The future of Africa Fashion Series series is an interactive series with individuals in the fashion world.. To kick start this series, we had an interview session with Bernice
Asein, a young Nigerian Fashion designer and
fashion illustrator in Africa. Seat back,
Relax and enjoy the interview .
–A brief introduction about yourself and a brief history of your brand
Bernice: I am Bernice Asein, creative director of Marie Suave. I am a native of Ora, Owan West Local Government, Edo State, Nigeria. I am a student, fashion designer and fashion illustrator.
Marie Suave is the name of my brand and it is a combination of my mother’s first name “marie” and an English word “suave” which means charming, confident and elegant and this three adjectives I believe is what a woman should be.
Marie Suave is a contemporary fashion brand based in Lagos, Nigeria. We have been in business for two years although, unofficially started making clothes since my senior secondary school days.
We have participated in fashion weeks organized by various fashion influencers both in Edo state and in Lagos state. Our aim is to be a globally acceptable brand.
–What inspired you to go into fashion?
Bernice: Fashion to me is way more than just business although it is a major part of it.
It is a medium of self expression and every of my designs is an extension of my personality.
Fashion for me was a natural inclination. i was inspired by nature, beauty, colors , art, etc and one way this could all merge for me was in a dress.
-What challenges have you encountered?
Bernice: One of the challenges I have encountered as a fashion designer is acceptance basically acceptance of my brand and every brand has a style which comes as a result of my natural inclinations and what I am inspired by.
Nigerians will prefer you to make something for them from styles they have come to accept rather than get what you already have.
Not until recently designers started making look books with very professional photography that helps bring out the idea behind your design which in turn gives the consumer a different perception of your brand and this really cost money.
This brings me to the problem of funding. Countless people with mind blowing ideas languish because of the inability to access funds.
Fashion is a business where you need more at every step, to make quality designs, to market it and promote it.
Another challenge is the issue of retailing. Brand awareness and publicity does not equal sales. Established retailers often do not want to buy from new designers until they have a sales track record.
– What do you feel is the biggest problem associated with the fashion industry in Nigeria? Kindly proffer solutions.
Bernice: I am an ardent reader of the AFL blog and recently you wrote on ‘the future of Africa fashion-production’ where you stated that
‘We are not limited not by our ideas but by our potentials not by what is created but by how it is created’
This is so true. you can have a great idea about a design but the final expression of that idea would be so far from it.
First with sourcing for fabric,we are forced to use what is readily available in the market to produce whatever idea you have and it is very difficult to get hold of fabric in Africa that is affordable , of high quality and unique.
With this the biggest problem faced by designers is manufacturing that’s the production process.
To solve this problem the Nigerian government should be more supportive to the garment industry and funds should be made available.
In other countries, they recognize the need to support new talents in any industry. So it is typical to have low interest loans and grants available to jumpstart a career or take it to the next level. I think policy makers haven’t been able to see this potential of the fashion industry to help curb the issue of unemployment and contributing to the national GDP.
I think policies like specializing financing just like it is done for agricultural sector would go a long way.
There should be policies that encourage big fabric quality fabric merchants abroad to come set up businesses here in Nigeria. Major wholesalers abroad have variety of these fabrics in large quantities which help manufacturing.
– What do you feel needs to be put in place for a better fashion industry than what we have now?
Bernice: One major need to be put in place for a better fashion industry is the right laws. The importance of right laws cannot not be over emphasized.
More so, designers most be educated on the importance of being protected, the rights and liabilities, law of contracts, partnerships, business organization, IP laws and other related laws. I must commend the idea behind your blog because it has in a way created awareness.
As earlier mentioned, the government should beam its light on fashion industry.
-Where do you see the fashion industry in five years from 2018?
Bernice: I see the fashion industry abecoming a major contributor to the economy of Nigeria.
-What do you think is the biggest legal issues related to the fashion industry in your country(Nigeria)?
Bernice: I think Ignorance of the law is the biggest issue affecting the fashion industry. Ignorance on the part of the designers. They do not even know the position of the law or if a law is even in existence. Just like even typical Nigerian, they downplay the relevance of the law. for instance, there are is a lot of benefits that comes with the registrations of your business and all off that.
One of which is the fact that your business becomes incorporated and by implication has a legal personality that is, it becomes recognized by law. Most fashion brands fails to do this and when probably there right is infringed they have no right of action in court because to the law they are nonexistent.
– Is your brand protected legally? If yes why? If No
Bernice: I think the “Nigerian process” it is tedious and expensive
–What plans do you have for your brand in 2018?
Bernice: They say if one wants to build a tower that will stand the test of time, he need not consider the height but the depth. considering the growth in the fashion industry to build a sustainable business and be able to make profit one most work on the capacity, business skills and have a well improved fashion skill .for my brand this year we will be working on how to improve our production skill and production process in other to build a brand that will stand the test of time.
–Do you think our fashion industry is ready for international trade?
Bernice: Yes the fashion industry is ready for international trade. Creativity leaves in Africa. Africa is the home of the fastest growing economies in world. African fashion has enjoyed massive media presence in recent times , which means the world is now aware of the industries and its capabilities of its designers.
– Do you have any Words of encouragement to struggling designers in Africa?
Bernice: My word of encouragement to struggling designers is keep working on your craft keep improving daily on what you bring to the table. Surely one day you will rise and the skies will only be your stepping.
Thank you Bernice Asein, we definitely have gained alot from you.
What do we have for AFL readers this February?