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We need more tanneries to promote leather production and increase availability – MAK & JAY’s Creative Director

We need more tanneries to promote leather production and increase availability – MAK & JAY’s Creative Director

Jerry Martins is the founder and creative director at MAK & JAY Leatherworks, a Nigerian footwear company based in Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview with Josephine Okojie, he discusses the role of creative platforms in the Nigerian Leather Industry. Find the interview excerpts:

Can you tell us about MAK & JAY Leatherworks, that is how you started and some notable achievements?

MAK & JAY is an African handmade leather footwear brand with a vast collection of versatile designs, currently based in Lagos Nigeria. We produce stylish yet durable footwear for shoe lovers to stay consistently fashionable. We also offer vintage designs of leather footwear to complement the casual, business, and formal wardrobes of our everyday consumers. As a brand, we launched in 2018, with the primary aim of changing the narrative of handmade shoes in Nigeria as well as providing durable footwear options that complement different styles and occasions for our customers. Since inception, we have grown to service over 2000 unique customers, in different countries and continents.

As a company that has displayed a high level of consistency in quality shoe production, what has driven your brand’s evolution over the years, despite economic instability in the country?

One of the major factors that have worked for us over the years as a growing brand in Nigeria has been our unrivalled commitment to quality delivery. We prioritize delivering high-quality products and service to our customers and this has earned us the prestige and reputation in the markets we operate in. We are also keen on Customer Satisfaction -for every brand aspiring to thrive, high customer satisfaction is important to ensure greater customer retention, higher lifetime value, and a stronger brand reputation. This has also guided our business as a leather products brand. We don’t act in isolation, we actively listen to customer feedback, address their concerns, and continuously improve our products and services to meet their expectations. Overall, we have gained and grown a loyal customer base by simply seeking feedback and consistently creating “customer-centric” products.

In Nigeria, most leather shoemakers face some challenges such as sourcing leather locally owing to high export. How do you think this challenge can be solved?

This challenge is an issue of demand and supply, that is, the demand for real leather material is high both locally and internationally, against supply. We have just a few tanneries to process and supply the highly demanding market. Therefore, the first line of action to solve this issue would be to create more tanneries to promote leather production and increase availability. To achieve this, we would most likely need the input and support of the government even if it means creating policies and incentives to support local tanneries. Once that has been achieved, the next would be to kick-start a collaborative process between local tanneries and shoemakers, this would help shoemakers secure a consistent supply of quality leather. By working closely with tanneries, shoemakers can provide specific requirements and ensure the production of leather that meets their specifications and standards.

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As an industry that has the potential to increase the nation’s foreign earnings, how do you think players such as your brand and initiatives like Lagos Leather Fair can collaborate to advance the industry?

As predicted by experts, the Nigerian leather industry has the potential to increase the nation’s local and foreign earnings. The leather sector occupies a very important place in the development of our economy on account of its substantial export earnings, potential for creation of employment opportunities and favorable conditions for its sustained growth. The sector also has a huge potential to increase domestic production and exports, and this is where the value of stakeholders such as brands and initiatives such as Lagos Leather Fair comes in. As a brand, collaborating with other Nigerian-made brands and participating in initiatives such as the Lagos Leather Fair provides the opportunity to gain exposure to both local and international markets as well as unlearn and relearn various strategies to aid brand growth. The commitment to collaborate with other stakeholders is also an avenue to collectively promote the Nigerian leather industry, raise awareness about its potential, attract foreign buyers and increase export opportunities which in turn grow for-ex earnings.

Can you tell us about the impact of the Lagos Leather Fair on the leather sector?

The Lagos Leather Fair is renowned for its great impact and has stayed consistent with it. The platform has amongst other things created market exposure and brand visibility for most of the brands affiliated with it. Through the platform, we have always accessed a wide audience of our target market and gained huge patronage as well as built brand loyalty over time. Participating in the fair consistently has also allowed us as a brand to gather valuable market insights and feedback directly from customers as well as potential customers who attend the exhibition. It also fosters networking and creates synergy among stakeholders in the leather industry

How well is MAK & JAY positioned to contribute to the Made-in-Nigeria project and zero-oil initiative?

As we continue to grow the non-oil sector to reduce the reliance on crude oil earnings, we are inclined to promote local productions. As a brand, we constantly source our materials and skills locally which further drive local earnings and create job opportunities for local artisans. We also offer training and capacity building to help create more skilled workers and increase their ability to earn. Much more than that, our products are doing well on global shelves and are constantly attracting patronage from show lovers all over the world, this enables us to repatriate forex which is also in line with the CBN R200 initiative.

What are your expectations for the 6th edition of the Lagos Leather Fair?

We would expect to see other key leather brands and industry leaders at the fair, I would be looking out for the panel sessions as it hosts industry experts sharing their views on various issues in the market industry trends and government policies and how it affects our business and industry at large.