For past weeks, I have been focused on engaging commitments I once mentioned over my facebook page and twitter handle sometime in June as regards a research to highlight contextual drivers of the Nigerian economy; also, to find out which business sector truly guarantees survival in our present society. This exercise was born from personal exploration in finding what to get involved with as a means of livelihood since my return back home in March. Unarguably, I have continually witnessed square pegs in round holes in terms of central and state government public policies for society as a whole. In Nigeria, it’s arguable that public governance on the larger part is somewhat still being carried out no different from the pre-1970’s era when power and decision making was administratively solely driven by certain persons; where no joined-up thinking with communities in society was ever considered necessary and important for inclusive development.
This opinion coupled with my passionate desire to foster and accelerate a modernised government created a solution-oriented platform called Project DONE and today, we publish its sixth series. It takes us to a young and selfless fashion creator. I met this young lady in the most motherly and compassionate manner. Strung up to the embrace of her 7 months old baby, making circus faces at each other, I walked up to meet Mrs Olaide Desalu alienated in mind and spirit to the noisy environment I had ignorantly scheduled as location for an interview. Both individuals hardly noticed my presence until I yelled out hiyaaaaaaaaa. They naively had begun to entertain themselves irrespective of the environment and had adapted quite easily. This immediately told me a little about her. She allowed with no fuss but abstract concern a volunteer for Project DONE- Ladi Adejumo clown and carry her baby all through the interview. This further complimented my opinion of her being a very receptive and level-headed woman. All through our chat, she unknowingly displayed an introverted nature complimented with a free spirited orientation. I sought out to discuss her business and the support mechanisms created through it but also, ended up knowing a lot more about fallacious trends in the Nigerian Fashion Industry/Market. It’s really empowering and delightful how one gets educated while on the quest to enlighten others. Someone I know once told me such a thing after gratitude to him for motivating me in a particular situation but I didn’t fully understand his point until I met Madame Moncherie Douceur. The stories on Project DONE and totally void of my initial focus, has power to give deep insight into unthought-of considerations; motivating, inspiring and drilling confidence into the real enablers of our society.
A. My name is Mrs Olaide Desalu. Have been married now for eight months. I'm from Osun state but my husband is from Abeokuta. I'm a graduate of Accountancy from the University of Lagos and I presently run Moncherie Douceur.
A. Ohh ok. Moncere Douceur is a creative design outfit focused on clothing, shoes and accessories. I personally sew and design clothing attires for men and women, handbags, purses, belts and all kinds of accessories. I also make shoes, bags and accessories to complement any attire if a client demands so.
Q. So what gave birth or inspired Mocherie Douceur
Q. So you mean you didn’t even resign formally, would you have stayed on the job if you were going to be retained?
A. I resigned orally like I told you. Hmmm. Well, maybe but am not so sure. If it still required the late nights and weekends I don’t think I would have stayed in retained.
A. While at home, I decided to look inwards on what I could do that would allow me time for my family when I got married. But also on the side, I kept applying for jobs as long as they wouldn’t be as much demanding. I got called up sometimes but the requirements, salary and rewards never broke even to my specification. Out of idleness and boredom, I was always on facebook. I spent long hours of the day on facebook. I had a friend we both went to Unilag back then who had just finished fashion school always posting beautiful pictures of her designs on facebook. I always admired her designs and always tried to copy them out to show my tailors to make for me but they never got them right and still collected exorbitant prices. I believed back then they wouldn’t have been as expensive as hers so I never bothered to call her up to make an outfit for me.
Q. Your works are quite nice. Through pictures the pictures, I notice you more into bags, shoes and accessories. Why the focus?
Q. How long did this process take you?
A. Thank you. Am into clothing too o but again, the bags and accessories thing happened coincidentally also. At the beginning, Moncherie Doucere was just about clothing- traditional or formal outfits. But at some point, my younger brother’s girl friend back then showed me some pictures of some bags and purses made with Ankara fabric and I fell in love with them. I wished and longed to make them and she introduced me to an elderly woman who could teach me how to make them. I was pregnant at the time and wasn’t consistent in going to see the elderly woman for classes after the referral. I just kept on doing traditional outfits. After a while, I got more and more interested whenever I saw different types of bags and purses being made out of rare african prints, so I got introduced to another woman in my church but she kept saying she didn’t have time and I would pay her heavily to learn. One day, I ordered a bag from her and paid. When I got the bag, I dismantled it piece after piece to see and understand how it was sown. I began from there. Trials after trials, sketches after sketches, I began to be self-taught. I started buying these bags and using my own fabrics to learn. Mistakes after mistakes I kept trying and was showing my husband; he kept encouraging me. Even though it wasn’t good, he would say it was good just to make me feel good. (Laughs). I also tried these with several accessories- ribbons, hair ruffles, belts and got better and better with my work as days went by.
