Ten years ago, Emmanuel Ogaba, founder of Lucid Clothing displayed his summer 2009 collection in Lagos. It was at that very moment he realised that his time had arrived, and the world was taking notice too. In 2018, things had accelerated for Ogaba, scooping up prestigious accounts, awards, and recognitions. This remarkable success is probably down to the fact that he knows exactly what he wants, never straying from his strong brand identity and personal values. His work showcases a deep appreciation for all aspects of culture, exploring the many strands of his Nigerian heritage as well as the endless influence of the many photographers, artistes and writers that he encounters. What makes the Creative Designer of Lucid Clothing stand out from so many others is the delicacy and honesty he brings to his vision of fashion; an approach that has captivated his fans. It is clear that he has reached a new stage in his career and has moved from the ranks of emerging talents to established designers. Ogaba speaks with Adedayo Adejobi on what matters to him most, his passion, his big mistakes and the pressures that come with being a designer
What originally made you want to become a fashion designer?
As a kid, I didn’t like to be dirty. As a teen I found out I loved good cloths. Eventually, later in my life from my days in the university, the passion for fashion came, which I gladly embraced. Like many other designers, I started studying graphic design without fully understanding what it entails. My journey has been great but admittedly a little niche. I knew from the start I would enjoy the fast pace and intimate working environment.
How would you describe your approach to fashion designing?
I never want to follow the band wagon of people doing regular things so I dare to be different by creating irregular designs that connect different ethnic groups to their roots using contemporary designs. So, I can call my approach to fashion as the irregular approach. I try to approach design from an honest point of view. My products highlight all of the reasons someone might want to buy it rather than create an illusion of filling the role of something it doesn’t.
You come from a diverse cultural background; from Benue, growing up in Lagos, and you’ve become a very successful designer in your own right. How do you think that diversity of experience has inspired your vision?
In my fashion entrepreneurship journey, I have made uncountable mistakes. I am glad I made those mistakes because they eventually became my teacher in so many ways. I do a lot of research; this helps me improve on new designs and make them better.
You seem very passionate about culture; you take in and absorb from many different strands. How does culture influence your creative process?
Yes, I am passionate about my cultural heritage, The Benue people of Nigeria and Nigeria in general have very beautiful cultural heritage. Most of my works are inspired by this culture interpreted contemporarily, which makes them very unique. These works are in high demand both home and abroad today.
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?
My dad, Mr Michael Ogaba, an educationist. He taught me good morals and hard work. Another major thing that has influenced my way of thinking is the today’s world wide web, the internet. As I said earlier, I do a lot of research; which has improved my works immensely. I’ve definitely adopted some of his (my dad) fearlessness and learned to use it as a tool.
What would you say is your strongest skill and how have you honed that skill over the years?
Apart from knowing how to create good and unique designs, I am an excellent marker. Yes, my course of study in the university is related, which has gone a long way to help my business as a graduate of business management from the prestigious Benue State University.
Also, a long time ago, I did away with the idea that I should be tentative about delivering opinions and revealing my stance on various issues. I’m arguably insensitive, but I sincerely believe that people would get along better if they didn’t filter everything they wanted to say into something more palatable. It’s regressive to view honesty negatively, as all that padding impedes criticality to others and to yourself.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Don’t be in a hurry to make money. Build your brand, impress your clients and prospective ones first, then money will come.
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
As a rookie, I didn’t really have people around who were willing to transfer their knowledge to me. Most of them gave me half backed information so at one point or the other, I will find myself at a crossroads. One incident happened during that time that people I wanted to learn how to brand t-shirts using the process of screen printing. Some taught me how but did not teach me how to make the ink dry. So I took a job of 30 t-shirts from a client and decided to screen print on them, kept them under the sun but the ink refused to dry. That’s how I messed the whole job up. Yes, my client was very unhappy with me, but I dared to know how it’s done correctly after that incident and I got to know. Today, I have gone far past that phase.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
The social media has helped a lot of people today, not only in fashion but whatever product or services you have, you can easily get them sold on social media. As for fashion, which is my constituency, the social media has helped increase my sales rapidly.
What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
My biggest fear was ‘can I make a living out of sewing cloths?’ But my drive and push was the passion for fashion.
What is your favourite part about being a designer?
Seeing my imagination and graphical representation of my designs come to life,
What type of brief or project do you enjoy working on the most?
Most of my designs have an image you can connect with. A blend of both cultural and contemporary designs; that is the kind of project I love to work on. It gives me fulfilment. I enjoy working with people and projects with a clear vision – whether the vision is big or small is irrelevant.
What are your thoughts on specialisation vs generalisation?
I think it is better to be a specialist on one aspect or area of a particular industry then dominate it with your creative creations.
What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?
The different cultural heritages that abound in Nigeria. I love the Benin Idia mask, the Yoruba Oodua head sketch, the Benue Swange and Ogirinya dance and so on. I am fascinated seeing unique cultural artistic representations.
What are you passionate about besides your work?
I love my family, my wife and my little girl; family is everything to me.
Do you have any superstitious beliefs or rules that you live by?
I believe in the almighty God, and live by his words.
What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeated to others?
A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
What’s your personal motto?
Dare to be different always.
Where do you think fashion is at the moment, because it feels like it’s in a little bit of a stalemate?
I see fashion to be like a butterfly. The industry just keeps evolving, especially what we do with our ankara prints currently has taken the Nigerian and African fashion to the world map. In all this, I will say we are still evolving, we are not there yet.
There’s so much pressure for designers to come out with their greatest collections season after season. What advice would you give to young designers just starting out and hoping to make it in the industry?
The pressure is huge, but I will advise designer to take their time and come out with breath-taking pieces that will stand the test of time. Do not be in a rush because you see other designers dishing out new designs back to back.