Fashion Business: How to Start a Fashion Business with No Money

Fashion Business: How to Start a Fashion Business with No Money

So you are probably curious to know how possible it is to start a fashion business with zero money right? The truth is anything is possible when you put your mind to it.  I started 2 successful businesses (well successful in their own way in terms of revenue and client base) without a kobo.  How did I do it?!  

2 words:  

1. Collaboration!

2. Sheer Hard Work! (ok pretend this is one word though it’s more of a phrase…)

Which businesses were these?!  Jewellery Sales & “Gift Consulting”.  Both of which I stumbled upon by accident just by doing what I loved doing… helping people out!

I’ll tell you my story…  

The Jewellery Business

jewellery business

When I was working, many of my colleagues loved my jewellery and yes I loved HEAVY jewellery!  Whenever they asked me where I got my stuff from, I always referred them to the lady who sold them to me.  I would even go the extra mile to make the calls and set up a meeting with the lady.  At some point I thought to myself…. “Hang on!  This lady is making so much money from my referrals, why not take the orders and get compensated for it, even if only for the stress I go through and my phone bills”.  And that was how Aunty Juliet and I became partners.  

I took stuff off her, added my tiny bit, sold it to friends and family, paid her for what I sold,  returned stuff I didn’t sell back to her and kept my tiny bit.  And I tell you… I made a “comfortable killing”, not from the individual items but from the volume of sales ?

So why did I stop this?!  I went off to fashion school!  And when I returned, despite many calls from her to revive the collabo, I refused and chose to focus on my business.

The Gift Consulting Business

Gift business

NOW the “gift consulting” was a hobby that became a business.  I loved shopping  and eating out at restaurants (still do…) and when I was working, I used to be the go-to person for various things.  From birthday presents for mothers and girlfriends, to the ideal spot to take a potential girlfriend, I knew it all.  In fact, I would go as far as planning even the item on the menu the guy should order to impress the girl without going broke (because I had the price lists in my head) and even what to say and when to say it!  I was a master planner.  For the gifts, I went out and bought and packaged the stuff myself.  And you know what?!  Most times…if not all the time… I got raving reviews on either the gifts or the “meals”.

So yet again!  Something went off in my head.  I thought to myself… “Hang on! Why not charge for this, even if just a tiny bit to cover my petrol costs and phone bills“.  And bam… people never batted an eyelash when I started charging for it.  

For my 1st major project, Valentine’s Day, my client base grew from 13 in the first year to over 30 in the 2nd year (and that was not counting the orders during the year).  And before I knew it, I was making another “comfortable killing” from the volume of orders.  A lot of work but I enjoyed every stressful minute of it!

And it continued… even while I was in South Africa.  Orders were just a phonecall away.  I would package stuff and get them delivered.  Strangers called me based on referrals, paid the money into my account and I would get it all sorted.

So why did I stop?!  The business was growing at a fast pace and yet again I decided to suspend it so I could focus on my fashion business.  

So what am I saying?!  

You can also start your own fashion business without spending a dime of your money!  How?!  Focus on being the middleman between your client and your tailor.  You really do not need so much funds except you want to go into retail only.  Your client can fund your business!  And even with ready to wear.  with a successful product pre-launch, your clients can fund the production of the ready to wear.  And it validates your theory that you are providing what the market wants.  And it also worked for me!  I bought my first set of machines from the money a client paid me for a set of outfits.   

What I realize from speaking to so many designers is we focus too much on the paparazzi and “branding” when we should be focusing on setting up proper business structures!  Most of us want to launch with a bang and are, therefore, more concerned about PR, fashion shows, branding, professional photoshoots, etc when we do not have products!  How can you focus on branding when there is no product to brand!

What happens when you get 50 orders for your product?!  Can you conveniently produce them?!  If you can and have the funds, sure why not?!  But if you do not, then please start from somewhere and take baby steps!  I know this all too well because I also made the same mistake!  But I woke up to reality and not a moment too soon!   

How to start a fashion business 

with little or no money?!  

Start a Fashion Business with No Money

Set up proper processes in your micro-establishment.  Work on your sketches, find a good local tailor / production house, do your proper costing of direct and indirect costs, approach your clients with your sketches and get them to choose from YOUR designs rather than hand you a magazine to copy from.  

