LAITAN OLUBI: Fashioning Out Success Amidst Hurdles

Laitan Olubi

Riveting and resplendent, she poses in a white haute couture dress. Its slit runs from her toes to the edge of her lap. Her enchanting visage is complemented by the embroidery that ornamented her enchanting cleavage. Her elegance draws breath and rapture. Besides her looks, she possesses remarkable acumen to turn dreams and enterprises. Her enduring persona is embodied in her very successful business interest, Magnetic Elegance -that’s Laitan Olubi. Magnetic in thought, action, and body, Funke Olaode writes about her ambition, passion, and vision

She is one of the youngest fashion designers in town but her name resonates among the elite on the Lagos Island. Riveting and resplendent, she poses in a white haute couture dress. Its slit runs from her toes to the edge of her lap. Her enchanting visage is complemented by the embroidery that ornamented her enchanting cleavage. Her elegance draws breath and rapture. Besides her looks, she possesses remarkable acumen to turn dreams and enterprises. Her enduring persona is embodied in her very successful business interest, Magnetic Elegance -that’s Laitan Olubi.

Olubi’s Magnetic Elegance is a fashion house that is gradually defining how to stand out in the crowd and court the envy of others. Shimmering, dazzling and more is what stands her apparel out. And within the spate of five years, Laitan has extended her tentacles beyond Nigeria as her clienteles cut across South Africa, Canada, United Kingdom, United States and still counting. Magnetic Elegance, her couture house situated inside an enclave in an exclusive area in Lekki is a go-to for young fashionistas. Within five years of establishment, Laitan’s vision of adding sparkles, dazzling and shimmering approach to her clients’ looks has won the hearts of many.
For the Abeokuta Ogun State-born lady, though she had developed a passion for fashion as a child, her father’s decision to wipe out her allowance after graduation and desire to be her own boss reawakened her dreams.

Going down memory lane, she said, “Since my childhood around the age of five, I have always had a passion for fashion. As a kid, I used to sew dresses for my dolls and puppy then and my mummy noticed I was always amending all my dresses to fit perfectly or altering one thing or the other on my dresses. So she decided to get me a home tutor to teach me how to use the machine. From that moment, I taught myself how to sketch from tracing my variables and before you knew it I started to draw dresses and all of that. So I believe it has been a childhood passion.”

Laitan didn’t pursue her passion in fashion as at the initial stage because she never really thought it was something she could make so much money from.

“Apparently, back then the fashion world wasn’t as elaborate and advanced as it is now. So nobody really saw it as something that someone would do as a profession here in Nigeria. So I had always had an interest in being the official worker and all of that, not a 9 to 5 actually but I have always seen myself as the corporate individual. So I pursued my career in finance and banking and thought that was the way to go.”

With a degree from Bell University in Ogun State, one would have expected her to pursue a career in banking.

“I never worked for anybody because I had always wanted to be my own boss and always wanted to be in control. But what made me really started my business was when I got out of the university and my father actually wiped the allowances out and ‘it was like okay now you need to find a job or find something to do.’ And I said okay this is the time to figure out where my life starts from. I decided to search my heart and find my passion so I pursued tailoring and went to look for a fashion school in Dolphin Estate here in Nigeria and I learnt how to do proper cut clothing and the rest is history.”

Considering Nigerian parents mentality to a certain profession, Laitan’s decision to follow her dream met a brick wall, particularly from her father.

“My father was totally against it. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that I was going to be a fashion designer. It was like saying ‘tailor’? Is that what you want to be? You are just going to throw away your degree? I convinced him and eventually, my father turned out to be one of the proudest fathers and he is always saying, ‘Oh that’s my daughter that made that dress. Oh, they are showing her on TV. Oh, she’s having a fashion show!’. So eventually he was proud of me.”

Despite the initial opposition, she claims her strength lies in her personal conviction.
“Initially I was afraid but I did it regardless of my fear. I told myself, well if I do this and I become successful thank God. But if I don’t I know at least I tried. I did my first collection and did a photo shoot for the ‘Look Book’ Bellanaija features it for free. That was a turning point because it turned out to be a launching pad. It was a miracle because I never thought it was going to grow up so fast.”

