Three years ago I saw this beautiful clutch with a friend in Houston, I was happy when she told me she got it from a Lagos based designer Wunmi Funbi-Olufeko of “Design for Love”. I found her website and was impressed at the designs and level of professionalism and I have since gotten myself a couple of her dresses. This dress and accessory maker is ever courteous and very personable, lets get to know her a bit better.
Hello Wunmi, please tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in the bustling city of Lagos. My first degree is in Biochemistry which I got from the Lagos state University, in 2002. I have also completed the certificate in entrepreneurship management at the prestigious Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos and done several short courses in fashion draping, visual merchandising and handbag making at the London College of Fashion. I am a trained pattern drafter and fashion designer and have been running this fashion business for over 12 years.
How did Design for Love (DFL) start?
I started DFL out of boredom. I started selling fabrics because I was bored. I was living in a new environment and I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to meet people outside of work. After work, I was always stuck with a few hours to play with. And because I am not a TV person as such, I needed something to keep me busy. I have always been a creative person and part of my selling strategy (for selling fabrics) was making fashion sketch drawings based on the fabrics my clients were buying. I would say to them, “oh you could use this fabric to do this and that. Just tell your tailor this is what you want”. And then I would hand the sketches over to them. People were buying my fabrics but after a while they started complaining about how they couldn’t find good tailors (in Abuja) to interpret my designs. I started to look out for tailors. At that time, there weren’t many good tailors in Abuja. The very good ones were expensive and beyond the reach of my target market (which was young working class). Around that time however, the company I was working for sent me to Lagos on a project that was going to take 4-6 months. When I got to Lagos, I started asking around for tailors and eventually I found one. Funnily, around that time, I also read a book about business start-ups and how people say that they can’t go into business because they don’t have enough capital to start off. According to the book, if you are going to do a business of a certain amount, you should break that amount into bits and get the required number of people to contribute those bits (by getting them to buy a product or service). With that in mind, I decided to make two shirts and I wore one of them on one of the days I was going to visit my cousin, who at that time was working for a telecommunications company (at the head office). When I got to her office, people started saying that they liked what I was wearing and I kept telling them that I made it, even though I had not officially started that line of business. There and then, people bought into my idea and started placing orders. I collected down payments for those orders and that pool of money became my start-up capital for that line of business. So I transitioned from selling fabrics to actually making outfits.
I still maintained my sketches which was my selling point. But soon people got tired of that, as they wanted to see what the sketches would look like in real life. So I decided that I was going to make samples and take photos of them. At that time in Nigeria, fashion design was in its infancy. They weren’t many designers taking photos and doing look-books. Those things were novel at that time. 12 years ago. Perhaps, the likes of Deola Sagoe and Tiffany Amber were the ones who could afford look-books. I got my siblings to be my initial models and I made a look-book out of Woodin and embossed cardboard. That helped me with orders. With time I got so many orders that it started to clash with my job. That was when I decided it was time to quit my day job.I moved back to Lagos and focused on starting the business. I went to fashion school for six months and afterwards I started full-time.
Considering that you already had a 9 to 5 how easy was it to leave that and face DFL full time? It really wasn’t easy moving from 9-5 business as I was very scared as would have been expected. I am the 1st child and so the expectations to succeed was very high and leaving a regular paying job in a good company to start a tailoring business was absurd at that time. I was so scared I cried and asked God to show me a sign and he did!
Did you have any family support?
Well once I was sure and certain of what I wanted to do and God gave me a sign, my family gave their support.
Entrepreneurship can be challenging, What challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome them?
Well the main challenges would be having a structure in a business which dealt with artisans and it was hectic making them understand. However along the line, I did a course in LBS which helped me understand my business better and I became bolder to set down ground rules on how the business should function.
You are a mummy and wife how are you able to balance work and family?
Having a great support team. I have got the best husband who understands me and my passion and always ensures that my stress level is reduced however he can and my in-laws who are always there to help with the kids and support the family when I have to work long hours or travel. Also my siblings and parents help to ensure I never have to look far when I need help with the home front.
Tell us the defining moment for you in your DFL journey ?
When we opened our retail store in Ikoyi without any bank loans and also when we made our first bulk orders of a thousand bags within 1 month.
What kind of woman do you cater for?
Our target market are young working class women, women trying to build careers and business while maintaining a descent social life, balancing the work and life, the every day cosmopolitan woman, she wears DFL to work, play and party. Our outfits caters for that woman who loves to show off the African prints culture yet remains on trend.
Awesome ! thanks Wunmi talking to you has been enlightening.