I have often found out that most people hand out magazines simply because they do not want to take a risk on a design they would not like but when you have your sketches, you can agree with them on a perfect design for them.  That is what I used to do when I used to sew for people and it worked!

So please start small if you don’t have excess funds and before you know it, you’ll grow from scarce to plenty in no time!  It is a long journey to success but if you start off on the right track, you will get there sooner than you think.

How do I find Customers?

how to find customers

Another question many people which is quite simple. Start with your phone! Network with people and store up favours.  If it worked for me, it can also work for you!  Get friends to do stuff for you for free.  And you know what, never be too proud to beg!  I know it doesn’t cost me anything to get on my knees and grovel if need be.  You don’t need to be a door mat but be humble enough when you have your eyes on a certain goal.

So how can Martwayne assist you start your own business on a lean budget?  I am working on various projects targeted at assisting designers get their businesses off the ground and will launch them as soon as next week. But you can start with getting the required knowledge you need to run a successful fashion business. Our Online Fashion Entrepreneurship Course teaches the step by step guide to starting and growing your clothing line and you can register wherever you are in the world. It will help you with your costing and pricing, the questions you need to ask, how to track your finances using an accounting software and how to build structures in your fashion business.

I’ll leave you to digest this much for now… Hopefully it has got you thinking.  


I tell you, all it takes is determination, a can-do attitude… and of course a LOT of prayers!  Thankfully, all 3 are absolutely free!    So please!  Stop waiting for someone to believe in you and invest in you!  A wise person once told me people do not invest in individuals but invest in clear visions and business ideas and processes.  That changed my view about a lot of things.  You need to start looking beyond your passion and start seeing yourself as a business and look for ways to succeed in your business!

I had a fashion advisory session recently and it was an eye opener for her.  She suddenly realized that there is soooooo much to do and the work has just begun.  And you know what?!  She believed it was money well spent!  Before you start buzzing me, please note that I charge for my sessions.  I had to to stop free sessions because it was draining and my business was suffering.  So if you can, book and pay for an advisory session with me before the session. I am happy to point you in the right direction.  All it takes is one click on the Whatsapp button and we are good to go!

Here’s wishing you all an excellent week and hoping you put your thoughts into action!  I look forward to hearing from you.  Drop me a comment in the comments section if you have more ideas or if this was helpful.


Recommended Resources

Fashion Business Idea:  How to Start a Ready to Wear Clothing Line

Debunking the various myths about fashion design and the industry

Start & Run a Successful Fashion Business

About Me

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

A fashion entrepreneur passionate giving power through fashion

by sharing knowledge guaranteed to help fashion lovers

turn their love for fashion into a viable business.

Someone you know needs this article.  

Help them out by sharing this article on social media.

To get notified about our posts, please sign up below:

Debunking the Various Myths About Fashion Design & the Industry (Updated 2019)

Debunking the Various Myths About Fashion Design & the Industry (Updated 2019)

People tend to have misconceptions about what it takes to operate in the Fashion Industry.  Most of these misconceptions stem from certain mindsets about what people think rather than what it actually is.  So here I am debunking the various myths people have about fashion and the industry as a whole.

Whilst some aspiring designers seem to think being able to sketch is good enough and being a fashion designer is the perfect escape from a busy 9 to 5 job, others think we designers are a bunch of people who couldn’t really cut it in university or worse are just jobless people who will soon wake up from whatever cloud we always seem to be floating on.  And I don’t really blame them, some of us who operate in the industry give them this impression because we are too busy chasing irrelevant things to realize that we are running fashion businesses.  And what happens?  We become the perfect template of why fashion designers or the industry is too unsafe a haven for potential operators or investors.

Debunking the various myths people have about

fashion and the industry.