A. Hmmmm, all started in 2010…I would say just about a year it took for that phase and am here now.
Q. Tell me about your business, How far have you gone?
A. I would say business has been fair. Now I own a workshop. I no longer work from home but have a workshop. I have managed to have at least ten employees pass through me but presently have three with working for me. I have students, housewives, bankers, nurses and party goers as clients. I have fashion icons, shop and boutique owners as clients. All come from different cadres in society. It’s just that am kind of an introvert; I really don’t like stress or wahala. I don’t really push my products out there as regards promotions in the way some of my clients and other colleagues do. I don’t really make use of a lot of promotional tools like social media, exhibitions, magazine advertorials and the rest. I just wait to get jobs or allow referrals work for me. I don’t really go out searching or promoting my jobs. I have been taking care of my family and literarily, wait for jobs to come. They have always been coming anyway but if I was an extrovert, Moncherie Douceur would be bigger than what it is now. I’ll remain focused to household needs than business needs. I just do it mostly for the love of it.
Q. So you mean you've never done any fashion show or worked with some colleagues in the stylists’ industry?
A. Ehhnnn? (Laughs)…no oooo. Fashion kini? (Laughs again) I hope to do so someday sha but for now I just make these goods upon request. I work mostly for people who re-sell. A larger percentage of clientele are those who re-sell and re-brand my products. Since I began, I have come to realize and understand that many designers in our fashion industry don’t really sell or push their own creativity. Often times when you go to exhibitions or watch fashion shows, believe me, it’s not really the brand name owner that sews and cuts or even designs the outfits. They have skilled but non-influential tailors who work for them and some of them purchase products or have clothes sown for them by underground tailors. I have produced jobs on large scale for fashion designers to sell at their stores or shows and exhibitions. I have clients who resell my products for unimaginable prices in their boutiques when infact, I already have gotten profit selling at retail price to them…it’s all business! They sit down with me and continually explain business in this industry. It's about the contacts you have and influence you can create. Some tailors and designers are more influential than others and when their name appears on a product or design, it’s the name people are buying and not the product itself. Fashion designers come to me to make bags, shoes and accessories for their collection and we agree it’s their names that would be branded on it. Some people might say that's quite domineering but am somewhat comfortable with it. I make my profit regardless. When time is ripe for things to grow bigger for Moncherie Douceur, it would but for now, due to family time and needs, I rather prefer just making the products while others can come take them in bulk and re-sell.
Q. So you mean you've never done any fashion show or worked with some colleagues in the stylists’ industry?
Q. Hmmm..this is very interesting. Can you tell me some fashion icons you've done jobs for?
A. (Laughs.) No. Sorry I can’t do that. (Laughs again) but, I have done jobs for about three or four big names in Lagos. They buy my bags and shoes and sell it for as much as N14, 0000- N16, 000 as a result of their influence and status. To me, especially in the Nigeria context, I know how difficult it is to get three square meals a day and at the same time survive, not to talk of afford to buy fashionable clothing. I’m a little more considerate with the pricing of my products as regards making profit. I’m an accountant so I know how to break even without a 100% profit margin on each product. Also, I'm a mother and wife; I know how tough it is managing resources for a home so I just try to be as considerate as possible. But also in support of my clients who buy large purchases for their fashion brands and stores…. it’s all about business. It’s not a crime. In business, you get what you negotiate not what you deserve. It’s all about business at the end of the day. (Laughs)
Q. What does your husband do and what’s his take on all this?
A. He works with Addax Petroleum. He’s been very supportive all along but has always emphasized need for me to do more branding, public relations and promotions. He hammers on it consistently; the need for to go on a bigger platform and supports me fully with needs to do so. He has tried to brand me and continues to push me further. He got me my workshop to be out there and mingle with business owners and stop work from the house. He got me a very complimenting car for the business and tries to promote my work at every chance he has through information technology and telecommunications. He has been very supporting.
