From the Courts to the Runway, Barr. Ifesinachi Ude, in this interview with Raheem Akingbolu gives account of how her passion drove her to dump the wig for the runway
You’re one of the young entrepreneurs whose startup is attracting a lot of buzz on Instagram, tell me a bit about you and how and these started?
My name is Ifesinachi Ude. I am a Law graduate of Enugu State University of Science and Technology. I practised in my academic field for a while before venturing into my current business.
Ifesii Couture came into existence in April 2016 as a unique ready-to-wear line that is primarily focused on creating original and timeless pieces for the average woman with class. At IFESII, every piece produced is uniquely crafted to soothe the essence of our aesthetics.
IFESII Couture is a local brand you started recently, what inspired you and what future does it hold?
My major inspiration is my passion for fashion and God given gift of visualising well-thought-out designs right from my formative stage. As a born fashionista (regardless of my profession), I was known mostly for my love for experimenting and taking fashion risks. The thought to impact the world at large with this rare gift came, I ran with it and have never looked back since then.
IFESII’s hope is to impact and connect with lives through her passion and creativity. We are generally bent on getting people to fully accept unique fashion as opposed to basic fashion.
I hear you tried unsuccessfully to get on the annual Arise Fashion Show to showcase your products, what difference were you ready to make alongside such big names like Xoxo, Estafan etc
Yes we made efforts to secure spaces for the brand on your Arise Fashion Show, your annual fashion runway platform. The sole purpose was for us to reach a larger audience.
It will also be a privilege if young entrepreneurs and startups like us are given the opportunity to showcase on such platforms to express our creativity and boost our credibility.
Looking at the fashion industry in Nigeria today, fashion consumers prefer foreign brands to local ones, how can you change that narrative?
As a focused brand aiming to thrive and position itself to be able to compete with international brands, we are geared towards offering the best in terms of style, quality, accessibility and affordability. Consumer satisfaction tops priority for us and we strongly believe that being in sync with consumers in the above mentioned areas will definitely get us to that turning point.
What is the business environment like in this COVID-19 era?
Firstly, I would like to empathise with the world at large and any persons directly affected in this pandemic. This era has been a trying, but mind-shifting phase for everyone especially for us in the business sector.
The changes have undeniably redefined the structure and way most businesses were run before now.
Narrowing down to fashion, the whole system collapsed unexpectedly, for instance, events and ceremonies are temporarily halted and this has affected demands and sales. Going by this, we had no choice, but to revisit our business model to implement other strategies, so as to keep afloat.
Currently, we are focusing more on virtual engagements and running our stuff digitally to reach our prospective clients.
One major problem confronting entrepreneurs like you is funding. How are you coping?
The beauty of starting a business with so much passion, commitment and dedication is that you will always find ways to navigate through no matter the challenges. In as much as little or no funding stands as a hindering factor, we are still working tirelessly and trusting the process. We also applied for a couple of grants in the past that never pulled through, but that never discouraged us.
We remain highly optimistic and upbeat knowing the value that we offer and fueling our drive with the hope that there are better opportunities ahead. Accepting and understanding that challenges are unavoidable and an integral phase in any business cycle is the first step to achieving greatness.
For now, we are more focused on putting in the work, creating more awareness and projecting what we can offer. This we believe, will attract the right partnerships/ investors that will run with the goals and objectives of the brand. After all, help they say, doesn’t come when one is idle or giving excuses but only while one is working.
Where do you see IFESII Couture five years from now?
Having done the necessary feasibility study on the best approaches and strategies to adopt in order to maximise growth, I envisage a household brand that has serviced over three million customers with an estimated minimum of 90 per cent consumer satisfaction either through direct contacts or partnerships.