1.  You must learn the skill or art of sewing to operate in the Fashion Industry.

NO you do not have to sew or even know how to thread a machine to operate in the Fashion Industry.  Believe it or not, you can actually use your current seemingly unrelated skills within the Fashion Industry.  I remember having a chat with a young lady who wanted to register for my course simply because she didn’t have a job.  I had to tell her if she didn’t truly enjoy fashion, she did not have to learn the skill to operate within the industry.  I asked her to spend some time thinking about how she could apply her first degree within the fashion industry.  I think she studied something within the chemical sciences so even I’m still trying to figure out how she can use that within the industry. And if she couldn’t (like I can’t at the moment), then she should spend some time researching the industry and having a feel of what it is like before she delves into it.  Otherwise, she’ll just get her fingers burnt!  And she promised she would and get back to me.

People!  You do not have to become seamstresses to operate in the fashion industry.  If you left university with an accounting degree then please look for fashion designers who are having problems keeping their books and offer your services to them for a token.  I know designers are very price-sensitive but I also know many of them are awful at keeping financial records.  Look for 10 designers (and there are many of them around), offer basic accounting and book-keeping services to them for next to nothing, say N10,000 a month and that is N10,000 a month.  And the best thing is that you can work from the comfort of your home.  I did that while I was in fashion school, helping a realtor keep his books and I got paid for it.  Easy.

2.  You must learn how to sew to become a good fashion designer.

Another very common one.  No.  Being a Fashion Designer and being a seamstress are 2 very different things.  Yes I agree that learning how to sew is important but it is not mandatory!  You should focus more on learning the basics of sewing and not the nitty gritty to have an in-depth understanding of the production process so that you can guide your production team for those who want to run fashion businesses. I know people who struggle through our courses because they didn’t expect so much work to go into it.  And that to me is great.  Not everyone is cut out for sewing.  I, for one, enjoy sewing for pleasure but do not have the time to do so because I simply never saw myself sitting behind the sewing machine to run my fashion business.  And that is how we train - to guide your production team not to be the one sewing yourself.

I have heard many designers say “I want to learn how to sew so I can sew everything myself”.  How???  You will just burn out!  And besides, it is not sustainable in the long run.  It is not the Donna Karans or Tom Fords who sit behind the sewing machine.  Let’s bring it down to Nigeria.  Folake Folarin-Coker of Tiffany Amber revealed at a seminar I attended last year that she cannot sew.  Does that make her any less a fashion designer?  No!  Is she selling her clothes?!  Yes!  That is what counts!

So please… except you are sewing as a hobby, focus more on understanding the processes than on the sewing itself.  But if you really want to learn how to sew, then please by all means go ahead.  Just know that the sewing alone does not guarantee you will run a successful fashion business.  

Which leads me to Number 3!

3.  Being able to sew guarantees your success in the Fashion Industry.

NO it does not!  Read Myth No 2!  It just means you can sew.  Being able to sew and being able to run a profitable fashion business are 2 veryyyyy different things.  Yes it does brings you one step closer but it is just the beginning of your journey.

4.  You must be able to draw to be a good fashion designer.

NO you do not!  That’s what you have illustrators for.  Of course it is better to learn how to draw so you can put your thoughts on paper.  BUT if you cannot draw, then work with an illustrator.  I couldn’t draw a straight line without a ruler before I went to fashion school but I had to learn it because it was part of my course.  And I draw very well now but don’t fancy it much because it takes a lot of out me.  So easy, I work with an illustrator who can easily spend minutes drawing my idea on paper rather than me spending 2 hours on a basic fashion croquis.

And this is also linked to No 1.  If you are a good artist, then look for designers having challenges with drawing and help them out with sketching their designs.  I have often used the example of a forensic artist who can accurately draw a person’s face simply from a description given by the victim of a crime.  Obviously if the illustrator is not drawing what you see in your head, then correct him there and then or better still, find similar images of what you have visualized in your head and give it to him to draw.  That’s why you do research!  Besides, the big fashion companies here and abroad have design teams.  It in only in this environment that people believe the fashion designer must do everything his/herself!  Like we are super-human or something.  Ask Mai!  He works with a design team.  He said so himself at Designers Connect!

5.  Being able to sketch makes you a good fashion designer.

Wrong!  Being able to sketch only makes you a good illustrator!  There is a big difference between a nice drawing and the practicality of it.  I have seen fabulous designs but when I ask question like "how will she get into it" I am hit with a blank stare.  It turns out the illustrator never thought of that.

