Tochuwku Michael is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Asandrea Collections, Festac Town, Lagos.
In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Friday, January 1, 2016, the city clothier from Abatete, Idemili North Local Government, Anambra unveiled what he has for 2016 and much more.
Could you please give us a review of 2015 with bias for your constituency which is clothing upwardly mobile men and women?
We thank God for 2015. You and I know that things were really tough considering the government’s battle against corruption. I wonder what this country would have turned to if Goodluck Jonathan had returned. We designed good African collections. I won the Best Designer of the Year, Classic African Merit Award, CAMA 2015.
Tell us your most memorable fashion event last year, local and international?
Last year, we made celebrities stand out. We made A-list actor, Kenneth Okonkwo, thespian Halima Abubakar and others stand out. The designs we made for them attracted foreign customers, especially Igbo in the diaspora. They invited me to the opening of the Igbo Village in Seattle, USA.
What’s your clientele base, does it cut across?
I clothe people in the diaspora and at home. They know that Asandrea Collections is a fashion house to be trusted because of our sincerity and reliability.
Your area of specialization, native or English?
I do all. I showcase predominantly African wears online. I am trying to take Nigerians back to our roots and cultural heritage. We’re achieving that gradually. Look around and you would agree with me.
What are the things you would do differently in 2016 to keep you very relevant?
2016 is a year of work, progress and practical change. More creativity is on the way.
In what way did the economy affect your business?
Wow! I would say we smiled when our customers smiled. The exchange rate affected us adversely. We import materials from Europe and Asia. Hopefully, this year would be better. President Muhammadu Buhari is leading us alright. We should take conscious steps to promote our values.
How prepared are you for 2016?
Honestly, everything is in God’s hand. I am ever ready to give Nigerians and the world at large the best of designs.
The trend now is presentation of seasonal and non-seasonal collections, what’s your take on that?
For me, anybody that likes looking good keeps it alive. Looking good should not be seasonal, it’s constant.
What are the factors you consider before accepting to clothe a customer?
I look out for people who love high quality and classic items. Fashion has levels. I take people from fashion crime to fashion icons.
Do you accept their requests hook, line and sinker?
I accept their requests and develop them to make them stand out. A good businessman must hear out his customers.
Top fashion designers like you dream of fashion shows in and outside the country, are you thinking along that line?
I strongly believe I would participate in one or two fashion shows in and outside Nigeria this year.
What’s special about your brand that I must wear it?
I design my wears with special materials. I don’t go for less. I use high quality fabrics to bring out my creativity. Tailoring is not enough, you have to use quality fabrics to bring out your creativity.
Which fabric bring out your creativity?
I use all fabrics depending on the design. I use local and foreign fabrics and accessories. If I want to design an attire that represents Igbo culture, I go for the best Isi agu from Europe. If it’s Yoruba, I use Da Viva fabrics. For Hausa, we use foreign and local fabrics.
If I want to join your line of business, considering the poor state of the economy, what would you want me to do?
First, tell yourself the truth, define what you want to do. If the answer is in the affirmative, then you can do it. Fashion designing doesn’t require heavy capital as a beginner. It becomes capital intensive when your client base is enlarged and you have more demands.
Have you ever thought of dumping fashion designing for something else?
Honestly, I’ve never thought of that. What I am doing is a talent from God.
There must be a force that drive you, could you name it?
The Most High God, the author and finisher of my work. Aside Him, my clients because without them, I would have been irrelevant.
What is trending fashion wise?
For me, I see fashion differently. It’s a life time thing for me. Looking good is good business and it’s for people of taste. It would continue eternally because creativity is my insignia.
What can take you away from making people dress fine?
Nothing. It’s all about fashion which is ageless. It’s just like asking me not to smile when I see someone looking good. You are addressed the way you are dressed. Simple!
What do you expect government to do for your business interest?
I expect a lot. When I hear about unemployment, I cry because it can be tackled head long. Corruption made our leaders indifferent to the issue of unemployment. President Muhammadu Buhari wants to restore sanity in the polity and I’m happy he’s applying shock therapy which is the answer to vandalism. Soft loans can reduce unemployment. We need to look inwards instead of massive importation. If existing business interest expand, people must be employed.
How do you intend to protect your brand against the economic hardship?
I am in business with my doors opened very wide. You can get an item in my place depending on your purse. Your budget determines what you get. Most Nigerians shy away at the mention of classic. It doesn’t mean you have to break a bank to get a classic design.