It’s a rather curious move for one to be opening shop and not be intending to sell. But that is basically what Mr. Alexander Amosu, erudite businessman and designer of some of the world’s most expensive luxury products is about doing. He is launching the Alexander Amosu line of luxury products in Nigeria without the primary intention of selling them or making profit.
What type of profit could he really make in Nigeria after designing the world’s most expensive suit and blackberry which are worth 70, 000 pounds and 140, 000 pounds respectively and getting listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records? Yes, what kind of profit could he really make in a country where the Naira equivalents of the mentioned products (approximately N36, 500 000 for the suit and N60, 000 000, respectively)? What is the rationale behind such a move when he can boast of clients among the richest and most glamorous people in the world?
Alexander is coming home. In case you haven’t noticed, his last name is Amosu and that is a Nigerian name. He is a Yoruba from Abeokuta. “My father is from Abeokuta,” he tells me in a thick British accent, “and my mother is from Ikorodu.” He was born in London and has never been to those places before. His last visit to Nigeria was in 2008 during the TV Reality Show, Dragon’s Den, which he had a stake in. This was after a 16-year absence.
“I am coming home to establish. I need to connect with Nigerians,” he says excitedly, but his tone almost immediately falls. “There are a lot of successful Nigerians in the UK that can’t come to Nigeria,” he states matter-of-factly. “They say that there are a lot of bad things happening in Nigeria; that there are armed robbers, kidnappers and that there’s no safety here. They hear all the negative things people are telling us for us not to home back but I believe that the more we come back home with the exposure, experience and wealth, we have garnered from around the world, the more we’ll be able to make Nigeria better.” Picking up enthusiasm again, he continues: “I am coming because I want to celebrate the fact that I am successful all over the world and I am selling to international stars and I want Nigerians to be able to say that this is one of their own.”
“So when I meet people in the UK and they tell me that Nigerians are fraudsters, I will tell them No! We don’t do fraud; we are doing successful things. Go and check for my name in the Guinness Book Of World Records. Do you see any fraud there? Nigerians are doing successful things all over the world and we have to start coming back home. I am hoping that if I am here, people would say that if Alexander Amosu can be there, then I too can be there. Why would Nigeria not be like or even better than London?” he asks. We need to come back and build our own country and the way to start is by each of us coming back and saying that this is what I have done.” Then picking up the thread of the suit again, he adds: “I don’t need to sell my suit here. People are buying my stuff all over the world and I don’t need to sell it here. Moreover there are just four of them in the world and I just want to bring it to Nigeria and show my people that this is what I have done.”
But there are so many other things in his line of luxury products. The bespoke world’s most expensive suit is just one of them. The suits start from 3, 500 pounds and there are a range of other luxury products including belts, ties, shirts, cufflinks and so on. But what makes this one suit so special that it has to sell for that price? “The suit is made with gold and platinum thread. It is made from rare materials such as Vicuna wool, which can only be shorn once every three years from the South American camelid, and Qiviut wool, gathered from the Arctic muskoxen,” he explains. “It takes a minimum of 80 hours to complete each suit and this will include over 5000 individual stitches. Our professional tailors, each with no less than a 21-year experience visit the client wherever he is in the world to take his measurement after which work would commence. An Alexander Amosu suit is not just a suit, but a lifestyle: the purchase of the suit includes a 1-hour flight by private jet to anywhere in the world by Cloud9, 1-year free wealth management from Cheviot Asset Management and a 24 hr Global Concierge service.”
Being just 34 years old and placing a demanding a minimum requirement of 21 years experience from the tailors of his suits, I asked him why and he replied thus: “Because you are dealing with the world’s most expensive suit, you cannot afford to make any mistakes. And who says there are no spaces for the young and talented?” he asked. They are the ones that provide most of the ideas and vision which the tailors work on. But I’m not gonna risk having a rookie tailor ruin such a job. There are spaces for the youth but first, I have to build my brand, then develop the younger generation through different projects and ideas and when they are ready take over from the older ones, they move in. But on this particular job, there are no spaces for mistakes and we don’t take unnecessary risks.”
Then I again asked the reason for only making materials for the rich and not producing cheaper ones to sell to a larger number of the masses. To explain his reason, Alexander asked for my phone, a NOKIA 1202, which he placed beside one of his diamond encrusted blackberries. “For argument sake, let’s say your phone is worth ten pounds and mine 5000 pounds,” he tells me. “How long do you think it would take me to sell your phone at its price to get to 5000 pounds?” he amusingly asks me. “How many of your phone do I have to sell to get to 5000 pounds?”
“500,” I answer.
“So you mean I should be bursting my head to sell 500 units of a phone when I can sell one phone to one person and make the same amount without losing any sweat; do you want to work 500 times harder to make the same amount of money?” But I insisted that there was still the need to necessary products like phones to the average person but Alexander refused to budge.
“That’s their choice,” he states. “If they decide to spend a whole year to sell their products, it’s their own call. Why would I do that to myself? You have to be an entrepreneur; you have to think like a visioner. People work for money, but I make my money work for me. There’s the big difference. You could spend working really hard or you could work smart. It’s your own decision. I made my decision long ago and I’m happy making my money the easy way. The person trying to sell to everybody would be running around the whole day like a headless chicken while I would sit in the comfort of my office and make my own sales.”
“It’s so much easier selling things to rich people. They don’t haggle; they just want the best and they are prepared to pay for it. Trying to sell to poor people is so much hard work because they haggle. If you are selling to them for ten pounds, they’ll still ask for a discount. If they do, I will slap their ears with the phone. You have to understand the psyche of the rich people, they want the best things and they are prepared to pay for it.” I was going to continue the argument, but the mention of slaps made me switch to this question. “If you are making so much money, you should be playing hard.”
“Why would I do that?” he asks me incredulously. “I am a responsible person; I have a family. (He is married to a Nigerian lady, Tayo and they have two children). I can easily blow a million pounds in a day but what would I gain from that? I haven’t arrived yet. Bill Gates and Richard Branson didn’t get to where they are today by playing. I haven’t got to that level yet. When I start rubbing shoulders with the likes of Richard Branson, then I would go and play. Before then, all I do is work.”
Coming from a very humble beginning, Alexander was brought up by his grandmother who couldn’t afford the luxuries that a youth needed to “belong” with. So he got his first job at 12 as a paper delivery boy in his neighbourhood and earned 10pounds a week. By the time he got enough money to buy himself a NIKE trainers and wear it to school, he was overwhelmed by the kind of attention he received and thus started a quest to make more money. He ventured into event organizing in school and diversify into various jobs. He had a cleaning company by 19 years which he sold at age 24 when he accidentally stumbled on ringtone creation. By 25, he made his first million. And from then on there’s no stopping him.
Alexander was awarded Young Entrepreneur of The Year at the Institute of Directors by Black Enterprise Awards 2002, Africa’s Best Award at the GAB Awards 2003, also receiving London African Caribbean Entrepreneurs Award 2004. For a second year in a row, Mr. Alexander Amosu is on the top Britain’s 100 most influential black Britons. He is now in Guinness World Records books for creating the world most expensive suit. He was also awarded with the honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration by his old university London Metropolitan University. He is also interested in Charities and is the first person to create a Free Ringtones Day and donated the proceeds from over 75, 000 orders in one day to the Teenage Cancer Trust.
He is back home to launch his line of luxury products with the support of MTN who say they are identifying with him because his success story is similar to theirs. According to Mr. Kolawole Oyeyemi, General Manager Consumer Marketing, MTN, “MTN believes in achieving the dreams of its customers and this same desire is also what drives Mr. Amosu. He is an example of a true Nigerian and we are proud to be associated with him.”
Alexander Amosu Collections and the world’s most expensive suit would be unveiled at a secret location in Lagos on December 5, 2009 and even though he has already stated that he is not here to sell, Nigerians have always risen to any challenge and nobody, least of all a son of the soil, has ever brought in quality products into the country without making a sale.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday,November 11, 2011