Otini Enefola-Alebiosu, also known as ‘Nini’ is the Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Director of House of Nini. She is an Igala descent from Kogi state and married to Tolulope Alebiosu.
The style and fashion influencer was raised in Northern Nigeria, Yola in Adamawa precisely, where she had her early school education. After graduating from the university, she worked at Globacom Nigeria for a few years in the sales department as a client relationship/sales executive.
While working with Globacom and leading as an award winning staff, she soon discovered that her passion was what she needed to focus on, Fashion!
Growing up, she was always stylish and loved looking nice as a strong fashion enthusiast. She has worked as a fashion model, fashion consultant and personal stylist/shopper for a number of fashion houses and individuals.
Her desire to have a successful fashion brand for the classy woman encouraged her admiration for fashion icons like Donatella Versace, Coco Chanel, Victoria Beckham amongst others.
Finally, her passion became reality as she birthed HOUSE OF NINI.
With celebrities like Omoni Oboli, Funke Akindele-Bello, Bisola Aiyeola, Toke Makinwa, Eniola Badmus, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, Toyin Poju-Oyemade, Cynthia Nwadiora aka ‘CeeCee, Jackie Appiah amongst others wearing her outfits, House Of Nini can only rise higher.
Where it all began
I grew up in a loving and close-knit family. My parents held strict Christian values that uphold me till date. The principles of honour for every human being, hard work, courage and persistence were such big deals in my home. I must also mention that my dad is a very talented Fine Artist, who took time to teach us all the art of drawing, painting, sculpting, dyeing of fabric, to mention a few.
Most of my siblings practice the art in one form or the other. I must say, mine manifested through the fashion industry.
My parents were well known for their love for fashion.
Northern experience and influence
Growing up in the north was such a delightful experience. Speaking Hausa came naturally. Most rhymes I learnt in my early years at school were in Hausa. Communal living is at the core of the northern experience, irrespective of the religious differences that exists. Modesty and humility are two values mostly emphasised. In dressing up, one is often covered up. House of Nini has been ‘critiqued’ for having outfits overly covered up. I feel that this may have been a spill from that experience.
Why the choice of work and experience so far?
To be sincere, things just panned out that way and I really believe destiny had a major role to play. I simply enjoyed dressing up and showing up on Instagram in my daily outfits to work, church or events.
I began to get recognised for how I stood out with my dress sense at work and everywhere I went to. It also began to earn me a following on Instagram which was all new at the time, and I was privileged to be an early adapter. Gradually, clothing brands began to reach out to me to influence their brands. After a while, it became obvious to me that I was going to be in that line no matter what.
What informs your choice of style?
Like I mentioned earlier, I grew up in the midst of creativity, watching my dad create art pieces is something I will always be grateful for. I also grew up in a fashionable home. My dad was known for his sense of fashion and so was my mum. They always had a sense of what they wanted and went for it. I’m grateful to God it just flows naturally.
Nigerian women and Fashion
I would say the average Nigerian woman’s style is fairly good. We are generally able to match colours easily and pay some bit of attention to self-care, which a great advantage.
I must also say that we are very fashionable people in Nigeria, and the rich diversity in our culture adds its own sauce to it. Most Nigerian women stand out wherever they find themselves.
The business of fashion
Nigeria has come a long way with fashion yet there are still miles and miles to go. With the rise of internet broadband access, and the ease with which people can buy things online, there just seems to be no limit to how far and wide our designs can go. Just like we are noticing a current boom in our entertainment industry, whereby we see our local music and movies receive global attention, we expect to see that happen in our fashion industry in the coming years and this will be credited to the efforts of the heroes in fashion, past, present and future, who keep adding their quota and providing value.
Creating a niche for yourself in your field
In all honesty, all we have tried to do is to make our women appear confident and classy. Our intention wasn’t to carve a niche for ourselves however, our areas of strength have become apparent as we have progressed in our journey. Our focus is to remain flexible with our styles while ensuring our women remain unforgettable whenever they show up.
In such a business as ours, this singular factor is key. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of our business knowing they are our reasons for being in business.
We have an exchange policy and a refund policy for unsatisfied customers, but this is usually a last resort as we would rather keep the relationship.
We ensure from the beginning, that every detail is taken into consideration; from measurements to choice of style, fabric and colour, we walk our customers through the process and help them make better informed choices that resonate with their personal style. That way, it is almost certain the outcome will be positive.
Getting workers and treating them right
Richard Branson once said that, “clients do not come first, employees do and if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” This is our maxim at House of Nini. My staff are like family. We make sure they know that we care for them and ensure they are comfortable in every way possible. Their remuneration is competitive and prompt, also giving them access to good medical care is another plus.
On getting the right tailors, I must say God has helped us in this area mightily and for that, we are grateful. Once one treats them well, they will go the extra mile to be loyal to you and your brand.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion to me defines who a person really is. And because it tells a story of who you are, it is important to always stay true to your identity while striving to always be your best at it.
Who is a House Of Nini woman?
A House of Nini woman is an unforgettable woman. She is confident, simple yet classy.
Over the years, our reviews have always showed that, when House of Nini women show up, they leave a positive impression. Our customers keep returning because they can’t get over the feeling of confidence and worth it gives them. Most of them agree that for any of our outfits they wear, they get no less than five compliments.
How has Forex affected your business?
While we look forward to having it better, it is what it is for now. Most of our raw materials are sourced locally and have had hikes in prices in the last couple of months. This has also caused some bit of increase in our pricing as it has in similar businesses.
One major challenge is the lack of an enabling environment to do business. This includes infrastructure, mainly inconsistent electric power supply, inadequate access to credits and loans, and only few platforms to showcase our designs globally.
1 year marriage anniversary
It has been amazing! It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for me. We are most compatible. His support has been amazing. God gave me a very special kind of man and I am grateful for him. It is one thing to love a person but it is another thing to be loved back with the same intentionality as you do them.
I look forward to more years of sharing and both reaching our individual goals. To friendship through grey hair and old age swag!
The meeting and proposal
We met just before I went for my NYSC program. He was a banker in Lagos at the time. He was then transferred to Akure, the place of my primary assignment. God was busy working out our relationship all the while.
The proposal was an intimate one without any drama. Once we were together and he asked me to marry him, I just looked at him and told him he never had to ask!
Advice to young people who want to come into your line of work?
Identify who you are and what your brand stands for and stay true to it. A lot of people will try to shift your focus to match on going trends, but if you understand who you are and stay true to it, it will eventually pay off.
Experience at Globacom Nigeria? Do you miss being there?
I worked as a corporate sales representative. It was a lot of work with targets but I am thankful I was always up to the tasks. I always gave my best at work and won the hearts of my superiors. I also won some awards and gifts at different times in the organisation. In 2014, I was opportune alongside a few of my colleagues who stood out in their appearance at work to do a billboard cover of one of the company’s products.
I regret to miss the people I met there who are mostly my friends to date, yet I enjoy what I do now and it’s such a blessing. I’d rather not be anywhere else.
I give all glory to God for where I am today. I am also grateful to family, employees and our esteemed customers who all make our journey worth the while.