Lexy Mojo Eyes is the founder of Legendary Gold Limited which owns and organises The Nigeria Fashion Show, the Nigeria Fashion Week, the Nigeria Fashion Awards, the Nigeria Model Awards and their new initiative – Africa Fashion Reception. Through one of his events, the Nigeria Fashion Week, he had the first going green fashion initiative in Africa. It attracted international media coverage from CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, REAUTERS etc. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, he speaks on the challenges and potential for the growth of Nigeria’s fashion industry.
Findings have shown that the four biggest french companies are all cosmetics and fashion brands. These include LVMH valued at $500billion, L’Oreal valued at $238.98billion, Hermes valued at $212.88billion and Dior valued at $157.69billion. The fashion industry in Nigeria still haven’t scratched the surface to contributing significantly to Nigeria’s GDP. I’ll therefore like to ask why do you think Nigeria’s fashion and cosmetics industry is not doing very well as regards taking a good chunk of the country’s GDP?
They are not doing as well as they should because we are still very young in the business and serious investors have not yet started looking at this sector as serious business. Players in this sector are still SMEs and not big conglomerates. Bernard Arnault who owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Tiffany’s, Marc Jacobs, Sephora, Fenty Beauty and so on is today the richest man in the world with $211 billion. He just over took Elion Musk. But if you have followed these brands closely, they have been there for decades and lots of huge, consented and deliberate funds were pumped into these brands over the years
What lessons do you think Nigeria can learn from France on how it has leveraged fashion and cosmetics to grow its economy?
Investors should seriously start looking at the fashion and beauty industry including their value chains as the next oil and gold. These products are daily essentials. Everyone wears clothes and uses cosmetic products daily. So, this shows you the economic viability of these sectors.
Do you think the successes that France has made in it’s fashion and cosmetics industry is a sign people think highly of French fashion, creativity, lifestyle and culture?
The French government for centuries recognised this sector as a major foreign exchange earner for France. So, they put everything in place to make the industry thrive. France has no natural resources like Nigeria that has oil and so many others. So, they created and made viable the fashion and beauty industry. Yes, Nigeria has oil, but if our government create the enabling environment in the beauty and fashion industries, Nigeria can make more money in these sectors than in oil and gas industries put together.
Beyond quality, why do you think the world wants to buy from these French brands?
This is because they have created, defined, redefined and perfected what luxury products in fashion and beauty should be. When you talk about fashion, you talk about Paris and Milan first. These cities personify what craftsmanship is all about in these sectors. It is centuries of perfection and investments
Some say, the success of these brands is a side effect of high taxes and cost of operations in many EU countries. Companies who face these conditions specialise in luxury goods where they can demand higher margins. What is your take on this?
Luxury products is not about how expensive the products are or the high taxes on them. It is about a set of products that are meant for the high and mighty. It is meant for the higher echelon of every society around the world. For these high-class group of people, its not about how expensive. It is about how exclusive and special the products are. In fact, the more expensive they are, the more attractive it becomes for them.
What more; do you think fashion industry in Nigeria needs to catch up with their contemporaries in other countries?
Nigerian designers are up to the task. Most of them are even better than the creative Directors in the global brands. But the difference is abroad, they run as conglomerates with huge investments made on them while in Nigeria, they still run as individual brands and SMEs. The big brands abroad have been able to separate business from creativity getting the best hands to handle the various aspects. But in Nigeria, the Creative Director handles the business side too. Most of them are only creative people
What are the challenges and prospects of fashion and cosmetics industry in Nigeria?
The major challenge is capital to transform them from small to big brands. The industry needs the business people to take charge of the business aspects. Also, an enabling environment by government which should include favourable policies. The prospects are enormous and huge with incredible future. With over 1.3 billion people in Africa alone, we don’t need the rest of the world to make the numbers. Then now add the rest of the world to it you can imagine the prospects
What is the worth (in naira) of the Nigerian fashion industry?
Data are not always very correct. But Euromonitor suggests that Nigerian fashion market is worth $4.7 billion
Fashion entails a lot of things from clothing to accessories to cosmetics etc. Which of these segment sells more in Nigeria and why ?
They all sell very well.
Would you link Nigeria’s not-so-good performance in fashion industry to the level of poverty in the country ?
It is all about proper branding and more investments in the sector. It is not about the level of poverty.
As a big name in the fashion industry, can you share with us your journey in the industry and why you chose this space?
I pioneered the Nigerian fashion industry from 1990 till date. I reoriented Nigerian designers to look inward to local fabrics, accessories and designs. This is because I knew this is the only way Nigeria and the fashion industry can earn needed foreign exchange that can contribute to the Nigerian GDP. It is still work in progress. I also reoriented Nigerians to wear Nigerian clothes. Before I came into the scene, Nigerians never wear local clothes. But today, made in Nigeria clothes is our pride. Presently, with my partnership with the African Union and UNESCO, I have in the last 13 years moved the campaign to the rest of Africa. We have worked and promoted designers and fashion entrepreneurs from over 46 African countries and soon we will be in all 55 African countries.
May we know some of the big brands in the fashion sector that if well harnessed, can put Nigeria on the global map?
They are a lot, and there are more coming up.