There is so much more that goes into being a fashion designer than being able to sketch.  You must be able to convert your creative ideas into wearable garments.  Understanding who you are as a designer, developing the concept, conducting detailed research, understanding how colors and fabrics work, understanding body shapes, and a whole lot more go into becoming a fashion designer.  And it is a continuous process not just a a one-off.

6.  You can learn all you need to know about fashion in 3 months.

A common one I hear from those who want to register for my courses.  I want to learn everything about fashion.  In 3 months?!  First, you cannot learn everything there is to learn about fashion… and even if you could… which you can’t, definitely not in 3 months.  I also hear, I want to know all you know.  Well guess what?!  I learnt all I know after studying a 3 year (not 3-session but 3 full calendar years) full-time undergraduate course in fashion design AND did a lot of self study to do a lot of what I am able to do now…and I am still learning…

Many want to get the knowledge but are unwilling to do the time or even the work.  If you do not have the time, then register for a part-time course [MINE of course :-D] and do a lot of self study, learning and practising what you have learnt as you go along.  That is the only way you can excel at it.

7.  A fashion designer must be able to sew all kinds of clothes.

Ever heard of Jack of all trades?!  I am amazed when I hear designers say they specialize in menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, corporate uniforms, bridal wear and interiors.  Like seriously?!  Please focus on one thing at a time!  Perfect a certain one before moving into another line.

I have a very good idea of how to sew different kinds of outfits.  I learnt it all in school.  That does not mean I have to physically go into sewing each one when I start off my clothing line.  Which is what a lot of us do… and I can’t blame you.  It takes a lot of willpower to reject an income-generating project.  But you know what?!  You are better off rejecting it than spreading yourself thin.

8.  Operating in the fashion industry means I must provide clothing, run a production unit or specialize in customized clothing.

Yes that’s the general idea here.  You must sew for people to be considered a fashion designer.  Well guess what?!  I don’t sew for people but I am still a fashion designer! 

True most times when you think about the fashion industry, you think of apparel.  But similar to point 1, there are so many job descriptions within the fashion industry that you do not even have to touch a needle or a sewing machine before you can make loads of money from the industry.  I know when I tell people I do not sew for individuals, the next question they ask me is “so what do you do?  Aren’t you a fashion designer?!”  Then I spend the next 10 minutes explaining to them only half of what I do with my fashion knowledge and more often than not, I get the wide-eyed “oh really?!”  And I’m like… yes really! TSK!

9.  That you must only specialize in high fashion to be considered a good fashion designer.  

HA!  Like seriously?!  Guess what?!  Even a t-shirt designer is a fashion designer.  And guess what number 2?!  He is probably making more money than you!  So please, if you are not into high fashion, please focus on your strengths instead of dabbling in an area that you have no business dabbling in.  Anytime I hear “we want unique never-before-seen out-of-this-world-pieces”, I laugh.  Like there’s any such thing!

10.  That your fabric is enough inspiration to create stunning pieces.

Yes maybe 1 piece or even 1 collection.  But really… can you continue to rely on the fabric alone to get your inspiration?!  I don’t even think textile companies do that.  They work with themes and concepts.  My personal opinion?  No!

11.  That Fashion Design is Child’s Play!

Guess what?!  I hope you know fashion is architectural in nature and history shows that fashion, architecture and even politics are related.  Just check out the history of fashion, for example the Ottoman Empire.

12.  Going into fashion will give you more time for yourself and your family.

HA!  What a joke!  The work has just started!  In fact, you are better off staying in your 9 to 5 job because when you get tired, you can simply say “You know what?!  I’ve had it!  I’m going home!  This is not my father’s company”.  But you can’t do that with your fashion business.  Why?!  Not only because you have to earn a living but also because you have workers depending on you!  I tell you, KPMG seems like child’s play in comparison to what my typical day is like now.  But you know what?  It gets easier as you go along… when you have a business process in place.

13.  Fashion Designers are losers who couldn’t cut it in the real world.

Really?!  Please wake up and smell the coffee!  Many learned professionals are leaving well-paying jobs to follow their dreams and passions and they are the happier for it.  Doesn’t Naeto C have a Masters Degree?  Oh wait!  Hold up!  Folake Folarin-Coker is a lawyer!

