Lockdown Economy Nigeria in a Fashion Design Business with Priscilla Omoruyi

The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Boluwatife Ishola

Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.

In this interview, we meet Priscilla Omoruyi, Lead Designer of Avriscilla.inc, an urban female fashion brand that focuses on creating unique yet affordable fashion clothes. She shares her experience during the lockdown in Benin, Nigeria. The structure of her business, how she works with freelance designers, which helped reduce the pressure of salary on her during the lockdown.

Priscilla, can I get to know about your business?

Priscilla: My name is Priscilla Omoruyi. I’m the creative director of Avriscilla incorporated. Avriscilla incorporated is a female fashion brand originated from Nigeria. We create from the scratch bespoke, made to fit, outfits for women. We also create bespoke ready to wear outfits and then ready to wear mass production outfit for women. Officially, Avriscilla became a company in April 2019. We’ve been in business for about a year but the entire idea of Avriscilla as a company, from mind to execution, has been since 2016.

That’s about four years. You make wears for females. What about males?

Priscilla: Making male clothes is not one of our activities. We partner with a very strong male brand. For example, if we have a couple and they want to bet the same outfit either for a photoshoot or something else and we take on the whole contract, we have a male fashion design brand that we partner with. We don’t advertise ourselves as a brand that makes men’s clothing. Though when customers ask, we say yes and take the job. The reason we can’t do that is because of manpower. I don’t believe in taking on too much. I believe in having a niche — working in the female fashion industry. When you combine both, not so much of a niche. Some people do it and it works for them but for me, I have to play to my strength. I don’t need to play to my weakness. So, we don’t say we make those clothes but when the jobs come, we do them. It’s the same thing with our mass production, on our own, as a brand, Avriscilla is not at the capacity to mass-produce ready to wear but it’s something we do. We release about twice a year, although we’re looking to increase it to up to four times a year next year. For this year, we released some ready-to-wear collections and we worked with some garment factories in Nigeria here to make that happen because like I said earlier, we don’t have the manpower for that. On the surface, we’d say we’re a fashion design brand but when we get into the nitty-gritty, we are majorly a female fashion design brand.

While you were talking, you mentioned that most of your designs were for couples and people who have events. I know you operate from Benin and there was a lockdown there that was more like a curfew for a few weeks. Asides from that, other states like Abuja and Lagos which are the most commercial cities and are likely to be the places you receive the bulk of your orders. What effect did the lockdown in these three states have on your business?

Priscilla: Originally, I had a 9 to 5 which I was doing side by side with the fashion business and I had someone working for me. Then the lockdown came and we had to work from home. People were not going anywhere so they didn’t see the need to make clothes. There was a low in business then. I just used the opportunity to catch up with projects, personal sewing projects, and extended learning.

What number of employees do you have?

Priscilla: I don’t have full-time employees. I have freelancers that have their own thing, they have their equipment so I send them whatever I want sometimes with the fabric, sometimes what I need is specific to cut and design so I go ahead to make the cut myself with written instructions and then give it to them. Sometimes I handle finishing myself. Because of how the year ran out, the decision to get a workspace to enable me to take on people had to be put on hold because it involved bringing people into space so I don’t have people working around. I outsource a lot of the job especially the ones I know I’m comfortable with which is not much.

During the lockdown, you didn’t have much attachment with the people that work with you.

Priscilla: Yes, they work, you pay them, they go.

How were you able to cope with them during the lockdown? Were they not losing interest in their freelance gig with you?

Priscilla: Everybody was on lockdown. They also have the businesses that they run. Everybody was on lockdown so nobody was thinking in that direction. Nobody was going anywhere so nobody was making clothes. For me, it was more for me to take this opportunity to improve our skills on some design principles and things like that. For me, I was lucky because I didn’t have an employee. I can’t imagine if I had employees, got a place, and in six months something like that happened.

How are you positioning yourself post lockdown? Also, do you supply clothes to other countries?

Priscilla: The thing about fashion is that there is a lot of packaging to it. When people see your work and they like it, they can say they’re travelling out of the country and that’s how it starts. I have customers in Canada, I’ve sent clothes to the US and even then we were not as good as we are now. I’ve also sent clothes to Australia and we’re still looking to expand. It is one of the things we’re looking at for the next couple of months.

During the lockdown, what were you telling your customers in other countries seeing that it did not happen everywhere at the same time?

Priscilla: In Nigeria, we had two different cases of lockdown or curfew. We had the one that was as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and that was general. Like I said nobody was going out. People closed their businesses and were at home. The goods we ordered, nobody was ordering, things were stuck.

What do you think the outlook for your business in the next three months will be like?

Priscilla: Expansion. There are a lot of things but I’m trying not to do everything at the same time. Fortunately, everything I need to do is interlinked. The expansion would involve physical space, employing people, and to create awareness about that, it would involve social media campaigns. If we’re going to take it one step at a time, the next three months will see us sourcing for funds and resources to get a physical space and then to get the right people. We’ll continue with our normal jobs that come in but underground we’ll continue to get resources for space and people so we can start the groundwork for our first official collection and launch.

What are three things you need help within your business right now?

Priscilla: Currently, to move to the next level, financial capital because getting a workspace to the standard we’ll like to start from is quite a lot. In-depth consultation, analysis and the third would be ads, social media ads. Those are the quickest ways to create awareness but they cost a bundle. It’s like you’re making money from a business and still pouring it into ads. The three things are funds, the business analysis then consultation, and ads.

About the Guest

Avriscilla.inc is an Urban Female fashion brand that focuses on creating unique, yet affordable ready to wear pieces, custom made ready to wear and bespoke pieces. We are on Instagram as @Avriscilla.inc and on Twitter as @avriscillainc

https://www.instagram.com/avriscilla.inc/

The UN-registered nonprofit social initiative that helps small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.