kind of money I want to have, it is absolutely not, but I enjoy what I do. Designing for individuals is not really what brings the money; but if eventually you are able to establish a brand, you will be able to get ready- to-wear outfits in volume. Then, you can make more money. You need to establish that brand before you get to that point. You would incur a lot of costs and lose a lot of money before you can get there. But at the end of the day, the reward is worth it.
What makes JD7 Couture special from the others?
You tell me (giggles). I know what my customers tell me when they come to me, but I think other designers are great. It is different strokes for different folks! Some people like red colour, while some like blue; so, that is just the way it is. There are wonderful designers in Nigeria. There are lots of fantastic and talented designers in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the environment hasn't really supported them. It's like the individuals are growing faster than the environment. We have lots of individual efforts that surpass collective efforts. There is also the fact that we still do not have a wide variety of fashion fabrics and accessories here. Also, we do not have boutique chains that can market the products.
Do you have ready-to-wear lines?
I am beginning to have them now. But after my last show, I did some ready-to-wear lines. Unfortunately, I relocated my office, so I am just trying to establish my boutique.
So, what should we expect from you?
In our ready-to-wear line, we have casual, formal and evening wear.
Do you feel fulfilled being into fashion business?
Of course, I do. Fashion has opened my eyes to a lot of other things and has taken me to a lot of places in the world. I've met a lot of wonderful people through this business.
Most ready- to-wear lines that Nigerian designers are producing are hardly found in Oshodi or Idumota markets. Why is it so?
When you produce a ready-to-wear line, it doesn't mean it must be sold at Idumota. I do high fashion, so you would never find my designs at Idumota because that is not what ready-to-wear line means.
You will soon be a grandmother. So, how did you feel when you gave your daughter's hand in marriage?
Marriage is a very joyful occasion. What I am happier about is the family she got married into. She got married into a God-fearing and Christian family. I am also happy that my daughter's husband is God-fearing. My daughter and her husband have a similar principle and it is very rare to find a couple like that. It is not about money. They are both young and hard working.
Talking about continuity, do you intend to transfer JD7 Couture to your children after retirement?
Well, let us see how it goes. They might not necessarily have the same interest with me, but I want my business to outlive me because people will definitely take over from me.
What aspect of your life has impacted on your daughter's life style?
I got married early and she also got married very early. In fact, I got married earlier than she did. I got married after my first degree, but she did her second degree before she got married. She is following in my footsteps.
What is the secret of your blissful marriage?
If you get married to your best friend and you are open, comfortable and honest, you will have peace in your home. Marriage is not a bed of roses. You have ups and downs in it. You must always be together with your spouse in both good and bad times. That is it.
How many kids do you have?
I have three children: One female and two males.
What is the secret of your beautiful looks?
I don't have any secret about it. That is how I am. My mother has a very beautiful figure and my father too. I eat chocolate, garri and every other food.
How was your growing up?
My growing up was beautiful and wonderful. We were very close and we had normal parental upbringing. My parents were together and I never saw them quarrel at all. I am from King Jaja's family in Opobo, River State, and I got married to a man from Itshekiri in Delta State. I had my primary and secondary schools in Port Harcourt, but I went to the university in Lagos State.
If you were not into fashion business, what would you have been doing?
I am a broadcaster, so I would have been working in a media organization.
How do you relax when you are not at work?
I watch a lot of comedies. I like to travel and laugh a lot.