Allure Cover: Meet The Fabric Merchants- Kemi Alao
By Yemisi Suleiman
Kemi Alao – Providing Legendary Customer Service
Kemi Alao is the CEO and Chief Creative Designer of Dainty Fabrics, a fabric and fashion store in Lagos, with niche in perspective fashion, glamour, and class.
The Law graduate, with a heart for arts, lifestyle and fashion, is poised to building one of Nigeria’s leading stores in African fashion and Fabrics.
She incorporates uniqueness, quality, and design, a blend which gives colour and confidence to clients. For Kemi who was mentored in the business by her father, the brand’s heritage has always been at the forefront in providing best-in-class fabrics for its local and international clients.
What informed your choice of being fashion Entrepreneur over Law which you studied?
I believe life is beautiful, and, there is more to gain by adding colours to it. Fashion accords the opportunity to add colour to people’s lives. Figuratively speaking, I am ‘a butterfly’ and one of the distinct attributes of butterflies, is to make things more beautiful. And when it comes to relating with people, (of which there are several ways to do so}, I choose clothing them. That is where I find joy and a deep level of satisfaction. That said, I have always been an advocate of ‘know your passion and follow your dream’. Studying Law gave me frame and impetus, discipline, and mind structure to support Dainty as a brand. But personally, it is in clothing people that I found profitable joy.
As a leading fabric company, in what ways do you influence styles in the fashion and lifestyle industry?
Again, this boils down to our brand essence. We are in business to make people look good and beautiful; to make people gorgeous and confidence, to dress them up for success and most importantly, boost self-esteem.
Having said that, our recent survey revealed that people’s clothing choices are mostly influenced by the fabrics design, print and feel: that is, if the shades and designs are perfect for their skin tone, if the fabric designs are sexy, if it projects them well. Based on this report, we model our fabrics, cascade them to several ready-to-wear styles, which we present to ‘a select grateful-trendsetters’. Once they give the nod, the rest is history. I just divulge a business secret.
Do you produce your own fabrics?
We are very aspirational as a fabric brand and we hope to get into production soon; but for now, our operation is narrowed to design and retail. We send our designs to our partners (around the world) for production.
You have been in business for over four years now, how would you describe the evolution of your brand from when you started till date?
Thus far, it has been an exciting and rewarding journey; exciting in the sense of creativity, doing what gives us joy and beautifying and rewarding in the aspect of client’s testimonials and appreciations. Our client’s satisfaction fuels us. It gives the impetus for our brand to grow. And talking about growth, we have grown from days of small beginnings into a multi-million-Naira enterprise.
In your opinion, what would you say are the challenges faced by the textile industry in Nigeria?
I share views with Dr Alofoje Onuigboje (Chairman, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, Edo and Delta branch), who opined via The Punch Newspaper that the first thing to direct our minds to, is whether or not the raw materials are locally available. If they are there, then there is a beginning; if they are not, then the nation will only be digging itself into greater trouble.
As far as the machinery for it goes, there is nothing we can do about it for now because it has to be brought in from outside. But having brought it in, has the nation been able to replicate the machinery? I say no, on two counts; one, the educational system is in the pit right now, and you need the link between our tertiary institutions, and the textile industry like it obtains in other climes.
Finally, there is the issue of funding, which none of us can run away from.
If you have to advice the government on ways to improve or develop a viable textile industry in Nigeria, what would you say?
I would strongly advise the government to go ahead with the implementation of control, and garment policy as adopted by the Federal Government since 2014.
The major highlight with that policy is that, we must ensure that there is uninterrupted electricity supply to textile industry, as well as other manufacturing industry.
The government should also speed up combat against smuggling of imported contrabands, including textiles. Customs have to be on duty to fight smuggling of imported banned textile goods.
What stands your brand out from the rest?
We are cognizant of the reason why we are in business, and who pays the bills- our clients. Customer is king, so says the age-long-cliché. Having this at the back of our mind, we provide legendary customer service. We treat them like royalty.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt since you started your company?
Art is emotional, while fashion and lifestyle are driven by passion and trends. But, what keeps fashion entrepreneurs in business is attitude. I am very conscious of this, and it’s a key tenet in our daily operation as a company.
When you are not busy how do you relax?
I am a family person and I relax best with them. There is always a gap to fill, a role to play, or a catch-up to do that ruling a profitable business could have created.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion means beauty, self-expression, self-confidence, progression. It’s a tool to truly express oneself and swag. It is an expression of who I am, just like music or poetry, fashion conveys instant messages that words can’t.
How does being a fashion entrepreneur influence your style?
The key word here is entrepreneur, and as an entrepreneur, my job is to project what I do stylishly. To make someone look good, I have to look good myself. I simply wear what I sell.
Where is your best holiday spot?
My best holiday spots are destinations that inspire creativity, and there are so many of them, both locally and world over.
What would you say is the best lesson life has taught you?
Life taught me to follow my dream and thus far, it has been rewarding.