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I dared to dream and bring it to life – Makani Couture

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Stephanie Oduenyi talks about her struggles to turn her dreams and ambition into reality. In this tell-it-all interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she reveals how she battled fear, her dreams for the future and matters affecting the fashion industry

Can We Meet You?
I am Stephanie Chinelo Oduenyi, from Anambra State and from a family of seven. I have three brothers and a sister, who happens to be my business partner. I am the creative Director/CEO of Makani Couture.

How Did You Get Into The Fashion Business?
I always had a flair for fashion while growing up, always dreamt of styling people and I have always been very creative. I could turn anything into an accessory back then in school. I remember when sometimes, my friends didn’t have a spare belt, they would come to me and they knew I would definitely improvise and make a belt out of something. But truthfully, I didn’t think I would become a fashion designer. I thought maybe I would have a boutique, sell branded quality unisex apparels and maybe style people. But in 2010 I thought, “why have a boutique selling other peoples brands when I can actually work on mine?” At that point, I started nurturing the dream of becoming a fashion designer. Though I did not have an idea of how and when to start, but I kept the dream alive. In 2011, I decided it was time to begin, no matter how small. I made enquiries and started off with getting my brand name Makani Couture, but I didn’t achieve much, so I took a break again. In 2012, after a protracted battle with procrastination and fear of the unknown, I started. So technically, our online visibility, brand awareness, fashion shows and brand acceptance started proper in 2012. This year marked the fifth year of growth for the brand.

So, How Has The Journey Been Like?
It has been five years of a long bumpy, but enjoyable ride, it has been tasking with lots of brain storming, generating ideas and bringing concepts to life, living up to expectations of people, but I would say it has been worth it. I have met and had the opportunity of styling several renowned icons, fashion personalities, and celebrities. I see people wear Makani and I’m proud that I dared to dream and even more, dared to bring that dream to life; of course it has been with the help of wonderful people around me and with God’s mercy and favour all the way. It has indeed been an exciting and above all a fulfilling journey.

So what have been the positives so far?
We have showcased at over seven fashion shows and won “best designer” at the Anambra Fashion Week in 2012 shortly after the brand was born. Over the last five years, we have featured on several fashion platforms, TV interviews, blogs, both print and online media fashion platforms.

In 2013, we were one of the designers to style the casts of Lekki Wives Season 2. That same year, we were presented with a Certificate of Honor and participation as a guest designer at the Nigerian Models Convention held at the Musa Yar-Adua Hall Abuja, and received an additional certificate of excellence and participation at the Nigeria Fashion recognition awards/Glitz on the runway event of the same year.

Makani Couture has also styled various celebrities like Lolo1, Uzo Ododoba, Uche Ogbodo, Scarlet Shotade, Chineye Uyanna, Chioma Igwe, Adaora Ukoh, Bayray Mcnwizu, Amanda Ebeye, Peggy Ovire, and so on. We have also won several awards.

This year, we launched a limited edition bowties, pocket squares and lapel pins for men.

What Are The Challenges Of Being A Businesswoman In Nigeria Presently?
First, you need to have passion, determination and be committed to turning your ideas into a reality and living your dream. You have several hurdles to tackle, from selling your business ideas, to getting startup capital, accessing funds, and continuous competition in a man’s world. Then there is the general bane of the Nigerian entrepreneur: the lack of support for SMEs.

How Would You Rate The Nigerian Fashion Industry?
It has evolved tremendously. The Fashion industry to me is divided into two parts, the creative aspect and the sales aspect. In Nigeria, the creative aspect is abundant, and creative designers are on the increase with vast ideas on how to take over the fashion industry but are hindered due to several reasons, like finance or how to generate sales. Sadly, there are not enough platforms to aid sales for the average or upcoming fashion designer. I think there can be a great balance between this two if the government recognizes the potential in the fashion industry to generate large amounts of revenue. There is also need to implement certain systems by creating entrepreneurial activities within different sectors.

What Would Say About Complaints Over Designers’ Outrageous Pricing?
Well I think pricing depends largely on what style of outfit you intend to make, the level the designer has attained, the level of customers and the uniqueness in the designs created by the designer. People forget that most designers have a team they work with and this team gets paid from the earnings of these designers. There is the issue of power supply in Nigeria, which increases overhead cost.

Why Is There No Mass Production In Nigeria Yet?
I believe that the fashion industry, though having attained great strides, is still growing. If electricity stabilizes, we can achieve a lot more. Designers currently cannot achieve their desired volume without constant power supply.

Adequate power supply helps us deliver jobs neatly, produce larger quantity and deliver on time and most importantly, at affordable rates. The government also has a lot to do in the growth of the Industry. Rising fashion designers should be encouraged by making it easy for them to have access to loans through institutions like the Bank of Industry (BOI), this way larger volumes can be produced and the industry could grow into a self-sustainable industry and begin export of Nigerian owned designs to other parts of the world. Presently, the competition with international labels is not there, but like the music industry, Nigerian fashion holds great promise, and we would get there.

What does your daily routine consist of?
I go out early in the morning to work, because I still have a regular 8 to 5 job along with the business. 99 percent of the time, I get off work and head straight to my showroom. I go to bed by midnight almost every day, and have to get out of bed before 6:00 am the following day. It’s worse when I have deadlines to meet with customers’ orders. I thank God for His grace; it’s been Him all along.

What Motivates You?
I am deeply motivated by success stories, hardworking and persistent people, the struggles of others, the efforts people put into their everyday life makes me want to do more. It motivates me to become a success story myself. Being able to juggle my busy schedule and still able to wear a smile, motivates me to push above my limits.

What Makes Makani Unique From Other Designers?
We’re a brand that speaks to the bold, aspiring, confident and sexy, elegant woman and classic gentleman. Through our designs we are set to empower and inspire Nigerians through fashion and style. The brand distinctly appeals to all body types with particular reference to the plus-size. Ladies don’t have to be slim and sexy alone to be able to don a Makani dress. Also, Makani is very detailed and reverberates with creativity, colour and expression of the Nigerian/African elegance and beauty.


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