But is it only fashion that Laitan adores you may ask? Not really as her passion lies somewhere else. She admits that she if hadn’t gone into fashion, she would probably toe another line in interior design, a real estate magnate or probably pursue a career in science. With an attractive face and sharp skills, Laitan began to command respect anywhere she goes with her gorgeous outfit.
“I knew I was on the right path when I go to a party and everyone wants to know the designer that makes my dress. I will simply say ‘It is me’ that self-advertisement helped at the initial stage as it drew more clients majorly upper class into my tent.”
Laitan’s designs are not ordinary. It must be sparkling, dazzling and with a bit of embellishment.

“Well, it is kind of my personality. Before I became a fashion designer, I had always liked sparkling dresses, things that dazzle and all of that. So I incorporated it in my pieces because it was part of my identity and I thought I needed to give my brand a little bit of a taste of me. Remember my brand says magnetic elegance. So I believe everything we make and do has to have that value embodied in that texture. So there is elegance in our clothing, there is elegance in our delivery and there is elegance in our ambience. So it is just a whole package.”

What does it take to stay beautiful? Is it by being Elegant and classic or inner beauty?
She says. “I believe that everything in life comes from your inner value, inner personality because you cannot have a bad attitude and have a beautiful look outside, eventually you will fall short. I believe magnetic elegance is not just an outward thing it is also an inner thing because you may look glamorous outside but the confidence comes from within.”

For every woman who wants to stand out, Magnetic Elegance caters for women between the ages of 24 and above to about 60.
“We believe at that age you have already built a personality for yourself. You already know yourself, you already know how you want to appear to the world. So we put it at the age bracket because of that and we believe every woman wants to look elegant, every woman wants to look attractive, every woman wants to wow when they go to a party. So every woman who desires that is our target,” she explains.

It has been five years of making women beautiful. How profitable is the business?
“Well, thank God for social media. The fashion business in Nigeria has evolved from what it used to be. There is a large market these days, everybody wants to look good, everybody wants to go to events and get accolades and say oh you look amazing and all of that. So that has also helped to improve the Nigerian market. And it has also gone international because social media has put a platform whereby there is no barrier between maybe the local and international market so there is exposure. And in terms of the Nigerian market, there is growth as well and if you really do know what you are doing and what you want to offer to the public and you do a good job, I believe that people would always come.

“So, people had always come from referrals, most especially because we don’t do a lot of advertising. I feel like with good handwork the money will come. The money shouldn’t be the priority because if you do something good money will definitely come. If you have a good service, good quality to offer to people you can charge a dress for N10 million or N20 million. So the money will definitely come with good service. So I am not chasing the money. I am chasing the quality, I am chasing better quality and the better making of dresses.”

Laitan as a fashion designer of repute is also a beautiful and glamorous young lady.
“Well, I don’t know. I just do the normal things every woman does. I go to the Spa when I am free when I have leisure time. I clean up my skin, I do a good fresh manicure and pedicure, and I use a good skincare product that is it. I drink a lot of water and mind my business,” she says about her beauty regime.

Commending the women for changing the narratives in all facets of life, Laitan says a woman can still do more.
“I believe Rome wasn’t built in a day, it is a gradual process, I think we are on the right part, we are growing, we have a long way to go. Nigerian women are standing up for themselves, gone are the days when the women are used to being provided for by men and we are just staying home mums and just carter for the children. But these days you see that people are becoming entrepreneurs, business owners, you will see women even doing what men were known for.

“They run oil and gas firms, they run real estate firms. Women these days are challenging themselves. I think we are on the right path in every aspect of Nigeria. It takes determination as I said, and it takes zeal and it takes this hunger for growth and to better your life. And I think society is going towards that part.”

It has been five years of following her heart. Is Laitan fulfilled in chasing her dream? Her response was quick.
“Well, if I say I am fulfilled then I have arrived at a bus stop. What I can say is that I am fulfilling my passion, I am fulfilling my dream. I wake up every day and I say thank you, heavenly Father, because the journey so far has not been that easy, it has been very challenging but I have learned from it. And I feel like every day that I put a step together I am reaching towards my main goals.”