‘I Sleep and Breathe Fashion’


Esther Iyire is the founder of Hazel-Grace Styles, a fashion brand that caters to the needs of women fashionistas. Iyire, who is a French graduate of the Covenant University, Ogun State, decided to go into fashion after a long search for a job. In this interview with Anayo Okolie, she speaks on her enthusiasm for fashion, among other issues

How was your growing up?
Growing up for me was fantastic. Contrary to popular belief that as an only girl you would be over pampered, my mother taught me to be strong and humble through life in her own way. She was tough, yet so beautiful. She would always make me snap back to reality each time I was feeling fancy. She was my fashion icon. My father was an easy going man. And my brothers were my guardians, they believed in my fashion sense and all encouraged me in their own little ways. I guess they knew I was going to delve into fashion at some point.

What is Hazel-Grace Styles about?
Hazel-Grace Styles is a fashion brand that caters to the needs of every fashionable growing woman. We believe that despite the hustle and tussle most women have to face in life, they still deserve to remain radiant and appealing. Hazel-Grace is known for her distinct styling methods and pattern-drafting that suits every woman, uniquely. Hazel-Grace provides outfits for every occasion both on orders and ready-to-wear. She deals brilliantly with bridal wears, wedding guests’ styles, corporate functions and costumes. The brand also makes available fabrics for other designers.

Why did you choose to become self-employed instead of getting a white-collar job?
I tried the white-collar jobs; however, they barely worked for me. More so, I barely got the ones I truly wanted, so I decided to give myself a job. I sleep and breathe fashion; it’s always been in my sub-conscious. While at those my white-collar jobs, I would dress up for a regular day at the office like it was my birthday. I looked out for every wardrobe malfunction on the streets or at events; I became a saviour at such situations. I was always ready for anything fashion. I chose to become an entrepreneur when I realised how much happiness my passion brought me. It was not about the money but the satisfaction. Right now, we are convinced that our passion should now pay our bills.

However, what motivated me to go into fashion business was the long wait till the end of the month for my salary motivated me to do my own thing. It was always almost an endless wait. I wanted my time and money to come in handy. I wanted to lead my life mostly on my terms and be responsible for my decisions and mistakes. In addition, whenever I see pieces (dresses) others have made, I always imagined what I could add or remove to make them look nicer to my taste. And I was curious about the process of dress making.

What are the challenges facing fashion business in Nigeria?
The fashion business in Nigeria has definitely improved compared to what it used to be. Overtime Nigeria has become a large textile market as she has embraced textile reflection on culture and lifestyle. The textile industry in Nigeria moves slowly and is hardly focused on because it is said to have already collapsed and little or no efforts made to revive it have proven futile. To further buttress this, there are currently no bodies or policies protecting the industry.

We also do not have enough reliable formal platforms educating interested individuals in the fashion business or perfecting their skills. Most people have to travel out of the country to become better or improve their brands.

Finally, we constantly have to battle the power (electricity) situation in the country and there’s foreign currency inflation that determines the prices of raw materials used to produce these outfits coupled with the competition against the international market that produce at a cheaper rates.

Where do you see yourself and your business in the next 10 years?
I see Hazel-Grace as a physical global fashion village, with textile factories and educational platforms. We would invite the world to invest in the Nigerian textile industry through our quality and diverse means of production. We would stand as a Standard Leading Fashion Brand all over Nigeria with branches all over the world as we continue to satisfy our clients with memorable pieces. Hazel-Grace also plans to delve into male outfits and other female accessories like shoes and bags and others. I also believe the brand would expand into other sectors like events planning and management.

What is your advice to unemployed graduates following the high level of unemployment?
My sincere advice goes to both non-graduates and graduates. Face your studies squarely while studying and once you are out, triple your effort and take life by storm, because it’s a completely different stage. Write down your goals in life and work towards them every-day. No matter how slow it may seem, every step in the right direction counts. Don’t expect so much from people, they’re running this race too. Embrace Christ, work hard, focus and mind your business. And most importantly, live your life to the fullest, in every sense of the word.