‘My First Cut was Horrible’

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Nasir Elias, the Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of Glue by Nasir Elias, is a graduate from the London School of Economics, University of London External Programme; Department of Information Systems and Management. In this encounter with Sandra Ukele, he talks about his journey into the fashion world

Tell us about the brand Glue by Nasir Elias?
Glue by Nasir Elias is a fashion brand predominantly for male. Most of our apparel cuts across corporate outfits all the way down to casual outfits, T-shirts and corporate wears. As the Creative Director, I am the one who makes designs and draw the art exactly how I want it to be. As the CEO my duty cuts across running the entire organisation.

Why the focus on men clothe line?
I would say that over time my inspiration comes from mostly men apparel. So I will like to concentrate on what I have been able to tap into. However, right now we have started our female collection. It is part of our 2016/2017 collection tagged ‘Sartorial Splendor’ which launched recently in Lagos. Basically, we do hope to do a lot of female outfits very soon.

How did you get into the fashion business?
Glue by Nasir Elias started in the year 2003 when I was in my first year in the University of Lagos before I moved to the University of London. The whole dream started out when I used to help out another designer to put out his brand in public. Afterwards a cousin of mine kept on drumming it to my hearing that I had to start a business of my own. I did not take it seriously until I picked up a software used in designing fabrics known as Corel draw. I tried it out the first day and came up with about 10 designs even without knowing what I set out to do.

I came up with designs that people saw and actually liked. So I tried it again the second time and came up with more designs. At that point, I realised that this might be my calling. I kept trying everyday and making better designs. Over time, I desired to delve into shirts. The moment I tried out the shirt, making it had a lot of hiccups here and there. When I tried out the shirt making business it was an era where a lot of people did not trust Nigerian brands. Initially we were not doing too well and I almost gave up on the shirt making. I was really disturbed. I did not know if to give up or not. Later it just came to me how I could make up for all the errors. Right now I can say we are one of the best making outfits in Nigeria.

Did you ever train to become a tailor?
No. I had no prior training on how to make a shirt and I never went to a training school. Like I said, the first shirt I ever cut looked horrible.

What is your inspiration?
I will say God. Also everything I see around me inspires me. I could walk around a garden, out of the tranquility of the garden something comes up. Sometimes it is when I am stressed out that the inspiration comes forth and I sketch out a design. So I cannot attribute the inspiration to any source other than God.

Where do you source your fabrics?
We work with a few suppliers that import fabrics into Nigeria from various countries as Italy, India. Although some of them import from China and I know a lot of Nigerians have a negative belief about China but China actually produces whatever quality you want. So I usually deal with those suppliers that offer the best quality materials available.

What message do you want pass on with your kind of designs?
Our aim is to create attraction for the wearer; that earns the name Glue. If you look at the word glue it is one that attracts two materials together. To stick two things together actually creates a form of attraction. At the end of the day what we are trying to say is that Glue by Nasir Elias is all about attraction.

What are some of the challenges you encounter in your chosen trade?
I can say the first challenge would be attributable to fabric availability. When the fabrics are shipped in they come in a certain quantity and once quantity is exhausted that creates a problem. A lot of times we have great designs that sell out. But overtime fabric availability becomes a problem hence the challenge comes that we cannot continue with a particular design.

We therefore kill the design. What we would really like to do is build a fabric production factory in Nigeria that produces international standard fabrics. When we create product it is a combination of fabric and design. So a particular design might have five to six different fabrics and people might appreciate a particular fabric more. But when that fabric becomes scarce that creates a problem.

Sincerely speaking are you the tailor that turns out these styles or do you employ group of tailors?
We have our factory in Ogun State while our store is at Shoprite Surulere. Yes, there are tailors in our factory in Ogun State. It is where we run our production. The factory is made up of cutters and tailors that actually sew.

How would you describe the fashion industry in Nigeria?
I would say it is really challenging being a fashion designer in Nigeria because we face a lot of problems like high staff turnover, fabric availability and most importantly power supply. Epileptic power supply frustrates production. It is truly challenging when the power supply keeps going off and on.

How affordable are your clothes?
For our price range we are very affordable.

How do you see your brand in the next 10 years?
I see Glue by Nasir Elias as an international brand. We are presently negotiating an international affiliation with a few stores.