And look at me.  For those who do not know my background, I left Ife with a 2nd Class Upper Degree in Economics, a 4.23/5 CGPA for that matter, and worked a tax accountant with one of the Big Four global accounting firms, KPMG Professional Services.  I had a FAB career path ahead of me before I packed it all in for fashion.  So really… you must be clueless to think that way in this day and age!

14.  Fashion Design is your ticket to fame and stardom.  

I think many who are already in the industry already know that this is all hogwash!  It is not about the glitz and glamour.  Even the popular musicians and actors will tell you how much time they spend in the studio and the sleepless nights on the road.  

Being a fashion designer is a lot of handwork and not really about getting into the papers and getting all the invites.  In fact, you find out that many who get the invites see it as part of their work.  Just read the many articles about the stress involved with fashion week.  Even backstage at fashion shows are crazy – forget the cool, calm and collected looks models put on when they strut their stuff on the runway.  Or better still, watch Project Runway and you’ll know.  It is sheer hard work!  

15.  Fashion Shows are a form of entertainment.

fashion show

Oh yes!  I can go on and on about this.  And this is targeted at the public really who think fashion shows are all about entertainment.    In fact this is a topic for another day!  

These days there are sooooo many fashion shows I just wonder if people understand the essence of fashion shows.  And this is no prejudice to any particular fashion show.  I have been asked to assist with quite a few shows and when I ask what the reason for the fashion show is, more often than not, I get the “just for entertainment” answer.  It’s almost like someone is planing an event but has no schedule of activities.  And then has a sudden brain wave!  “I know!  Let’s organize a fashion show!”

It seems many do not realize that fashion shows are a business tool for fashion designers.  And those who participate do not ask the relevant questions.  Many just get carried away by the “fame” to stop to think about who is attending the show, why the show is being organized in the first place and what to do when they get orders.  But like I said, this is another topic for another day!

16.  Everyone you see in the papers has hit the big one or is running a successful fashion business!

That is one big fallacy.  Everyone is facing the same challenges… especially in this industry.  Thankfully Mai told you this at Designers Connect so I need not say more!

17.  That the successful ones in the papers got there in 1 day.

Yes it may appear that they just seemed to hit the big one overnight!  But when you find out the true story, you find out that they had been around for a while and only just decided to take their businesses further.  Even those who just seemed to hit it fresh out of fashion school still spent time IN fashion school doing the hard work before they launched out.  

18.  That having lots of customers mean you are running a successful fashion establishment.

Ha!  That’s a fallacy!  There is a difference between profit and turnover.  If you do your figures well, you just might find out that you are better off just having one customer than having 10.

19.  That the fancy business cards and websites will bring in the business.

No!  Your product gets you the customers.  You are better off watching your costs in the early days than spending all your time, money and efforts into producing expensive business cards and websites.  Because trust me, you need every naira you can get and save in the early days.  I made those mistakes but well… now I know better.  Those “effizy sturvs” don’t matter if you do not have a product to sell.  I even have business cards I hardly hand out but has that affected my business?!  No.  So please… focus more on creating a presence for yourself in as cost-effective a manner as you can.  There are so many free sites out there you can use to create a presence for yourself.  When you have made enough money and have developed your product, then you can start considering the branding aspect of it.  And that is my personal take on this.

20.  That you can successful operate in the fashion industry without investing in the knowledge and without doing your homework.

Fashion Courses at Martwayne Fashion School

Yes!  My major challenge with fashion designers in this environment.  Many do not want to invest in the knowledge or the time.  Guess what?!  My friend’s adaptation of the popular Mark Twain’s quote on cauliflower and cabbage, captures it fully!

“The difference between a doughnut and puff puff is a college education” – Adora Neboh

Training is key!  You need to invest in it.  And not just the design aspect.  Every other aspect….especially if you plan to operate a fashion establishment.  And many entrepreneurs have said this already. 

Like Pastor Ibukun Awosika said @ Platform “the minute a doctor decides to set up a practice, he is no longer a doctor but a business owner”.  Same thing applies to fashion designers.  We need to invest in the knowledge, either learn the trade or intern at a fashion company and conduct detailed research before we set up.

