Ozomoge Victor is the founder and chief executive officer of Zomoge, a wholly owned indigenous Nigerian commercial organization with interest in general clothier production, merchandise and importation. With a focus on classic and timeless clothier products, accessories and consumables, exploring the robust global fashion market, the brand is driven by an expanded interest to lead in the sector, in the shortest time span. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, Victor speaks on how the brand evolved into becoming one of the most sought-for in the industry.
Why do you like to be referred to as a tailor rather than a fashion designer?
I don’t like to be referred to as a fashion designer because I feel fashion designing can be restricted but tailoring is beyond just sewing. Fashion designing could be home exterior designing, it could be cloth making but just imagine God tailoring human beings, lives and the min. When I make clothes for you, it goes beyond me just making pieces for you.
What inspires your collection?
The essence for creativity, originality, class, excellence and all the attributes of greatness is what inspires my collection.
At a time when there is an economic downturn in Nigeria, how are you able to afford clothes that are affordable without compromising on quality?
It is a very tough time. I just rebranded the new Zomoge Inspired and a lot of my friends come here and they keep asking me that at a time people are leaving the country, why am I spending so much and how I hope to get my investments back. I tell them what I am doing is driven by the passion I have for this. Everyone is expected to be profit oriented but inasmuch as I am profit oriented, I want to do something that makes me feel fulfilled. It might take a while for me to make all the money back but there is something about knowing you have this inner peace. I don’t ever compromise quality but that doesn’t mean I have to place my products at a place my target market can’t reach. I have a target market and these include the low economy class that is looking to buy what is affordable and they also buy in bits. However, my major target market is those who love quality and can afford it.
What is the cheapest rate for your clothes?
In an economy like ours where we don’t produce our fabric, where we don’t get production materials locally, it may be difficult to answer this because it is what I buy, I will sell. So, it is what customers pick at our outlet that will determine the costs.
How do you source your raw materials?
I have friends all around the world. In the Western world and well developed economies, most of these high brands don’t have production done in their countries. They take it to countries like Asia where they have low labour wages. This in turn makes their products a little cheaper compared to if they had done it in their own countries.
Considering the cost of shipping, transport and other logistics, do you think it is more cost effective to import your raw materials?
Government is the driver of any economy that survives and our government is not doing so much for entrepreneurs like ours. We don’t have the raw materials if we want to be sincere. The industries that produce these fabrics are not functioning in Nigeria. Even if they function, the local materials we are talking about, if you see the ones that are well-made, are often expensive. You would even get them cheaper if you source them abroad than buying them here. I am not the problem; the government should try and fix the economy. I also don’t like to take my money out to other economies. But because I must retain quality and satisfy my target audience, I’ll rather source my materials outside the country.
How does sourcing your materials outside Nigeria affect your business?
It affects negatively and positively. Negatively in the sense that the cost of importation and logistics is high. As of the day, you calculate your logistics and foreign exchange that keeps increasing, you’ll understand these things are biting. On the other hand, when these raw materials are sourced abroad and we bring them here, you will realise that our designers are doing so well. We have tailors here who make products that can compete with international brands. If these raw materials are readily available, (because often at times they are scarce); we make products that can compete with big international brands.
Do you export your clothes to other parts of the world?
Yes we do. I have people who trust my products in Canada, in America, in the United States, in India who wear my clothes. I may not have travelled around the world but my clothes have. My brand has gone far and wide.
How long have you been practicing as a tailor?
I have been around for a while. I have been around since 2002. In 2007, we changed our name to Zomoge Inspired. I did this in collaboration with someone and somewhere along the line, the energy was not refining, so I decided to pull out and do this on my own. So I rebranded in 2007 to Zomoge Inspired. I have not been this feasible. I have just been doing business in low key. I have been observing the wind but now I have decided to move from observing the wind, to sewing.
What inspired you to go into tailoring?
I am an Accountant from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Very early in the university, I just found that I love to dress and it was during this very long strike just as we have now and we were home for about nine months. I came to Lagos and I was working with one of my bosses then. I follow him around. As at then, he liked me and saw I was dedicated to the job. He used to make clothes for Femi Kuti and Lagbaja then and that was how I really fell in love with Tailoring. As at then, I began to take in jobs for people. After I graduated, I just decided that I was going to focus on this. It was not easy. There was a time when I had a graduate working with me and he asked me if I had felt like quitting and I told him many times. But there was another staff of mine who didn’t have anything, he didn’t go to school and he didn’t have a certificate. When this person asked me the same question, I answered him differently. I told him I felt like quitting several times but in my case, I had something to fall back to but you don’t have. I have a certificate. I once made cloth for my sister’s husband and she slapped me telling me the cloth was too small for her husband and she loves her husband’s clothes big because the man is chubby. At this point, I asked myself if I was sure I wanted to do tailoring. But the man said he loved the dress. After three days, I told myself ‘No pain, no gain’ and I need to continue with this. And here I am today.
Are there mentorship programmes to have to train people on what you do?
I have a lot of people who work with me and are learning in the process but a lot of people love the win but don’t want to go through the process of the win. Many of my friends have come into this place today and are astonished by the things they see. They keep asking if I achieved all I have here today just through tailoring. And I tell them that it is the tailoring and nothing else. Every single thing here is made from proceeds of my tailoring. I did not make money from anywhere else aside from tailoring. I have learnt how to do business differently. Every single thing that is here, I made sure I bought the best of quality, simply because I want people to see the reflection of the good chairs they sit on in the kind of clothes I make them. This is why I chose quality. When people come into this place, some people get intimidated and some get inspired. I love to work with the people who get inspired. I mentor people but people readily will come and say they want to be mentored. But after the wind of life happens, you see then run to what is easy.
Whoever wants to be mentored can look at it. Empirical knowledge is the greatest form of knowledge which is whatever you have experienced by yourself. I can’t say that mentoring people is my purpose. But if you are humble enough and you want to be mentored by me, the best form of mentorship I can give you is ‘watch how I work and let us work together.’
What are your major challenges?
Every business has its challenges. There are challenges of being seen, the challenge of remaining in business, the challenge of selling the products that you have made, amongst many other challenges. We also have a challenge with power supply.
Are there any big names among your clients?
I have the likes of Richard Mofe-Damijo, popularly known as RMD, the popular Nigerian actor and producer, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, amongst several others.
Some say tailors and designers are returning to the old era of clothes with the kind of clothes they make now. How true is this?
Fashion is revolving. What used to be in the 1970s, comes back in the 1980s and then in the 1990s. There is no permanent intelligence. So, it just depends on the perception of who is wearing the pieces and who is looking at it.
What differentiates you from your competitors?
What differentiates me is my originality, my sense of thinking. Our mind is our greatest form of gift. So, I think differently, I see differently. Usually when I am designing, I am not always looking at how beautiful it will turn out, I am looking at the end result, what purpose it will serve and how far it will go. I say to people that when I have them as customers, I am no longer looking at them. I am looking at who they know because I already have my customers. So, the people that are my target are those I haven’t reached.