Lateefat Ayinde, who describes herself as a trend spotter, is founder of Stile, a forward-looking boutique in Lagos. She tells Clement Danhutor how she started the journey that sees her managing a store stocked with a sophisticated collection of bags, shoes and new season clothes from luxury brands
How did you start in the fashion Industry?
I was born and raised in Ilorin, Kwara State. At the age of 15, I needed to raise money for my WAEC exams so I got a job at a local boutique. I just also happened to have a flair for fashion and that ignited the passion. It was then I knew that I enjoyed working with people and styling them in particular.
In the process I travelled to major fashion cities like Milan, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Istanbul, and more where I encountered devoted fashion entrepreneurs who shared information on how to thrive in the fashion industry. Now at 24 and with a degree in international relations, I have my very own fashion business.
What does Stile mean and what does it stand for?
Stile means “Style” in Italian. The brand represents fashion forward designs. We bring fresh and bright women’s clothing to the Lagos market. My motto is “Follow Your Dream”. The clothing is inspiring and promotes fashion empowerment.
What is a random day as a fashion entrepreneur like?
First thing I do when I wake up is check my emails. Then, breakfast, then I head to the store. This is the fun part, I spend a lot of time with my customers, and engage with them on social media, so I know exactly what to expect when they come into Stile. When I’m in the store, I really enjoy styling my customers for events and providing a complete in-store experience. I try to offer a bit of everything in terms of clothes, and keep fashion fun and beautiful. When I have some ‘downtime’, I take snaps for our Instagram content, from in-store shots, to beautiful clothes and bags.
In the evening, I upload products onto our online store—it’s a good time to do it when I won’t be interrupted.I normally spend this time to do the fun stuff like compile orders and keep track of deliveries and the financial side.
What brands do you sell and what’s your target market?
Stile is the exclusive Lagos home of Italian brand Pinko. In addition to the glamorous brand, Stile features other European brands and a selection of American and African brands such as For Love and Lemons, kendal + kylie, Aquazzura, Kumesu, and more. Our target market is anyone who loves affordable luxury and great quality.
What are some of the fashion trends you’ve taken note of lately in Lagos?
Prints and patterns are very in. Bold colors and yet very structural clothes with unique shapes and movement are totally the trend right now in Lagos.
Are there certain piece and accessories that are always in demand?
Lagos does not have many venues that supply lingerie. Customers are always seeking out quality and unique undergarment designs. I am looking forward to providing these styles for my clients.
Do you think that having a business background, or taking business courses helps in the fashion business?
I’m sure it helps, but having a natural flair and passion for the fashion business is also very important. I don’t have a business background and I had never taken a business course before, but I have an incredible appetite to learn. After college I acquired hands-on experience and learned from successful business owners.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t just a job title, and it isn’t just about starting a company; it’s state of mind. It’s about seeing connections others can’t, seizing opportunities others won’t, and forging new directions that others haven’t. It’s about being innovative wherever you are and in whatever you do. It’s about having courage to give into passion for an idea that makes your heart race. Throughout all I learned that passion is the key.
What will you say to other female entrepreneurs who are contemplating following in your footsteps?
Learning that failure is a good thing and can be an opportunity in disguise to start again with a new angle. Failure is a part of the learning process to create something new or better. If you never fail, you never learn.
Also, follow your dream, be very driven, work really hard, network in your industry. You are not going to go anywhere unless you always work hard. Sometimes luck plays a part, but lazy people rarely get to where they want to be.
Does your location here at the Radisson Blu confer special advantages?
Lagos is a new market for the Pinko brand. Being here allows me to reach customers that were not being served. Radisson Blu provides a sense of security for my customers. The hotel also provides the opportunity for world travelers to experience Stile.
What are some of the goals for the future of your boutique?
In the short term, I would like to focus on making my current store a big success in Lagos, looking longer term my ambition is to open more branches within Nigeria and expansion into other African countries.