Yomi Casual started with the sole aim of transforming the idea of fashion. Has he achieved that feat? You bet he has! Over years into the business, he has expanded from just being a fashion label, to being a globally recognized lifestyle brand – extending to an affordable diffusion label.
What is the inspiration behind your brand? How did it all start?
As a born artist, I paint and I draw most of my inspiration from there, I am able to put my ideas on paper and transform them on fabrics, and that is what I have been doing for the past fifteen years.
Yomi Casual started in 2007, and a lot of people know the story of how my sister made a mistake and filled Fashion Design instead of Fine and Applied Art on my JAMB form, I intended to study art because I am an artist, that was how I found myself in fashion.
It was quite frustrating because back then, nobody wanted to be a tailor, but thank God we were able to redefine it and switch the game up, a lot of people are even quitting their jobs to become designers now because it is more attractive.
What inspired the name “Yomi Casual”?
The name is from Olorunyomi Makun, and the casual came from my own definition of what people should see my product as, people think that casual is meant to be boring, and I said no, casual is not meant to be boring and I can switch it up, that is where “casual” came from.
What is your greatest challenge running a fashion brand like yours in Lagos, Nigeria?
There are so many challenges, and the major one is the fact that we don’t have constant powers supply, it’s a problem in general for many entrepreneurs. If we have steady power supply, our income will increase. We need to have power on always and that costs a lot of money.
Another step is if designs can have copyright where a design can be owned by a designer, instead of taking a designer’s product to someone else to mass produce without permission. In Nigeria, you can comfortably mass produce a product from someone. I hope we get to that level whereby designers can own their designs, and sell it to the world.
Some people are of the opinion that designer wears are expensive. Do you make clothes for the average Nigerian?
It all depends on how you want to look, if you want to look good, it costs much to look good. There are cheap outfits, but if you want to look and feel a certain way, there is a price to pay. It’s a choice and it all depends on your pocket.
What are the qualities a fashion designer needs to succeed?
I believe that what works for me may not work for another person, I can always share my idea. We have a lot of people who call themselves designer now. It’s much more than just getting on the sewing machine, and giving yourself a big name with much publicity.
You have to master the act, you need to understand the industry and be able to defend your work. Some people cannot spot a bad job, if you did not go through the process of learning and mastering your craft, how do you defend a project or spot a bad job? Instead of going through short corners, it is better to go through the process.
What is the craziest thing you have heard about yourself?
Some people say that Yomi Casual is a “yahoo boy”, I have also heard some say that I am gay.
What is the least the least price you have ever charged for an outfit?
When I first started in 2007, my charge was about 7,500 naira to sew up and down, then it went up to 10,000 naira, to 20,000 and up to where I am today.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
I think this happens to almost every entrepreneur, the doubt of whether this is what you were called to do and if you are not careful, you will leave what you are doing to start another business, instead of focusing and investing more time on that one that you are doing.
In 2007 till around 2010, I felt that way because I was getting a lot of complaints from customers, due to tailors not being able to make deadlines.
Most of my customers were in Abuja back then and they would issue a lot of threats due to delays. It was really scary and I thought of quitting.
How do you handle setbacks?
There is something that I heard from a friend, that what you cannot handle, do not bother yourself about it, and everything will fall into place.
How do you balance work and family?
I think I am one of the luckiest men in the world, because my wife understands my work, she understands the fact that I close late from work constantly.
She knew what she was getting into right from the time when we were dating, I try to keep up by constant communication with her. There is also a camera in my office where she can see what is going on in the office. There is transparency and accountability.
On weekends, I spend quality time with my family, I don’t go out on Saturdays except I go out with my family. My weekends are dedicated to my family.
If you were not a fashion designer, what would you have become?
I am an interior designer and also a business man. If you are not business oriented, you cannot go far as a designer.
There are people who are talented, but without business orientation, you will not be able to maintain your brand. So, if I am not a fashion designer, I would probably go into business, a legit business.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
We do not know where we will be in the future, only God knows, we can make many plans, but we do not know where God is taking us to, He has been the reason why I am where I am today and He knows where He is taking me to.
What is your advice for young people who look up to you?
Do not allow anybody to deceive you that it is going to be easy. This industry requires dedication and full involvement, there are no shot cuts. Also, if you cannot sketch, get someone who can help put your ideas on paper. This is a way to convince customers that you know what you are doing. Be consistent too, you can be valued even when you are not doing anything valuable due to consistency, there is power in consistency.
Sometimes you put out a design and people don’t really like it, that does not stop you from bringing out another one, that may be the one that people will like, keep investing on your brand and showing your face.