IBITAYO: An Engineer With Clothier’s Passion
Ibitayo Titilayo Catherine’s passion for sewing developed during her childhood. Her mother was a good seamstress, who had a knack for making delightful dresses from any fabric. However, this natural talent was relegated to the background, when she proceeded to study Electrical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt. And though she tried building a career in this field while working an onshore/offshore job, she had to yield to her inner promptings to follow her heart and passion. So, she abandoned her job and embraced tailoring, which she finds fascinating and fulfilling. Today, she is not only the CEO, Tapes&scissors Ltd.; she is also comfortable, fulfilled and happy with her life. She is particularly delighted that she has been able to create job opportunities for young Nigerians.
“The fact that I make customised clothing and uniforms, and that I get to see people wear clothes that I designed, gives me lots of joy. And when they are happy with my creations, I feel so fulfilled.
“It all started when I was a little girl. While watching my mum cut fabrics, so many thoughts would be running through my mind. I would wonder how on earth she understood what she was doing. Within minutes, she would make a beautiful dress out of pieces of fabrics. That got me really interested that I decided to learn how to make beautiful clothes,” she recalls.
As years rolled by, Catherine became so absorbed that she would become restless any day she didn’t get to make a dress. In school, she would always join such games as ‘catching the train’ just so to get an opportunity to show a beautiful dress made by her mum.
“So, the idea came from watching my mum measure and cut fabrics and I told myself that I could do a lot better, just by using my tapes and scissors,” she says.
So, how long has she been in the business and at what age did she actually start?
“Although I was born into tailoring, but professionally, I have been making dresses for eight years. In my university days, I would make clothes for friends and families for almost nothing. Most times I went as far as buying the fabric, making the dress and then giving it away. Most of friends knew that I was always giving beautifully made clothes as gifts, but only a few understood my motive. But I never thought it would be a full-time job. I had always loved being a practising engineer, do the onshore/offshore kind of job. But surprisingly, after graduation and working for some years, I wasn’t getting fulfilment. So, I quit my job in Abuja and then went after my passion. So, I started from the tender age,” she explains.
And through dint of hard work and focus, Catherine is not only contributing her quota to the society, she has also been able to put food on the tables of some Nigerians, as well as removing many job-seeking young people from the street.
“Since I started, it has been one beautiful story after the other. When your passion generates revenue for you, it is a win-win situation. In our own little way, we have been able to create jobs for people. For instance, our marketers are graduates, who have become adept at promoting the company, meeting clients and anticipating their needs. They are remunerated accordingly. So, a lot of people have been engaged through this venture.
“We also offer a wide range of courses from basic to advance, as well as provide employment for some of our graduated pupils, thereby creating IT space for those looking to go into the profession,” she says.
Interestingly, what keeps her motivated and doing exploits in her field is the fact that she can think of a particular design and create it for someone to wear.
“Sometimes, you see a design on someone and all you want to change might be just the button position. It is also gratifying to be able to solve the pressing needs of organisations that go as far as importing uniforms. This gives peace of mind, as well cut the overall cost,” she says.
Why then are many Nigerians not patronising made in Nigeria tailors, if there are so many good designers as her? What in her view, can be done to encourage Nigerians to patronise local products generally?
“The problem has to do with the mindset, lack of information and availability of raw materials. Nigerian tailors can actually match their mates anywhere. We have the skill and flair to match what we crave abroad. The difference between what we make here and what are bought abroad is the material and the accessories to match it.
“Another drawback is that we don’t pay attention to the finishing, which is not always the fault of the tailors. Nigerians can order a dress abroad and wait one month for it to be delivered. However, they will give fabrics to the Nigerian tailor and expect to get it in four days.
“Nigerians should be proud of our locally made products. With perseverance and good work, people will soon realise that clothes made in Nigeria fit us better than off-the-shelve ones,” she explains.
On what should be done to make tailoring industry thrive in Nigeria, Catherine is of the view that government should assist textile industries to produce high-quality materials. Funds and loans should also be made available to encourage start-ups while more industries manufacturing these raw materials should be established.
“The Nigerian economy should not just be about oil and politics all the time. This is what seems to be the order of the day. We need to start looking at and treating the fashion industry as we treat oil. There is also the need to recognise that the fashion industry is a serious sector with significant revenue generating potentials. The more of such we have, the better for us.
Is the Nigerian environment business-friendly enough for her kind of business?
“The environment is not very friendly right now. The major problem is power supply. We always have to switch to alternative source with its attendant cost, but I believe it will be better.
On her words of advice to Nigerian youths, she says:
“All they need do is spend a little time putting their brain to work. A lot can be achieved by always following your passion.
They should also have a vision and a mission. Most importantly, they should start from where they are.”
What is her projection for the future?
“Our long-term plan is to produce shirts and uniforms for several clients in and outside the country, as well as make the brand name popular,” she says.
Aside fashion, Catherine enjoys sporting activities. She is a member of Nigeria Football Referee Association.