Phew!  I have said a lot and I can go on and on but I think I’ll just sign off here now!  Hope this makes you start thinking seriously about your fashion businesses and I pray that all works well in your various fashion endeavors!  Buzz me if you have any questions and do leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Have a great week ahead!


About Me

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

A fashion entrepreneur passionate giving power through fashion

by sharing knowledge guaranteed to help fashion lovers

turn their love for fashion into a viable business.

Someone you know needs this article.  

If this helped you, help them out by sharing this article on social media.

To get notified about our articles, please sign up below:

The Difference Between a Fashion Designer & a Tailor… Updated 2019

The Difference Between a Fashion Designer & a Tailor… Updated 2019

SO I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while now…. and I finally decided to do so after having yet another chat with a top don in the Nigerian Fashion Industry who felt the same way I did about the craziness that goes on around here.  
The first time I was asked this question was on some TV interview a while back and of course I answered the question without batting an eyelid.  😀  But since then, I have asked both new and practising designers the difference between the two terms and it turned out that whilst everyone, more often than not, knew who a designer was, none of them actually got the definition of a tailor.
So here we are setting the record straight…. with of course “The University of Google”, “The Internet Institute” & “The Wikipedia College” to support my claim.

So who is a fashion designer?  

My answer?!


A fashion designer is the creative mind behind any item of clothing, be it a high fashion runway garment or your regular pair of jeans or tee shirt.  They conduct research, develop a concept and vision for the type of person they would like to dress, create a visual image of their concept through sketches (or drapery) and oversee the various design and production processes that bring their sketches or designs to life in the form of a three dimensional garment to fit their muse or intended market.  

In other words… a  fashion designer is the “brain” behind any garment produced.  S/he sees the finished garment in his/her mind, documents it on paper in the form of a sketch (or drapes it on a mannequin) and brings together a strong team of skilled people to assist him in the construction of his idea into a “wearable” or better still “physical” garment.

For example…

…a designer visualizes and turns it into… 

NOW!  Must a fashion designer necessarily have his own clothing line or engage in bespoke services?  Nope.  Must a fashion designer sew?  Nope.  If he has the skills and chooses to, why not?!  However, in my opinion, if he wants to run a proper business, he has no business sewing BUT needs enough knowledge to guide his team.    

Ok… so let’s see how I did.  I always like backing up my statements with research.  

Wikipedia says:  “fashion designer conceives garment combinations of line, proportion, color, and texture. While sewing and pattern-making skills are beneficial, they are not a pre-requisite of successful fashion design.” A-ha! See…?!

And now ON to the JAMB question.  


Who is a tailor?  

This is where most people bungle.  

The usual answer I get is “a tailor is someone who just sews or joins the garment”…or something along those lines.  You know what the problem is?  Many of us assume that the term “tailor” refers to the people many of us love to yell at for wrecking our clothes almost every time.  In fact, more often than not, when one is called a tailor, we consider it a derogatory term.  But the truth is, the word “tailor” has really been abused in this environment.  

In my opinion, to be called a tailor is actually an honour!  Why you ask?  Think of the term “tailored garment”… and go on to think of Oswald Boateng and other Savile Row Tailors.  And tell me why should I not be proud to be called a tailor?!  In fact, look at these images and tell me they are not a far cry from our local definition of tailor.

Images obtained from the web

A tailor, in my opinion, is a true master and “architect” of clothing.  He makes customised clothing, particularly suits and tuxedos for a select number of clients, considering their unique peculiarities and goes through a painstaking process of pattern making and intricate garment construction techniques including handwork and various fittings to come up with an awesome garment with perfect finishing for his, usually, high-end client.  

