Allure Cover: Yomi Casual – Growing a fashion business
He is a graduate of Design and Clothing Technology from Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State. Born Omoniyi Makun, he is the face behind the iconic fashion brand, Yomi Casual.
The very creative designer who prefers to be called ‘a Tailor’ knew right from graduation that his calling was in the needle and thread business. Hours of dedication to work and persevering in the face of challenges paid emerging as one of the most sought-after men’s brand. Yomi Casual has styled many celebrities who crave to stand out; the likes of his elder brother, AY Makun, Zack Orji, Ebube Nwangbo, Alex Ekubo, Timaya, Seyi Law, Elenu and many more.
The recipient of several local and international awards, shares with Vanguard Allure on his journey to success and to fame.
What inspired the Yomi Casual brand?
I went to a fashion school, so definitely, I am living my dream. It’s more like something that’s meant to happen.
Running a business in Nigeria can be daunting, how did you face the challenges at the beginning?
The beginning was pretty rough. When I moved to Lagos in 2005 after school, I was working from my brother’s house (AY’s House). Then, I had only one sewing machine and one pressing iron. I didn’t have a table, so I did the cutting and working on the floor. My bedroom served as my office also. Mind you, we were 3 in the bedroom; Seyi Law, Elenu and myself. They were very supportive and corporative.
During the day, everyone would excuse themselves and go stay in the living room. I would then move the matress, transform the space to an office. So, whenever a client comes to look for me, I’ll take them to the bedroom.
The beginning wasn’t that easy. Whatever you are seeing right now, I struggled for like 4 to 5 years before things began to work for me.
Apart from your brother, who was your first major celebrity client and how did that make you feel?
Apart from my brother AY, the first celebrities to wear my clothes were Seyi Law and Elenu. They were the first celebrities to wear my outfit then. It is really funny because they were my first fans and models. They love what I do. After them, it was Timaya; he used to come to the house to see AY. So, I made some outfits for him and his crew. From Timaya to Desmond Elliot, to Susan Peters and the rest came through. They were the first to rock my outfits and the feeling was good because, when these guys went out, they came home and gave me good feedback.
When did you have your first collection and how was it received?
My first major collection ever was in 2009. Then my models were Susan Peters, Desmond Eliot, Uche Nwachukwu and Okey Bakassi. It was amazing. That was the collection that really put me out there. I started getting calls from different parts of the world.
It was really a dream come true. That was when I even knew that I was meant to do this because, I was getting amazing calls from people.
What’s your creative process?
The first thing is to have an idea and design in your head. From there, you transform it into sketch on a sketch pad to see what it would look like.
The next step is to get the right fabric that would be good for the design that you have sketched. From there, you move to cutting, sewing, and fitting. That is basically what I do.
Who’s the ideal Yomi Casual Man ?
Yomi Casual Man is very stylish. It takes a man that is very stylish to wear a Yomi Casual brand. A man that really wants to rock a Yomi Casual piece has to be stylish: because, if I put a very dramatic outfit on you and you can’t pull it off, you would look very funny.
So, the ideal Yomi Casual man has to be stylish and bold. You can tell from my models. All my celebrity models are very bold and stylish.
Being in the Nigerian fashion industry, what would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt and why?
I have learnt a lot in the industry. I have come to realize that the market is so wide. I used to feel bad seeing a lot of people doing what I am doing. The space is too big for all the designers respectively.
All you need to do is to stand out in the fashion industry, and you would definitely make it. I have also learnt to be very consistent because, that’s the only thing that can keep me in the Fashion industry.
How well does the Nigerian fashion industry support young designers?
For me as a person, I really can’t give much. The best support I can give to any young designer is to inspire you. Trust me, that’s the best support any designer would pray for because, some of us did not have opportunity to have people inspire us. The best support from any top designer is inspiration. It keeps you going. It gives you courage to stand firm and face your dream. If I decide to buy a sewing machine for you, trust me, it wouldn’t be enough. Even if I give you a million naira, it won’t be enough too because you want to be inspired. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stay creative.
What’s your greatest achievement so far as a designer?
My biggest achievement so far is my family; I have the most beautiful family in the world. They keep me going. Whenever I’m sad and I think about them, they make me feel good.
How do you balance work and your personal life considering how busy work and family can get?
It has become a life style for me. I’m an artist; I paint. I don’t even see my work as work. I just go to work like I am going there to play.
Family would always be family, they would understand. The best I can do is to take care of them and make sure everything is available for them.
What I also do is that I have off days for every week. Those days are slated for the family. So every week, there are some days I don’t go to work. I just stay with my family, play with the kids, gist with my wife and watch movies together. On some other days, we go out. Two days in a week is for family.
What’s one aspect of you as a person that will always be reflected on your brand?
I have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). If I am going to infuse that in my business; I’m going to say that has really helped me to come up with amazing finishing. I don’t play with finishing. My manager and staff know me. If you make me a bad job, I’d reject it and you would start all over. I don’t care the amount of money that has been put into that job.
What’s one thing you can’t do without as a designer?
I can’t do without a pair of good shoes. I love good shoes. I can’t do without shoes because my face is very amazing (laughs).
How do you handle rejections as an entrepreneur?
Rejection is something that you can’t really avoid. People would definitely reject you at some point. Even family would also reject you not talk of people of the world, so it’s normal for people to reject you. It is how you bounce back that matters. I expect the worst from people. One thing that I always tell my wife is to always create excuses for people. When you learn how to do that, you would never get angry for anything.
When people reject me, in my head I would try to create a reason for that rejection. As soon as I do that, I would be fine.
Who are some of the designers you look up to and why?
I look up to Mudi. He is a great designer. He was one of the people that paved the way for us. The other person is Zara. That man is amazing. I don’t know how he came up with the Zara plan, I wish I could just lay my hands on his plan and use same plan for Yomi Casual brand. These guys have done amazing works, so I really look up to them.
If you have 30 minutes to spend with a global icon who would you pick and why?
I would pick same Zara. I would just want to use his brain for just 5 minutes to affect Yomi Casual brand. He has done so much. I don’t know how he was able to make Zara this great.
Zara is not really a luxury brand but I would call it is a luxury brand because it looks good and not that expensive. He was able to make Zara an affordable luxury. They make amazing sales like every hour. You walk into a Zara store outside Nigeria and you would be like ‘wow what’s going on here’? The designs are beautiful, very durable and affordable.
If the hands of time is turned and you are to start all over again, what’s that one thing you’ll change and do differently?
Yomi Casual as a brand, one thing that has really affected business in Nigeria and also the reason we don’t really grow is over familiarity with the owner of the business. Sometimes, they all want the owner of the business to attend to them. These are some of the things that result to business shutting down when the owner of the business is no longer there.
Sometimes, people come to my store and be like, ‘where is Yomi?’ and if Yomi is not there, they walk out. It’s not supposed to be like that. You can’t walk into a Fast Food and ask where the owner of the place is and if he or she is not around, you walk out. But when it comes to the creative department, they want to see you. They believe you are the best person that can do it even when you have suffered and invested so much in training someone to be like you. They still don’t want to believe in that person. When you are not there, the business stops. It is not right at all. I wish I can change that. If that can happen, I would be the happiest person in this world.
What do you do to relax after all the work?
I love good food. When I want to relax, I just sit and have good food with a glass of my favorite drink. If not food, I love playing PS4; getting defeated or defeating someone.
What’s the grand plan for Yomi Casual brand?
The plan is to keep winning. We keep doing what we know how to do best. We hope and pray that very soon, Yomi Casual brand would be the Zara of Nigeria.