The ultra modern outlet on 17, Salvation Road, Opebi, Lagos, recently opened by Evans Akere, the man behind the popular Vanskere label is tasteful, classy and elegant. He is set to take charge of the year and churn out impeccable designs. ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with him about his new outlet and what he has in stock for the year.
Why the relocation from your former place to the new outlet?
We have gotten to a stage where we needed to expand. That place was not big enough. We needed to do some internal expansion. We needed to bring in more workers, that is one of the reasons we had to move to a bigger place.
But you relocated within the same area, Opebi?
Yes, I just felt because we were already operating from Opebi, it would be easier for clients to access this place. Basically, accessibility and convenience made us move to this place.
What new things should we expect from you?
We shall see. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet.
How much did your new outlet gulp?
When I started, I had a budget in mind but because of recession, everything tripled. I knew things had increased but not to that extent. We spent far above our budget. At some point, we had to stop renovation for two months, nothing was going on here but God is faithful.
He continued to provide. If at the initial stage I had known things had increased to that extent, I would probably be scared and might not embark on the project. God works in mysterious ways. I thank God for everything.
Opebi is an upscale area with a lot of designers and boutiques. Are you not afraid of competition?
I am a Christian. The Bible says we shouldn’t be in worldly competition because everything is just vanity. I don’t see myself as having competition but as having contemporaries, people in the same industry with me. If you see people as if you are competing, that is when you will begin to have problems. At the end of the day, having so much, acquiring so much doesn’t fulfill life ambitions. It doesn’t really mean you would be happy at the end of the day. Just do things at your stride. If you are able to do it, go ahead. If you are unable, wait till you can do it.
You still need to continue with hard work but don’t see yourself as having competitors. I work hard because I want a better life, take my children to good schools, have clothes to wear, roof over my head, be able to be helpful, affect humanity positively, that is the essence of working hard. I don’t get scared when I see other designers in my neighborhood. The market is huge, there is room for everyone. Why I love the business of creativity is that there is no limit to what you can achieve. If you come up with good stuffs, people would patronize you.
Example , if I travel abroad and I want to shop, if I see a good stuff in Armani, I can buy. It doesn’t mean if I see another good shirt at Tommy Hifiger, I wouldn’t buy, I would surely buy once I like it. I can buy from anywhere, it is just left for the designer to be innovative, do things that others are not doing.
I believe if you can buy from one of my contemporaries, you can buy from me as well. Even if we have a billion designers in Nigeria, there is space for all of us. We just have to work hard, come up with things that are irresistible, people would always come for you.
Your wears are quite unique no doubt about that, but it seems some look alike?
Last year, we came out with three different collections, Afropolitian three piece, Signofussion by Vanskere and we ended with Vanskere Classic. They appeal to different classes. The essence of it is to reach out to a broader market. We don’t want to be segmented. The Signofussion Collection was totally different from the classic and even the Afropolitian pieces. Despite the fact that the three collections appeal to different classes of people, you will always notice our signature style in those clothes.
Some years back, when I was studying in London Fashion School, my professor made it clear that you must always identify your core business. Your core business is where you sell most, the one that brings in more money, that is your core business. You must identify it and run with it. You must be faithful to your clients and your designs. Your clients should be able see your designs and identify with then.
With that, you will be able to have an identity. Once there is no identify, it means your brand is becoming unfaithful. The people that used to patronize you might look elsewhere. We try as much as possible to make our wears identifiable. There are things the brand is known for, we want to retain them, that is why it seems some of our clothes look the same.
What set of collections should we expect this year?
This year, we would come up with more collections though the three collections from last year would continue. We are trying to introduce more. We already have a brand in the Signofussion Collections. We would come up with new set of collections from that brand. So, expect 2017 Signofussion by Vanskere. Our classic would continue and the Afropolitian three piece too. When we introduced it, no designer was doing it. We felt there was a need to do it. At that time, there was no issue of recession, we just introduced it. We wanted something that was cost effective and when recession came, it was timely.
It was like we saw ahead. The Afropolitian three piece pairs two tops with a trouser. It gives the feeling of having two different clothes. The design is on the top, it reduces the amount you would spend if you are to do an additional pant. We give good discount for that and our clients loved it. Good fabrics with three year warrantee and it was well accepted.
Looking at 2016 in retrospect, how would you describe it?
It was a good year for us, an awesome year. I would be ungrateful if I say it wasn’t a good year for the brand. In the midst of it, we were able to set up this place. We pray 2017 would be better for us as well.
How ready are you for 2017 challenges?
You know how it is, we are hoping that this year would be better than last year. We would continue to pray hard, work hard and hope for the best. Each year comes with its challenges. One needs the grace of God.
We have plans for the year, I try not to divulge my plans so that nobody would hold me to it. There were things I wanted to do last year that I couldn’t achieve, because I didn’t tell anybody about it, nobody knew it didn’t materialize.
How many worker do you have with you?
I have a lot. I don’t keep count. With the new office, we are employing more workers. We need more administrative staff. In business, if you want to succeed, delegate things, the work load is too much for me, I need more hands to help out. Even in the aspect of creating designs, I can’t possibly come out with everything. Last year, we had three collections, we are looking for four collections this year. Creativity is divine, you can’t force it. If you really want to be original, it would take time, You can’t tell when the inspiration would come. So, I am thinking of employing young, dynamic and creative people to work with.
- SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN