Lagos Designer almost loses her customers to ‘costly mistake’

About 65 percent of Nigerian designers never passed through an actual fashion school. Many learned from home, (perhaps their mom is a tailor), some as an apprentice in a tailor’s shop, and others self taught. After the training, they start to offer design services, working from home, or getting a shop. Our case study for today is one of these 65 percent. And we’ll name her Tolulope. Tolulope has been designing for some time now, long enough to realize that she had one major challenge which is the inability to interpret the complex trending styles her clients always bring to her. Sure, she could confidently make some basic aso ebi styles her clients bring to her, but those other styles that have orishirishi details, she just couldn’t understand how to make those styles!

One day, she received a very big order. A gospel artist wanted to make a set of clothes she wanted to use to shoot her newest release. Someone had recommended Tolulope to her, and she trusted she could deliver on this job. Design specifications were discussed, fabrics, trims and notions were discussed, money exchanged, and work began.

Tolulope could not make many of the styles on the list, so she started with the ones she could make very well, and resolved to ask for help from other colleagues on how to make the rest. And so Tolulope worked and labored, and produced the outfits to the best of her abilities. It was shipped to the state where the client resides, and after shipping, Tolulope anxiously awaited feedback from her client about the outfits.

She didn’t receive any calls, she called the logistics company to ask if the clothes have been delivered, and it was confirmed that the clothes had been delivered. And so with her heart quaking with trepidation, Tolulope finally called her client.

Tolulope: Hello Ma’am, may I ask if you have received your clothes?

Client: These clothes you sent, are they mine? I doubt it, because I just placed them outside the door, because they cannot be mine. Please send my own clothes.

Tolulope: Ma, those are your clothes please, are there any issues?

Client: (Laughs) I’ll give you till weekend to send my real clothes, otherwise, you will hear from me. (hangs up)

Tolulope went into panic mode, she had sent the clothes herself, what did this woman mean, she tried to call her back to ask what exactly the problem was but there was no response from the other end. Tolulope became worried.

After some days, Tolulope put the incident away from her mind as she got busy with other clients clothes, but from time to time she would experience a nagging sense of fear.

One cold morning, as she got to work, she saw a crowd in front of her shop, a police truck was also parked. She was confused. As she approached, an officer standing by asked:-

Officer: Are you the Tolulope Williams, the owner of this shop?

Tolulope: “Yes sir,”

Officer: You are under arrest for deliberately taking money and not delivering the proper dresses, you have the right to remain silent or whatever you say or do will be used against you in the court of law.

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Tolulope spent two miserable nights in the cell, and paid a full refund of money for the dresses later, the dresses were sent back to Tolulope. She was heartbroken, angry and confused. She could not open her shop for weeks, she was afraid to take in new orders, her confidence level had dropped so terribly.

After about a month, she started to get herself back and after much reflection, she was finally ready to take the guess work out her design game. She was determined never to go through that kind of ordeal again, she started making research on how to improve her design skills and came across one powerful technique called Pattern Making.

If you have never heard of Pattern Making, it is an age-old method that foreigners use to make clothes, it’s method is so precise, and though technical, it is an important skill to have as a Fashion Designer. Pattern Making is basically drawing out the blueprint of a design on paper first, and uses the client’s measurements. They are plotted on a piece of paper to create the body shape. Then the pattern can be manipulated by cutting the paper apart and taping it back together to add design details such as pleats, gathers or darts. This helps the designer to achieve a better fit, interpret styles better, and though, it’s a little more time consuming, it’s totally worth the effort in the long run, as opposed to the constant anxiety attacks that come with doing trial and error with clients clothes.

Tolulope took up interest in this technique, took a basic class in it, learned all she could about this technique and her design skills dramatically upgraded, Now, she enjoys a solid relationship with her clients, and can confidently charge them well for her services.

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