In fact Wikipedia defines a tailor as “a person who makes, repairs, or alters clothing professionally, especially suits and men’s clothing.”  It says further that “the term refers to a set of specific hand and machine sewing and pressing techniques that are unique to the construction of traditional jackets.”  So we can safely conclude that clothes made by tailors will be very expensive.  They have to be.  I make suits and I know the stress that goes into it and I can’t charge less than a certain amount for mine much less these guys.  I guess we can also add that if you do not make men’s clothing, particularly suits, you should not call yourself a tailor.    
SO I ask… must a tailor know how to sew?  I would definitely say yes …if he has to go through those tedious processes.  But truth is in reality, he probably just creates the patterns (or guides the pattern maker) and passes it on to his production team so he can busy himself with other work.
Ok so now…if our local tailors are not tailors, then what do we call them?  Let’s see if we can come up with an answer by asking some questions.
1.  Do they make customized clothing?  Yes!  Ok, forget the fact that they alter it like 50 odd times… but truth is, every garment needs a fitting before it is finalized.  Note that in the picture, the tailor does a fitting even before inserting the sleeve.   So I really cannot understand why people here are so averse to fitting… like they expect it to be done right the first time.  I actually have the greatest respect for them seeing they can churn out clothes in one day and sort of get it and you guys really should give them a thumbs up!  
2.  More importantly, do they make suits?  More often than not, NO!  
3.  Do they go through the many processes and pay strict attention to detail?  Errrr…. I would say NO!  Very few of them do.  
4.  Do they create patterns? I think it’d be safe to say NO (though I watched an online video once of a tailor who didn’t create a  pattern).  
Ok seeing they do not qualify in 3 of the 4 areas above, what do we call them then?  
I, personally, would call them machinists (or joiners as is the common term here), perhaps even seamstresses (for the females) but definitely not tailors.  However, I have chosen to use a better accepted term here for the sake of blending into the Nigerian Fashion Industry.  I would choose to use the term “local” or “roadside” before the tailor.  Afterall, we need to give them credit for attempting to create customized clothes for their customers every time.   
SO in true primary school debating lingua I conclude by saying:
“Ladies and Gentlemen I hope I have been able to convince you and not confuse you of the difference between a fashion designer and a tailor”.
Thank you! 😀

PS. All pictures culled from the internet.

PPS.  If you liked this article, please share with your friends and those who need the knowledge by clicking on the Facebook, Twitter and Google+ icons below.  Muchos gracias!   MWAH!  😀
Specialization In the Fashion Industry

Specialization In the Fashion Industry

Specialization in the Fashion Industry remains a concept which is still so vague in this environment.  I recall a conversation I was having with a friend when my big day was coming up. 

 “I bet you’re sewing your own wedding gown right”?  

My response?  “Errr…. no.”  

Next question, “Why not?”  

My response?  “Well… first, I really don’t want to stress myself seeing I completed my outfit for my Introduction a few hours before the event” and “secondly, I am not really into bridal wear.  I am more into corporatewear”.  

Question 3:  “But I thought you were an all-rounder”.  

My answer?  “Well… yes… so are doctors but they still specialize in certain areas”. [Straight-face-emoticon]!

And I believe that was the end of that conversation.

Or what says you? I know I am yet to see a doctor who operates as a heart surgeon, a gynaecologist, a brain surgeon, an ENT specialist, a GP and a neurologist all in one right.  And I should know.  My dad and brother are doctors and I lived with like 3 medical students in University.  

Now don’t get me wrong… my position was not about the design or actual construction of the gown… after all a wedding gown is, more often than not, a corset with a half/full or double circle skirt and I have done both many many times.  My major concern was the fact that yet again, I am being put under unnecessary pressure by people who have little or no understanding of the Industry I operate in.  

Not that I blame them… we designers are too busy biting off more than we can chew rather than specializing in our areas of competence.  So as it is, I am being forced to go into an area I’d rather not go into yet, just to prove a point.  And THAT is where many of us find ourselves… taking on tasks we have no business taking on either to prove a point or to make ends meet when there are so many opportunities in the industry we can focus on outside the real area of design and production.

The Big Question

I recall once, a creative director in a fashion house in South Africa, confessing to me that he was almost chewed up in bits by his company because he wore another brand when he came out to take a bow at his fashion show.  Ok… let’s not forget the fact that he designs ladieswear, but does the fact that he wore a garment from another company make him any less competent in his area?  After all, every one gave him a standing ovation when they saw his garments.  


Yes I could see the point of the management team who criticized him but really, I didn’t really see the big deal.  Maybe because I don’t run a conglomerate yet.  But  I honestly don’t think you must ALWAYS wear your own clothes.  Else, all designers here and abroad might as well create their own underwear as well, after all, those who went to fashion school were probably taught how to do so.

