The Fashion world is a thrilling business with abundance of opportunities. Meet, Oluwatosin Abigail Israel the Creative Director of Marble stitches, a top notch tailoring outfit in the city of Ibadan. In this interview with Victor Alagogooko, she leads us into her business; the problems of doing business in Ibadan, her forthcoming project for the orphans in this festive season tagged, Coat of many Colours and her goal of establishing a University of fashion.
Ibcity Announcer; Kindly tell us a little bit about yourself.
Marble Stitches: My name is Abigail Oluwatosin Israel; I am a graduate of Sociology and Anthropology from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile- Ife. Currently, I am undergoing my MBA at the University of Lagos. Fashion and tailoring is something I like to do and it is something I never get tired of doing.
Ibcity Announcer: So it is a Hobby:
Marble Stitches:Yes, it is a hobby turn business
Marble Stitches: I started in 2016, shortly after my youth Service. Marble Stitches is more of an online tailoring service provider. We realize that there are a lot of people that make clothes, but don’t consider the convenience of the customers. Some people have the cloths or fabrics that they want to make but they are very busy in their offices. So we created a platform whereby people can create a catalogue and pick form the options available as if you are in the tailor shop. This they do online. We pick up the fabric and sow. But as much as we are online, we also understand that people like the visit-the-tailor-shop experience, we make our office available for people who like to come around and see for themselves.
Ibcity Announcer: Giving the fact that this is an online business, how challenging has it been?
Marble Stitches; To be honest, it has been quite challenging, a lot of people hardly go online to give people cloths to sow especially the ones that we don’t know personally. Imagine person who buys a cloth of 35000 and he/she is giving such cloths to a person he/she has never met. So the trust gap for online services is still very much there. This is why we create the avenue for people to come around into our office and see for themselves. There is avenue for physical contact either by me or my staff for the first time and subsequently, after building the trust, they can make demands online.
Ibcity Announcers: You identify yourself as a Tailor and not a Fashion Designer. Why?
Marble Stitches: They are actually different. Like I tell a lot of people, a fashion designer can both be a tailor and a designer. In my perspective, a fashion designer is someone who has an idea of this is what I want you to construct and make the designs of what is intended, but the person who executes it is a tailor. So a fashion designer put out a particular design and the tailor executes the design and plan. So execution is our strength it is not like I don’t design. You see a lot of fashion houses who put out advert needing tailors. A lot of people can design cloth but not a lot can tailor effectively. So I refer to myself as a tailor.
Ibcity Announcer: What is your staff strength?
Marble Stitches: Currently, we are seven, but we have some virtual teammates; we have someone in charge of the website and someone in charge of the social media. But people that come here and work with me are actually five. Some are contract staff while we have full time staff too. Most of these Tailors prefer to work on wages, or commission. So they collect their money monthly. But I have some that are being paid monthly as well. Although this is disadvantageous in a place like Ibadan where someone can just feel they don’t need to come to work regardless of the work load especially when they are paid based on commission. But fortunately, I have workers who believe in the goals of the organization and they have been very cooperative.
Ibcity Announcer: What inspired the name Marble Stitches?
Marble Stitches: My mum used to have a fashion house in Ibadan a very long time ago, named Marble Home of fashion. But it doesn’t exist anymore so I just pick the marble name from it.
Ibcity Announcer: Is it fair to assume that you took this interest from your parents and it’s a genetic trait?
Marble Stitches: I wasn’t even born when the Marble Home of Fashion was in operation. But I think I have a couple of my family members who are into fashion designing from both sides of the parents. My grandmother was a big cloth wholesale seller at Gbagi market. Currently, I have aunties that are into this fashion business too.
Ibcity Announcer: Why did you choose Ibadan as a base for your business?
Marble Stitches: For any business person, if you really want to make a mark you should find a way to be in Ibadan. In few years’ time Ibadan is going to be a business hub. Especially when I remember the Rail Road that is being constructed, every business minded individual would see the potential in Ibadan and tap into it. In few years’ time, because of the proximity of Lagos to Ibadan, Ibadan will be a fast growing economy and it will be easier to find people who will key into the business in Ibadan here. In Ibadan things are relatively cheap. In this business, people in Ibadan can tap into the business opportunity that Lagos affords. I have an outlet in Lagos and make a lot of sales. Ibadan is a place where you can at least experiment and do trial and error on some things. You cannot afford to do that in Lagos. Also the cost of rent in Ibadan is also cheaper than in Lagos.
