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Chidiebere Akpojotor: Changing Nigeria’s fashion narrative

Chidiebere Akpojotor is a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Lagos. She is the chief executive officer of Chiky Fashions, a Lagos-based fashion and designs outfit.

Since 2013 when she started, she has been able to raise a huge number of entrepreneurs. She taught them the nitty-gritty of succeeding in fashion business in the 21st century.

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Before 2013, Akpojotor’s passion for fashion only existed in her head. But she decided to turn the idea into business after being tired of job search.

After a roadside training, she attended several professional trainings to scale her skills.

“I started my business in 2013, and after a while, I found out that I was doing so many things,” she says.

“I needed to hire more hands, but they were too expensive. So, I thought I needed more understanding of this business. I was able to narrow down the business in 2018 and carve a niche for myself,” she recalls.

She started training others who needed to learn fashion. Since then, she has been able to tutor would-be entrepreneurs on fashion for three, six and eight months.

The entrepreneur says she now concentrates on training to raise more entrepreneurs.

“But aside from training, we also make clothes for people who run boutique houses; we make designs for people and our designs look like what they regularly go to Senegalese to buy. These are special designs and they are not just what you get from anywhere,” she boasts.

Akpojotor is lucky as her husband is a graphic artist who creates special patterns for her clients—patterns that are exclusively owned by her.

“So, I make such beautiful kaftans and all that. Those are the jobs and contracts that we like collecting right now,” she says.

Her space is small, but she is planning to expand to accommodate more young people who are asking to learn fashion.

“Right now, finance is my major problem,” she admits.

“I have seen places that I can use but they are very expensive,” she says.

She hopes to get a grant that will enable her to expand and train hundreds of students coming out of school.

The entrepreneur is good at making beddings like duvet and can design bed sheets with local ‘Ankara’.

She believes that N5 million can enable her to expand her portfolio.

She is proud that her former students are doing exploits in the fashion and designs industry.

“Most of them are even richer than I am and they are really putting a lot of things out there and they do them in great styles,” she notes, adding that some of them also run fashion shows abroad.

The Enugu State-born fashion designer says that the business has been good since she started.

“I started with just a machine and right now, I have seven machines (manual), two industrial machines, interlocking machines and three mannequins and show glasses,” she discloses.

Like most entrepreneurs, power is her biggest challenge.

“Power has been my greatest challenge. I run my generator almost every day,” she says.

Like most young entrepreneurs, Akpojotor looks at international designs and replicates them here.

“I look at West African countries because I know we have colours in Africa. You cannot compare our Ankara fabrics, the ‘Adires’ of this world with any other fabrics anywhere,” she notes.

“The last Lagos trade fare gave me an opportunity to have costumers from other countries, because when they walked in wanting to buy other stuffs, they saw the designs I made with jeans and Ankara and they loved them. We called the designs ‘Jankara’ and we had the sizes for children. A woman among them said, “Madam, I have white men here. Can you make the designs for them, and how many days can I get them?’ I asked her to give me three days and within three days, they were ready. One of them wore it and refused to remove it,” she testifies.

She says there is so much money in the fashion industry, which is yet to be scratched.

She says though there are lots of people in the industry, they are still not enough.

“I am among the people producing fashion designers. We are still not enough because many times, my hands are full.”

For her, the charges in the industry are moderate—not low or high.

Her advice to younger people is to make use of their time judiciously.

“Make use of the time you have right now and get skills, especially in fashion designs, because if there’s anything that is important in life aside feeding and shelter, it is clothing.

“People say they do not have money, but they are well-dressed every day. So, I will advise them to come into the fashion world and learn how to make clothes and enjoy the proceeds,” she says.

 

ODINAKA ANUDU

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