Why Specialization is Important

I personally feel it is impossible and must be physically exhausting for a designer to offer services in casualwear, officewear, bridalwear, menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, maternitywear and school uniforms.  That’s the norm around here.  Like SERIOUSLY!  Talk about a jack of all trades.  So far, I haven’t seen a Victoria Secret bridalwear show with full ball gowns.  

Neither have I seen Ruff N Tumble stock adult ladieswear garments in their stores.  Who knows… perhaps it is in the pipeline but so far, I haven’t seen any.  So why should designers around here operate outside their areas of competence simply because they can and have the knowledge to do so.


Ok to further buttress my point, when you think of Vera Wang, what do you think of instantly?!  When you think of DKNY, what do you think of?  How about Chanel?  Alexander McQueen before he died (God rest his soul?)  Ok… let’s bring it down to Nigeria…  How about Deola Sagoe?  Ituen Basi? Jewel by Lisa?  Tiffany Amber?!  Surely many of these designers can operate in various areas but they have chosen not to.  At least I know Mrs. Ogunlesi cannot fit into many of her creations at Ruff N Tumble, though I cannot confirm if she does make her clothes.  

But my point is I am sure many of these designers have a pretty good idea of how to make various types of garments but many specialize in a certain area.  Now you can choose to set up a different “line” of clothing after a while but I believe this should only come after you’ve carved a niche for yourself in a certain area.  And that is a personal opinion.


My trip to China was even more of an eye-opener.  Some factories who offered the same type of garments did not offer the same type of fit or tailoring and they would tell you so from Day 1.  Many had specialized in offering a certain type of fashion style which they had perfected, that anything which fell outside their area would not have been accepted, regardless of how much you were willing to pay for it.  And I think it is high time we did the same around here.

One thing I do know is that those who offer branded t-shirts around here focus on that and do not bother adding on extras.  And I think that’s what we designers need to learn from.  We really don’t have to prove to people that we are all-rounded.  All we need to do is prove that we are good at what we say we are good at.  And if that is simply creating denim jeans, then so be it.  If the bottom line is suffering, yes you can take on just a few more areas within the industry just to make ends meet in the early days but focus on your goal.  Yes I know… easier said than done right?  I feel you completely.  But never lose sight of your dream entirely just to make ends meet.  I have often said “there is nothing worse than you doing what you love but not enjoying it”.  I found myself there once as well and was completely miserable.


I think what we need to do really before we start out is to understand the industry and the various job descriptions within the Industry and where there are loopholes, we carve a niche in that area.  Many  people have no clue that some jobs exist within the Industry.  I, for one, know the Industry is in dire need of pattern-makers.  Many of us just want to design and find someone else to churn it out.  That’s the way it’s done in other countries… and that’s why they are big.  Just look at many of the foreign garments you buy and check out where they are made.  And because I know this need exists, I have decided to groom one of my students in pattern-making so he can assist us.  And that is why our Fashion Courses include a pattern-making course for those who want to feature in the Industry but really do not want to sew.


Same way if you do not know how to sketch your designs, find someone who can draw well to help you out.

And please pay the person for his time.  Don’t stress yourself out trying to save the pennies and then end up losing the pounds.

So in conclusion…  Designers, please don’t let your clients or even friends and family set you up.  Identify what exactly you want to achieve in the Industry and work towards it.  Yes you might be an all-rounder but you do not physically have to do everything until you are sure you can cope with it.  I for one, decided to stop bespoke and that’s the best decision I ever made.  

And if you get a project that’s outside your area of competence, please by all means, take up that project BUT more importantly, find someone who specializes in that area who can help handle the project and split the profits.  That is why people refer clients to others.  It’s called collaboration.  If you can’t, please walk away from the project.  When you weigh the options, the opportunity costs of that project may not be worth the huge sum you are being paid for it.  I guess we have a lot more to learn from doctors that healthy eating and living. 


Here’s wishing you a great week ahead!



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About Me

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

A fashion entrepreneur passionate giving power through fashion

by sharing knowledge guaranteed to help fashion lovers

turn their love for fashion into a viable business.

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