I've had the immense pleasure of being able to work along side the Haute-Elan team during the execution of the second ever modest fashion week in London! It was an incredible weekend, filled with lots of talent, incredible people and really great vibes. I managed to live stream some of the runway shows on the Sahama account but was too busy on the most part to cover anything else. While most people at this point would probably be reviewing which models to look out for and which brands have the best potential, I've decided to spare you the details and take a different route by regaling you with my experience, not just as a Nigerian designer and fashion enthusiast but also as a consumer of modest fashion.
Pulling off an event of this size is no easy feat.
Haute-Elan is an online curator of modest fashion brands and currently carries about 200 brands from all over the world. What this means is a lot of experience, connections and opportunities. A fashion week completely dedicated to modesty in its early stages roughly requires a whole lot more planning time, dedication and lots of research than the average fashion week. Apart from picking which designers and brands to showcase, the planning team must also make a list of guests to invite, retailers, photographers and major sponsors that would ensure the event is beneficial to not just the attendees, but the brands showcasing there as well. Another important aspect is honing down all the key details of the event, from stand placements, seating arrangements to ticketing gates. This is all really a lot harder than it sounds! I can’t begin to imagine the amount of networking it takes to bring together such an eclectic mix of brands and star studded headliners in such a short period of time.
We have a long way to go in regards to Quality.
Everyone knows I'm all about quality fashion. It's the one thing Sahama is always going on about and there's a reason for that. Quality clothing can last you a lifetime! Granted, there's usually a hefty price tag that comes along with them, but it's the one thing everyone can appreciate! Clothing with quality in mind is clothing made with love, care and the consumer in mind. A couple of customers on Sahama message us all the time asking why we make such few pieces from our collections, and the answer is this - at our early stages, we want to ensure that each piece we sell is carefully sourced and ethically produced. In the flurry of emerging designers in Nigeria, very few focus on this aspect, instead, churning out half baked ideas to make fast money. No shade intended, but we can do so much better! This event has strengthened my resolve more than ever to be more vigilant towards quality, not just with our brand, but the brands we put unto our platform as well. I'm hoping that a few years along the line, our local Nigerian brands would be able to stand along side and compete with international brands in terms of quality and attention to detail!
The Importance of having a Brand Identity
I knew this before, and I’m sure you did too, but identity is the life and soul of your brand, and ignoring this creates blurred lines in regards to how best to present your brand. Again, this is something that is lacking with various labels I’ve come across and this is something that really should be a priority. I’ve struggled with this as well, and its only natural to want to experiment but when it comes down to it, you need to hammer down the key traits of your brand. Usually whenever we sign new brands unto Sahama we give them a questionnaire which is designed to give us an insight into what they view their brand as. This provides us a good form of contrast, to conceptualize what the designer thinks of their brand versus where their brand actually is and how best to close that gap. My advice to anyone trying to develop a brand personality is to imagine the person buying from your brand – what are they like? Their habits and their personalities and then writing these down and trying to tie in these traits with the presentation of your products. You need to be as objective as possible, wishful thinking won’t take you anywhere.
Buying home-grown brands really makes a difference.
This might come off as very obvious but we really do need to patronize our local brands and designers. I’m not saying boycott international brands, but every little really does make a difference! I felt so inspired after seeing the immense support Malaysian brands were getting from their nationals at the event. These brands were only able to achieve this much success due to the local recognition and support they got. However this point really does tie into the earlier mentioned focus on quality. We need to produce items so good and accessible that people aren’t left with an excuse but to buy them. Only then can we really grow within this industry. The change starts with you, support a Nigerian brand today!
The importance of having a strong support system!
At one of the panel discussions with Mariah Idrissi, H&M's first hijabi model, she was asked how she gets the motivation to keep going and moving forward, and no surprise - she has a strong support system of like minded individuals. One of my fondest quotes by Jalaluddin Rumi is this:
“Be with those who help your being. Don’t sit with people whose breath comes out cold out of their mouths.”
Of course poetry is open to interpretation, but for me, this specifies that you shouldn’t waste your time with passionless people who have nothing to offer you but negativity. In everything that you do, always remember to surround yourself with positive energy and individuals who help to further your cause. It is human nature to lose hope sometimes especially as an entrepreneur, but having a support system really helps you overcome various obstacles and keep moving forward!
I hope this blog post inspires you to do & be better!