Ibcity Announcer: What in your experience is the major problem business people have with Ibadan?
Marble Stitches: Ibadan is a very conservative city. Ibadan people like fashion a lot but they don’t want to spend much on it beyond the ordinary. Ibadan is Ibadan. As much as Yoruba people like parties, yet they are very conservative when it comes to spending. But I believe in the next five years Ibadan will be a changed place and much more developed. If people don’t key into the market now they may not find their feet again much later. Ibadan people may not be buying as much as Lagos but gradually there is an appreciable level of interest.
Ibcity Announcer: What steps are you taking to penetrate this conservative market nature of Ibadan?
Marble Stitches: Currently I am into a cooperative in which we go into bulk tailoring and mass production of clothes strictly in Ibadan. Being part of that community will open the eyes to the reality of the Ibadan market such as what they like and how much they can afford to purchase them.
Ibcity Announcer: Are you into unisex Tailoring and fashion?
Marble Stitches: Yes. I make both male and female cloths more. There are not many people who are into male clothing while for female, tailors are many. So I have people who make the male clothing and also people who make the female clothing. In fact it is easier to make male clothing unlike female clothing that is usually more elaborate. If a male comes in with a material and says he needs his clothes in three days, it can be done easily unlike the time taken to fix a female one.
Ibcity Announcer: Tell us about your project the “Coat of many Colours”
Marble Stitches: Coat of many Colours is like a Corporate Social Responsibility, an initiative by me, Marble Stitches. As a tailoring outfit, we have been collecting fabrics of different kinds and we just infuse the biblical tag into it as in the case of joseph. It is targeted at the children in the orphanage homes. As children we know how much we look forward to our parents buying us clothes during Christmas. But the children in the orphanages don’t have this opportunity. Though they could have access to used cloths but we feel in this period of Christmas they also need news cloths to wear. So in conjunction with other groups or teams that key into the program we are looking to produce cloths for the children to wear
Ibcity Announcer: When is this year’s edition coming up?
Marble Stitches: It is coming up on December 15. However the venue is still tentative and we are targeting the two orphanages at Apata and Bodija ibadan. We are having a combined celebration for them.
Ibcity Announcer: How much of support are you getting for the initiative?
Marble Stitches: Many people are really enthusiastic about this. It amazes me the passion and interest with which people believe and want to be part of it. Our entire customers are in a way part of this project because a percentage of their purchase from us in the year is dedicated towards this initiative. We make them aware of this as well. However we are still expecting more donations in cash and in kind for well-meaning individuals towards this project. Food items are also welcome. We need volunteers as well.
Ibcity Announcer: You are a very busy lady. How do you unwinds?
Marble Stitches: (laughs) I am very indoor person. I don’t really like going out, more or less an introvert. I like staying indoors most times watching movies and I also like going on twitter.
Ibcity Announcer: With a thriving business and good workforce. What inspires you?
Marble Stiches: I have what I call a BHAG: Big, Heavy, Audacious, Goal which is a twenty year goal and plan. People say that there are no jobs in Nigeria but I feel there are jobs but there are no skills to fill these jobs. There are times even in my business I will be looking for someone to fill a space and for two months, I will still not have that. So the Big Heavy Audacious Goal is to have a University of Fashion. As people get out of school, they wouldn’t go to the regular university but they go to the university, to a place where they learn how to sow and they will come out as bright as you can imagine. Such that, if you put them side by side with any graduate from a conventional university, they are much as good.
It is unfortunate that despite our population Nigeria still imports clothes. So it means that there is something we are not doing right. There are a lot of tailors and fashion designers but these skills are still not sufficient. So the BHAG is that. But at this level we want to make sure that we don’t disappoint any of our customers and that they can attest to the quality of the work we give out so as to build the brand. So what inspires me is that goal.
Ibcity Announcer: Who inspires you?
Marble Stitches: It is God. God has been the biginspiration behind everything I do. Aside God is my Parent. Though my parentsare not so much into entrepreneurship, but because it is something I want todo, they have been supportive as much as they can. In the fashion world, I am Inspire by Seyi Vodi. His journey in the fashion business is something thatinspires me a lot. I am also inspired byApril by Kunbi