Allure Cover: ULASI-ONWUGHALU ONYINYE: – Defining Your Look With Every Creation…
Three Milliners Redefining Your Looks
The spotlight on the Nigerian fashion industry, limited to fashion designers, footwear and handbags do not pay much attention to millinery.
The reason for this is not far fetched. Nigerians, women especially, have not embraced the glamorous headgear wearing culture. Hence, it is no surprise that they haven’t received the spotlight they rightly deserve.
In this edition of Allure, we spoke to three milliners, whose innovative works are gradually shaping the Nigerian millinery industry. Their pieces are on your favourite celebrities on the red carpet and glamorous events. In this interview, they share their journey and striving to be different from the rest of the fashion pack is helping them grow their empire.
ULASI-ONWUGHALU ONYINYE: – Defining Your Look With Every Creation…
From being a wealth manager to managing her wealth, CEO of Ambassador 50, Ulasi-Onwughalu Onyinyechi has carved a path for herself in the millinery industry, through what used to be her love for headpieces.
Started in 2014, the Managing Director of Ambassador 50, through consistency and keen observation of the industry and fashion has grown not just as a creator but also as an innovator in the craft, feeding her market that is in dire need of her services.
In this interview with Allure, Onyinyechi takes us through her journey, challenges the Nigerian Milliners face and how the Nigerian Millinery industry can grow to a global standard.
How did you start millinery?
My love for headwear prompted me to learn it. I often got compliments from people who asked where I bought them, and that’s how a business opportunity came.
What were some of the challenges you faced, trying to make people believe in your brand as a hat maker?
In the beginning, there was the challenge of flawless and seamless execution. It was initially difficult to persuade customers to accept my pricing, but over time, my clients didn’t see my products as expensive, because they realized that I used quality materials.
How’s the experience so far and how do you think it would’ve been different in other countries?
Generally, I’m pleased with the acceptance and appreciation that my clients have shown for my products. Consequently, I’m motivated to increase my innovation and keep them interested.
However, running a small business in Nigeria can be challenging. Assuming my business operated in the Western world, where the system worked effectively, those challenged would not suffice because their system works.
What are some of the challenges you’re still facing?
The present challenges that my business is facing are poor electricity, traffic; which can cause a delay in delivery, difficulty in sourcing quality material and plagiarism.
What inspires you when you create your hats?
Because we offer bespoke services, clients’ personality come to play when creating products.
Secondly, nature and the environment inspire my creativity, and I love crafting with feathers.
When you started as a hat maker, how did you expand it to make it a structured business?
I restructured in terms of making it a separate entity from myself. For instance, I outsourced the financial account, created a business procedure, staffing and delegation.
What’s your greatest achievement so far since starting this business?
Since I started this business, I’ve had series of achievements that I’m grateful for and some of them are; being able to increase my client base from 50 to thousands, being able to establish strong customer trust, and birthing other successful businesses.
What’s the most challenging time for you as a creative businesswoman and how were you able to handle it?
The most difficult times were when I experienced insatiable customers, to the extent where I went extra miles to create multiple pieces to please them.
What do you think of the Nigerian millinery industry, compared to millinery industries in other parts of the world?
Although we are still behind when it comes to this industry because they’re a lot of things done better than we are doing, the truth is we’re gradually coming up and hopefully; we will.
How do you differentiate your creations from other works in the market?
The market is getting saturated with products like mine, but with Ambassador 50, some things will always stand out. Some of them are; quality, styles of my products, and seamless finishing and this distinguishes me from the rest.
How can you compare the millinery industry in Nigeria, then and now?
What are some of the things you think have changed and things that can improve?
We’ve come a long way in terms of market acceptance and appreciation. Nigerians have begun to appreciate locally made crafts unlike before. However, we need to be more innovative and original.
Who are some of the women that inspire you, to date?
Over the years I’ve been inspired by a lot of great women, but two of them stand out. They’re Mrs Nkiru Anumudu and the late Princess Diana.
How do you find time to balance family and work with your businesses?
Over time, living in Lagos has made me more discipline in terms of time allocation. I have developed a work-life balance that has enabled my work efficiently during the day, and to care for my family when I return from work.
What would you say is the place of a hat in the styling of a woman?
A hat is like the spice in your jollof/pepper soup (Laughs). It can take your look from a 60 to 100, in a heartbeat!
What’s the favourite piece of work you’ve created?
My favourite piece of work would have to be
The Wand Fan, (hand fan with the long handle). The wand fan was a piece I created in January 2017. It became quite popular; I didn’t expect it would gain much market recognition and acceptance.
How would you describe your eating habit?
Hahaha. I nibble a lot, but I’m a healthy eater.
How fashionable would you say you are, and what’s your style?
I’m moderately fashionable. However, I relish wearing excellent pieces. My style is modern chic.
You have the opportunity to start all over again, what are you changing and what are you keeping?
I probably wouldn’t change much other than my time. I would have started earlier. On the other hand, I would still keep my organic growth rate; that is, my ability to start small.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received while running your business?
“Maintain a great customer relationship, because they are the best marketers.”
What are some of the things you’ve learned over the years as a businesswoman?
Some of the things I’ve learned over the years in this business is “honesty;’ gaining customer‘s trust is essential, and being consistent.
What’s the grand plan for your brand?
The grand plan for Ambassador50 is to be a global bridal and millinery brand to reckon.
By Linda Orajekwe