INTERVIEW (Ugo Monye)

The Business Side Of Fashion: Creating a Niche in the Bespoke Tailoring Space

The Fidelity SME Forum is a weekly radio programme organized by Fidelity Bank Plc to educate, inform, advise and inspire budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria with knowledge and expertise that will enable them build sustainable and successful businesses. The interactive radio programme features subject matter experts and model entrepreneurs as guests on a weekly basis to share their insight and unique success stories. In this interview, Ugo Monye gives valuable insights on “The Business Side Of Fashion: Creating a Niche in the Bespoke Tailoring Space”. 

Q: Tell us your story, how did you get into the fashion space?

Monye: Used to be an artist when I was a lot younger. And my mum had a fashion business so at that time she wanted me to study Fine Arts in the UK, but I wanted to be a business man like my father because he was doing very well. When I got into the university, i studied Business Administration and that was supposed to be my core but I looked at the way people use to dress and I started criticizing what they were wearing and I started trying it out.

Q: You’ve evolved, how many years has it been since you started this business and how have you evolved overtime?

Monye: I started professionally 2008 but I’ve been doing it since 2002.

Q: What was your breakthrough moment?

Monye: Very frankly, I don’t have a breakthrough moment it hasn’t happened yet.

Q: But I saw you being recognized at the stock exchange, they were calling you to come and list?

Monye: The thing about it is that I thank God for where I am now, but what I saw when I was starting this business is not what I’m seeing right now.

Q:What is your Vision?

Monye: I’ve not seen any fashion brand in Nigeria that can compete globally so that is what we are trying to do.

Q: Tell us the Experience of Ebuka wearing your Brand and how it catapulted you into the Spotlight?

Monye: It was really a very interesting experience. But before I talk about that, I went for an event on Friday one of these end of the year parties and when I got there, amazingly they recognized that I came. I was like wow! So when that whole thing happened and I’m not used to the whole media, social media, I have never been used to it, it has never been my thing so the experience has been a very mixed feeling.

Q: So a night before the traditional wedding, how many followers do you have?

Monye: I think I had about 6300 followers or so. But today I have over 60,000 followers.

Q: And because you wear your designs and your friends do as well, so you continually innovate. What about colors and patterns how do you manage that?

Monye: I watch TV, I go online and check what other people are doing because I’m really not very good with colors so it is based on other people, what I see other people do that I try to work with colors. I’m better with my designs than colors.

Q: And then how do you manage staff, because that is one huge challenge in a bespoke space?

Monye:I think I have the highest turnaround that I know. Now let me talk about tailors. My own selling point is that, before everyone knew that Ugo is a fantastic designer, his designs are nice. I said to myself that” you need to go from that phase of being fantastic and let’s focus on the quality”. Because you don’t want hey! That design is nice when I get close to it, it is fine from far but is far from fine when you look at the little details. So we are trying to see how we can focus more on the quality of stitching because if we compare our design as a Nigerian with the quality of work that we do here in Nigeria and what people celebrate in Nigeria, I’m not really happy about it.

Q: It seems like it has been smooth sailing from 2002 till today, what has been the biggest challenges or your frustration with the sector?

Monye: Tailors have been my major issue, then infrastructure, light. There was a time that one of my landlords assumed I was doing so well and because of that he increased the rent automatically.

Q: How have you been able to meet the need of the lower traders that can’t afford 200k or more?

Monye: I saw that flying around but that wasn’t me. So I design clothes for everybody, if you come to the store you will be shocked to see the price range of things that we have so it’s not for only “The Big Boys.”

Q: But you have designed for other famous people like politicians, business executives, what was so special about Ebuka’s break through moment?

Monye: This outfit when we were making it, it was just like every normal outfit there was nothing special to it, but I think the four things I could identify was the outfit, it was a great picture, it was the event and it was the person who wore it. The person pulled it off very well so those four things came together to create that whole thing.

Q:When you think about the international landscape who do you admire, like who do you say that’s what I want to be in ten years?

Monye: You look at people like Ozwald Boateng, I like everything about him, I like the fact that he is African, I like the fact that he is making Africa proud I’d like to be bigger.

Q: How do you intend to break into the international space?

Monye: Right now we’ve been making clothes for a couple of people home and abroad and a couple of celebrities even abroad so we are trying to see how we can leverage on our contacts to get us out there. Recently we did a private viewing in the US which was very successful and that has led to many other opportunities in the US.

Q: How are you engaging with international media to ensure that the GQ, the Vogues get to notice you?

Monye: This is new for me so right now I’ve been getting a lot of email from different magazines abroad and we have been trying to also be selective about what we are doing.

Q: What do we expect in Nigeria scheme, are you going to have a website where people can order your clothes, just walk us through the scheme plan for expansion?

Monye: So now of course there is plan to expand. We want a situation whereby, we have a website but we want a situation whereby you can have bespoke clothes done by yourself from our website. We intend to have more location where we have our outlets

Q: You make men get into fashion, do you educate the customers you have on fashion?

Monye: Yes you have to. Like if I meet someone for the first time I would ask him a couple of question before I start making clothes. Lawyers are very conservative, so you will now know how to approach him. Most times when you deal with conservative people they don’t want to go outside the box, you just make them understand that this is not going too far but you can just change or tweak it a bit.

Q: How do you sustain your relationship with your customers?

Monye: Service is Key, respect is key, like I always tell, respect is the most important thing, from the material to the client. Like if I have a fabric, if I take it to the factory and my tailor just drops it anyhow, you can bet that I would be very upset so we respect that whole process to the customers and I make sure the customer always feels good about his cloth.