From initiating marketing ideas that helped promote brands to crafting custom-made clothes for high profile personalities, majority of which make celebrities A-List, ‘Mai Atafo has emerged one of Nigeria’s leading fashion designers, building formidable bespoke suit culture and industry in Nigeria and Africa, writes Ferdinand Ekechukwu
The year was 2008. And the period was more of academic session for a research work by a mass communications student of a leading federal university in the South-west. She had taken up a study on the use of outdoor advertisements, specifically billboards, for brand promotion with two highly profiled case brands: Globacom Limited and Guinness Nigeria Plc.
As it were, the student had sought assistance from this writer to guide in her long essay, being that she was technically deficient in writing for the first time and somewhat unclear about how to embark on such work.
In the course of the study she had embarked on her field work and would be meeting the persons who respectively handle these brands. And she did. Eventually when she came back and interestingly so, with good reports, one of the senior brand executives she had met unscheduled at the Guinness office happens to be Ohimai Atafo, fashion designer and label owner.
Same time then as the Senior Brand Manager for Guinness Extra Smooth Stout, ‘Mai had not only well responded to, but also fascinated the young final year student with his profile of a dual creative person. It was at this point also the name caught my almost ever conscious mind and ever since has come across him at countless outings and social events, the last of which was at the 2015 Etisalat Prize for (Africa) Literature.
His Mai Atafo Inspired (MAI) bespoke clothing line has just berthed few months earlier before the meeting with the female student and ‘Mai, just about that time had hinted of his planned exit from the highly competitive alcoholic beverage sector where he was not truly known, to a more burgeoning fashion industry with his brand which was already gaining celebrity endorsements and media acclaim. To make good his initiative and hone his ingenuity, ‘Mai enrolled at the Savile Row Academy of fashion where he further trained as a tailor.
Fast forward to some years later ‘Mai had completely switched from taking executive boardroom decisions hinged on marketing communication dynamics that helped promote the Guinness and other brands to creating bespoke clothes for high profile personalities, majority of which make celebrities A-list. “It was a switch of product and brand, from Guinness to Mai Atafo Inspired”, he would later tell THISDAY Style Magazine in 2014.
“To be honest, it’s just that feeling you get when you assess life and wonder if you would have any regrets in the future for not making some decisions or taking some actions. I have always loved fashion and making clothes. It was time to decide and I did. The decision was more emotional (based on passion) then rational.”
Through his parent brand, ‘Mai Atafo Inspired’, in 2011 launched a wedding line called ‘Weddings by Mai’. The wedding line caters to every wedding clothing element from the bridal gown, bridesmaids dress, little brides’ dresses, groom and grooms men’s suit, waistcoat and cravat. Till date, one can say this marketing specialist has no regrets so far and his actions paid off albeit handsomely as he has been able to build a position that has made the MAI brand so successful beyond just amazing clothes but continuously try to please clients and improve on his products.
True to his words and distinctive ways, ‘Mai is unabashedly hands on with fashion details and readily follows up on his works. This he exemplified at the 4th Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) 2016 when he brought out from his pockets work tools (thread, needle, pin and button-hooks) during the red carpet interview to show the extent he goes to satisfy his clients a good number of which were on the event role call that night.
Since his arrival on the Nigerian fashion scene, ‘Mai is noted to have dressed a large collection of male and females especially regulars and never seems to miss out on the best dressed list for well profiled events. And he also has been showcased on the runway by top models. A feat possible by his avid drive to create and recreate fashion designs and styles that stands out from the pack thus attaining commercial success, the result which tells in his massively growing client base.
To him the most exciting thing about being a bespoke tailor is giving life to a well-tailored bespoke suit with hands. With his creative hands on spectacle of luxurious styled suits made for discerning people, ‘Mai has emerged one of Nigeria’s leading fashion designers, building formidable bespoke suit culture and industry in Nigeria and Africa.