Q. Ohhh ok…So why the lack in will and drive? Is it because you very comfortable irrespective of Moncherie Douceur?
A. (Laughs) Noo ooo. We thank God oooo but not soooo jooor. I have aspirations to do all these things and have started already. There is no traditional attire you would see my husband or I wear that wasn't made by me. Also, I make most of my jacket tops but all traditional attires worn by husband or me is Moncherie Douceur. I have also started making for or seven months old baby. That’s part of branding right there now; but my kind of person…i don’t know sha. I know I can do more sha... I hope to take time out and brand, package and promote Moncherie Douceur sometime soon.
A. Like I said earlier, I have three working with me now. One is an apprentice and gets paid a statutory salary. The two others get paid through commissions. I have had as much as ten employees go through Moncherie Douceur since 2010. Most aren’t patient enough to learn the job. They come for a short while consistently and believe they’ve gotten to know it all and you end up not seeing them again. After a while, they come back again to continue because the little they knew and took away didn't end up guaranteeing them jobs or clients patronage. The workers I have now are most consistent with their work though and even skilled better than the past one.
Q. Have you seen to or equipped in transforming their lives asides employing them?
Q. At what point did you get the confidence to know what you doing is worthwhile and highly embraced by people?
Q. For the past one-year, which out of your product line would you say has been more lucrative and sought after?
Q. What support would you like to see from central or state government?
A. I had a girl once who was the breadwinner of her family. She left just some months ago. She had been with me as far back as when I started fashion school and been doing trial and error tailoring. We never work weekends at the workshop and she always told me she wished she could be more equipped during weekends to source for money to support her family. I always paid her on commission but she claimed it wasn’t enough. Back then maybe we weren’t getting as much as the jobs we get now so I encouraged her she could always source for jobs herself and use the store’s sewing machines and do them as long as it didn’t conflict with jobs I brought in. She would have to do jobs for the store first before she does anything that’s personal for her. After making this known to her, she became more hard working. I also supported her with a sewing machine as time went on to use at home on weekends when the store isn’t open. Now she is on her own doing tailoring very satisfactorily in Lagos. I also try to extend this very flexible gesture to the ones presently working with me and allow them source for jobs themselves and if they get, use the store's machines as long as it doesn't conflict with our primary work.
A. Well, have been making and selling these clothes, bags, shoes and accessories since 2010 and have seen quite a number of satisfied customers and friends rain compliments and praises on me for the work I do. My parents and younger sister are now into my designs and motivate me to keep going. These altogether has gathered for me much confidence. And most recently is the handbag I did for a particular lady I was referred to. She owns a big fashion store in Lagos. I was referred to her and as I walked into her store sidelining my dreams and thoughts with what she had been able to achieve herself, she told me it wasn’t easy and consistency is key. She then handed me fabrics to a traditional outfit she had already sown asking me to show her what I can do as a handbag to fit the outfit. I left and brought the finished product back some few days later and met several other women at her store. It was then I overheard them saying it was the celebrity- Funke Akindele's aka Jennifer wedding they were preparing to go for. I never knew. She said she liked what I did, paid me and I left. Only for her to call me the next day saying I must come see her when less busy. I felt troubled as I drove to see her thinking something had gone wrong only to get there seeing her all out smiling and raining praises on me and proposing partnership. She asked if I could do different designs with fabrics such as Damask and Aso oke. She said everyone loved the bag at the wedding and kept asking her where they could get such type. Today, I consistently make handbags, purses and accessories for her store and friends.
Q. Are you more biased with any fabrics than the other?
A. Ankara. I love using Ankara. I use all type of fabrics- ankara, damask, aso oke and all but love Ankara more.
A. I would say my bags and purses. My bags have been very well sought after because its exclusive to the clothes clients have or they want a bag to go along with. Also, my employees have gotten to understand how to make the bags and purses more quickly and we challenge ourselves often on designs and styles. Clients love the designs and also tend to order a pair of shoes or slippers to go along with the specified outfit. My bags have been very well sought after.
Q. Have you had challenges on the job asides dealing with staff you talked about earlier? What are some challenges you run into and have to overcome doing on this job?
A. Ahhhh. Yes. Clients ooooo (Laughs) they can be both a blessing and a curse atimes. (Laughs again). There’s just that stigmatizing perception that am an uneducated person. I guess maybe it’s because of my stature and small physique. I get scrubbed off easily until I open my mouth or my work is produced. Customers have spoken to me in the most unfair manner and given attitude that regarding me as a “common tailor”. Some say to my face its because I married an affluent man I could afford to own a workshop or drive a car. They give me the most unheard of opinions raw and undiluted without any respect whatsoever. When I first started out, I broke down and sobbed very often. My husband would tell me while seeing my worried and sad mood that if I had a good and proper job…no one would be talking to me anyhow. He would say it’s this tailoring job bringing insults and disrespect for me. I would agree to stop doing it and begin looking for formal work but again, after a little while, a job comes and I find myself sewing again. It’s one of many reasons he decided to get me a proper workshop and a car to further present me more packaged. Having reciprocal customer relations and mutual respect has been an emotional challenge for me. But am outgrowing and not giving it audience anymore. Sometimes, I blame it all on my meek and shy nature and just don’t allow it get to me. Have done jobs for a couple of NYSC members who went as far as make me cry in their manner of approach when I first started out. I guess it all comes with the job and have had to overcome the stereotype of a common tailor and present myself better.
