The resurgence of native outfits and traditional attires, after a long period of style importation, has to be the highlight of the Nigerian fashion industry in recent years. With public-named trends like ‘Oleku’ and ‘Senator’, style in new millennium Nigeria has never felt so close to home. Likewise, the nifty hands and creative minds driving the evolving fashion culture has never been more Nigerian – excluding the pre-colonial era that precedes the start of cultural importations.
The Nigerian fashion bubble has been one of the few fruitful branches of the national tree, giving rise to the flourish of an encouraging number of Nigerian stylists – a lot of them youthful and exploratory imaginative. The likes of Mai Atafo, Yomi Casual have blossomed into top fashion brands from small corners of the Nigerian fashion industry; a flurry of budding stylists have joined in exercising the potential of the industry to grow their brands – just like Bolatito Arinola Bashiru is doing with StyledbyTito.
StyledbyTito is one of the emerging Nigerian fashion brands creating excitement among enthusiasts – both within and outside the borders. What catches the eye at first is the inventive yet simple design products of StyledbyTito, which attracts tens of thousands of viewers to the brand’s Instagram page. Mostly, this leads to flowery comments and translates into patronage on many occasions. Bolatito said, “Lots of people have reached out through social media” – the number she didn’t say but she made it obvious that social media has been crucial to the brand’s growth since its launch in January, 2017.
The huge shortfall of opportunities in the country’s labour market and the growing gap between what’s deserved and what’s offered has forced the entrepreneurial spirit on many Nigerian natives, particularly the young and vibrant like Bolatito. However, her entrepreneurial early steps and the background story of the StyledbyTito brand is not the typical “subject quits a 9-5 job in pursuit of an entrepreneurial experience.”
In fact, Bolatito holds a degree in Business Administration and she worked in the banking industry for more than two years but her interest in fashion designing has always been there. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur”, she said. “I learnt fashion designing even before gaining admission and was doing it by the side even when I had a 9 – 5.”
The decision to leave a relatively safe life of paid employment for a chancy entrepreneurial life is one that many often consider but only few act on. Bolatito’s decision, as she said, was inspired by her desire to make “timeless pieces for trendy and stylish women.” This ambition guides the path of the brand in creating a niche, although scope-broadening adoptions have been made over the course of the business – the StyleByTito brand has added Ankara designs for men to her list of offerings. The diversification is among the evidences ‘Tito sees as growth signs.
It is popular belief that great responsibility drags along great power. This saying reflects in the case of StyleByTito. Although the brand is still only an emerging fashion house with distance to cover, its expansion over the years has come with challenges – challenges of raising capital, challenges of exercising limited resources to meet the growing demand. “The delivery aspect has been a big challenge”, she narrated.
For the future, Bolatito is looking at continued expansion for StyledByTito – expansion in customer base, expansion in the impact on the fashion culture, expansion in accolades. Already, the brand has scored a number of wins – a N1million Cannes Prize, for instance – but Bolatito is still as hungry for growth as the passion-driven young lady who stepped out of the banking industry to take a leap into fashion designing and styling. She made this clear in her concluding statement during our chat, “the vision is big and wins must come.”
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets