Ejiro: Fashion is my gift to the world
Ejiro Amos-Tafiri is a fashion designer and originator of Ejiro Amos Tafiri (E.A.T) brand established in 2010.
The Delta State-born entrepreneur, author and speaker studied Fashion Design and Clothing Technology at the Yaba College of Technology where she graduated with distinction and got the Best Student Award.
Prior to launching her brand, she garnered experiences from her internship stints and work experience at Out of Africa, Zizi Ethnic Clothing and Tiffany Amber where she honed her technical, creative and social skills.
Tafiri’s entrepreneurship has earned her awards, including Fashion Film of the Year at the City People Fashion and Beauty Awards in 2013. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for her work.
Share with us your growing up and how it influenced your passion for fashion design.
GROWING UP, my grandmother was a seam mistress, so that pretty much influenced me to be around garment making and then maybe discovering the art of making clothes. Eventually, I would say it influenced me to get involved in fashion design.
You are an author, speaker and trainer. How do you combine your many sides and hone your skills?
As humans, we’re constantly evolving. So it’s just finding the need to express oneself. Being an author came from a need to write my story and share that story with the rest of the world.
That’s how I authored my first book and I hope to author a few more books. Being a speaker just came from the need to share my story. A lot of people wanted to know how I made it, how I was able to grow my brand and where I studied.
Basically, one speaking engagement led to another and I am now an entrepreneurial speaker. I started my business and have been able to make something of it out of almost nothing, especially within the clime where that was not the norm.
At the time when I started a business, it was usually the wealthy that went into business and succeed, especially in the fashion industry, or had some sort of investment. I didn’t have any of those. So, a lot of people wanted to know how I was able to do that.
Because I studied here in Nigeria, I have the practical and technical know-how and the theoretical know-how, and I was able to turn that into a business. Being able to transfer that knowledge to other people has made me a trainer. Hence, to hone my skills, I keep practising and trying. That’s how I have been able to improve.
What challenges have you faced in the cause of your work? What new work are we expecting from Ejiro?
Life itself is a struggle, and challenges always abound. Definitely, running a business for 12 years in Nigeria, in Lagos, one is bound to encounter challenges.
I think what is common with most fashion entrepreneurs are the burden of staffing, finding skilled and dedicated people to work with and the ethics in the industry. There’s a lot of poaching. So, one has to struggle with that. You train your staff and they are poached by another brand.
There’s a lot of copying which makes it very hard. But we’ve found ways to evolve beyond that. We just keep tweaking and making sure we find a unique point of view. We make the clothes a bit more intricate so that they are not easy to copy. We don’t really have higher institutions teaching proper fashion education.
Who do you consider your role model (s) in the industry?
That’s a tough one to answer, but I worked in the industry before I started my own brand. So, I typically even chose the places I worked in because I believed that there were unique things about their businesses that I loved.
My very first boss, upon graduation – Mrs Kanye Dosekun of Art of Africa – I loved her work ethic. I loved the fact that she had grown that brand and sustained it for about 23 years when I joined, and they just gave me that insight that building a fashion company in Nigeria could go on to become a multinational.
She gave me that belief in fashion and made me fully understand the organisational structure. Also, I love Mrs. Ogunlesi of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble purely because of how well they’ve grown their brand sustainably and are also living out the Pan-African dream.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is my way of life. I suppose fashion is my occupation, it is what I do. But fashion is anything that is generally accepted by a group of people in a place. For me, it is my career. It is a way to express myself; an expression of the gifts that I have been given. It is my gift to the world.
What is your favourite fashion piece?
I would say sunglasses. I never go anywhere without sunglasses. I am photosensitive, so when I’m out and with a pair of sunglasses on, I almost feel invincible, like I can conquer the world.
What is your favourite local dish?
It could be pepper soup and yam. And then, depending on how I’m feeling, it could be Egusi soup.
What are your hobbies?
I love travelling. I love watching movies with consuming storylines. What I enjoy about travelling is seeing something different from my norm, observing other people’s way of life, seeing new cultures, and new places, and observing how they make their own things. Basically, discovered other people’s way of doing things that I do. I also love swimming.
If there’s one thing you are given the opportunity to change in Nigeria, what will it be?
If given an opportunity, I will make better laws because I believe that if we have the right legislation, and we’re making the right laws that will help us fix our country, then things will go better.
If we could fix the minds of the people, I would take away selfishness, because we’re such a blessed country and there’s no reason why we should be struggling. There’s so much strife. We need to make laws that protect our citizens and grow our resources and our wealth, instead of stealing from one person or the other. I think that starts from the mind. Better laws will ensure that offences can be punished, and they will give us better ethics to live by.
What is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy in life is doing unto others what you want them to do unto you. What you know that you cannot take, do not do it to others. That is living as Jesus Christ lived.