Another challenge has been the need to create for staff suitable work environments and job conditions. The cost of housing and capacity to generate electricity in Lagos is damn ridiculous and demanding. The amount I have to pay for my workshop is outrageous, even more outrageous now that am thinking of getting a much bigger workshop. I also have to make it conducive for my staff to work in and this is where electricity generation comes in. It’s a never-ending challenge in this country. Electricity provision and housing costs need to be re-visited. Also, trying to start up my branding and distribution network obviously has been a challenge. (Laughs)...Because am newly wedded and my baby seems to consume so much of my time, demands at home are of higher priority than my business. I guess as things continue to unfold I would overcome these demands and facilitate a branded distribution network for my products. But even still while at it, I wouldn’t mind to continue making exclusive designs for some fashion houses or stores.
Q. What has been your tactics or strong hold to sustaining this business?
A. It has been God and my husband. My husband has been my strongest support. I owe it all to him and God. He is opportuned to support me and has done so very much. When I first started the business I always used to ask him to borrow me money, he would be like “borrow, money I know I wouldn’t get back” (Laughs) but he would just give it to me..(Laughs) I don’t think I have any more tactics or strategy asides that me being creative. God, consistent creativity, and my husband’s support have kept my business going.
A. For one, light! We need constant power. There is so much power would in this country. So many businesses would grow rapidly and loads of others would take the risks to start business if government could just provide constant power for this country. Secondly, the cost of housing is too much. There needs to be government policy that can tackle this. They should deregulate the cement industry or market thoroughly and not shabbily. There is still just one Northern Nigerian man controlling that market.
Olaide’s last answer was expressed so casually in an unstressed tone; It summed up my opinion about her business. Reading through the chat, it’s clear to see she ends up being more of a guarantor for survival and creator of wealth for others than herself. But....hold on...hmmmm, this conclusion i relay can be relative. How could I possibly quantify the level of reward she derives through her business style and use as a comparison to financial profits her clients propitiously make from her and then in conclusion, favour the latter over former? Both aren't comparable. One is abstract and the other tangible; wouldn’t such methodology be flawed in context of determining the level of value transformation and societal well-being both bring? Hmmmm...I believe they incomparable. She has given reasons to why Moncherie Doucere is run the way it is - (self-absorbed personality and family needs) but still reiterates hope to approach a style which would minimise what I tag her exploitation and “broad day light robbery”.
Moreover, what makes me feel she isn’t the one in the long run gaining more profit or reward through her rare business behaviour? A behaviour which has strongly sunk deep and become policies. Whichever way deeply thought, Mrs Olaide Desalu is presently comfortable and a steady enabler of sustainability not only for her business but that of several others. Indirectly, she facilitates intemperate profits for others. Madame Moncherie Douceur on her own is not so interested and tied more to family concerns and needs. Her decision tomorrow to turn inconsistent in production has ability to cause disruption at least for a while, in the lives of those who smartly and stylishly claim to be influential but yet only, truly depend on her for survival and wealth creation. As introverted as she is, she is a facilitator and a generator of wealth and survival. The skill she playfully has in her hands is so powerful and even at its under-utilised stage, has the ability to feed generations to come. Through this understanding, I believe she is a very powerful woman but just petite in stature. Her capabilities are limitless and opportunities endless. I have no doubt in my mind she would be a great contributor in a DraggNation society. I hereby induct her as a citizen of DraggNation. Congrats Madame Moncherie. Several days after our chat, I didn’t spare Mrs Desalu a day without reiterating the need to begin her branding and distribution network. I helped source for a good fashion trendy hand; she gave approval and now they both are about working to promote Mrs Desalu’s products as the brand- Moncherie Douceur. Watch out in years to come for this lady, Olaide Desalu, she’s a creative mind and another driver of Nigeria’s Economy.Contact Name: Moncherie Douceur
Telephone Numbers: 08036425486, 08027059218
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