Wearing beautiful clothes can improve one’s self-esteem and give that feeling of self-confidence through comfort and elegance, and in Nigeria, Esther Olubusayo Alo, creative director and managing partner of Esther Alo, is helping customers to do just that.
Esther, who is also known as Busayo, is a talented Nigerian fashion designer who makes women’s evening wear and bridal outfits, the brand has its bespoke collections in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and markets across the EU.
She was inspired to venture into the business by family members who are designers, especially her mum. “I come from a family of fashion professionals, from my mom to extended aunts and friends,” she says.
“I want my clients to know exactly who is styling and creating designs for them and when they wear their outfits, they should be able to put a name to the designer,” she notes.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Esther has over 10-year fashion experience and has attended several fashion schools to scale her designing skills.
Esther started trading with Verstyle by Busayo as a business name in 2012 but later registered as Esther Alo. Her start-up capital was from her personal savings and sewing machines she got from her mum.
Since starting, she says her business has grown steadily and its collection is now gaining traction internationally.
“We have gotten great feedback, especially on our latest collection termed ‘Afro-western’ and we have seen that there’s a strong demand for our services internationally,” she says.
“We now have a diverse clientele base, which makes potential business partners and collaborators get in contact with us. We also have had loyal clients over the years who recommend the brand to others, which has been unique and truly remarkable,” she states.
She says quality and unique designs as well as excellent customer service delivery, have helped her fashion brand stand out from the highly saturated fashion industry.
“Additionally, the fast-paced nature of the fashion industry, with new trends and styles constantly emerging contributes to the drive so we stay ahead and keep up the pace to satisfy our clients.”
The business employed a team of designers ranging from pattern drafters to fashion illustrators and tailors.
On how she has been able to thrive in difficult times, she says her brand has developed the art and science of price change and re-evaluated its business practices to minimise cost.
“The current inflation surge has had a negative impact on most fashion brands, but we are making ourselves more accessible to our clients in terms of our online and offline presence,” she says.
According to her, the brand has leveraged social media to grow its client base while ensuring seamless provision of custom-made designs to clients.
“We make the process of getting custom-made designs seamless for them, which has been our unique selling point. Also, we prioritise and segment our clients accordingly without compromising on standards.”
“Some are willing to pay slightly higher for quick remote and seamless services while others plan long enough to work with our scheduled time at an economically friendly price.”
Responding to a question on the country’s fashion industry, she said the industry is constantly evolving and flourishing.
She explains that the industry is currently enjoying an unprecedented level of exposure that has translated to opportunities for designers.
She adds that Nigerian designers are becoming regular features of some of the world’s runways, gaining footholds with celebrities and promoting the African brands.
On some of the challenges confronting the business, she says building the Esther Alo brand outside of Nigeria is one of such hurdles.
To address the issue, the brand has constantly worked hard to create an understanding of the type of service it is offering through its designs, social media and referrals.
“We have gotten tremendous feedback from our target audience, we have loads of requests for bespoke wear and it’s exciting to see the interest from our diverse global reach,” she says.
“I have realised that the most important skill for a successful fashion designer is creative thinking. Creativity in the fashion space typically entails a holistic understanding of customers’ needs which can be sometimes interestingly daunting and meeting them in a way that creates mutual satisfaction.”
Her advice to younger designers is to be persistent. “Be persistent and focus on the task at hand. Do what it takes to find and give value to what you love. Also, always make realistic plans.”