SAHEED Fawehinmi is late legal luminary cum rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s son. He is a fashion designer who just opened a fashion house in Ikeja GRA, Lagos.
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to the handsome young man on Friday, October 18, 2013. He spoke exclusively about FAW Couture, his life in the USA as a student in the Fashion Institute of Technology, his plans for FAW Couture, what he misses about his late dad, his wife and kids.
Why fashion designing?
I opted for fashion because I had a natural gift and a flair for artistry. As a child I was always gifted with the art of being able to draw and I had big imagination, all my art teachers liked me and always encouraged me, and growing up, I used to hear my late father, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) say, it’s always wise for a man to do something he loves and something he is passionate about. He said he became a lawyer because he admired law and then he had heroes he admired in the profession. He said he didn’t do it because of money so I tapped into that, because you pick up from people who are wiser and older than you and I asked myself what I was good at. In the 80s there was a segment on CNN called Style by Elsa Klensah, they showed all the collection of the big designers in Europe and around the world and when I saw that I saw the beauty and glamour in it. I had no idea of the kind of work that these people went through to make people look good. I only saw the glamour part of it, so I was caught in that web. When I designed things people liked it, they said I was good at it, so I nurtured a dream to go to school and learn the craft, because I didn’t have the skills to do that. When I finished my Bachelor’s in business at the prestigious University of Benin, my father asked me what I wanted to do, I told him I would like to go to America and study Marketing at the Masters level. His plan for me was to be a lawyer, I am sure he would have been wondering. I went to America did my Masters in Marketing from 1995 to 1997, immediately I finished about a month later I left Washington DC and I went to New York to attend the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology on 27th Street at 7th Avenue, that’s the alma mater of the great Calvin Klein. He was class of ’66. I sent myself to fashion school, I was working in the morning and going to school at night. I worked at Customs stop from 9.00 a.m to 6.00 p.m, from 6.30 p.m to 10.00 p.m, I go to school. I ensured that where I was working was related to what I was learning in school. I always worked in clothing, either as a manager or as a designer, ultimately I became a district manager, overseeing over fifteen stores in the United States.
While you were working, did you sew at anytime yourself?
I did do a little bit of that, working but in school I did a lot of that. In FIT, they teach you textile technology, rudiments of each textile so you know how to use them. They teach you garment construction, merchandising, fitting. Fashion is something that stands on just two legs, comfort and aesthetics, meaning it must fit properly and be comfortable. So, fundamentally all we are doing is just elegance and designing beautiful outfits. I have travelled to different continents to see how fashion houses are, I have a wide knowledge.
So, apart from fashion designing, what else do you do?
I can do anything, I could have been a phenomenal lawyer. I like to stand by people, I am very loyal to people and I cannot leave you for anything, not even money because to me loyalty is very important which is not even very forthcoming in Nigeria at the moment. It has been in our family for ages, my great grandfather was like that, so that’s how it is in our family. It has been a hallmark of our bloodline, we are dedicated to people and our professions. I could have been a lawyer, but I didn’t want something I would do halfway, I could have been an architect, in fact, I regret not studying architecture, I couldn’t have been a doctor though.
You just opened this outlet, how do you feel about it?
I give thanks to the Almighty God, because everything is time. I have been nurturing a dream to open my fashion house for ages but things happen when God wants it to happen. Some people have dreams but can’t achieve it not because they don’t know how to but it’s just that the heaven’s haven’t accepted yet.
I had a friend back in the US, he is a very talented designer, his name is Calvin Davids, he wanted to launch his fashion label, he had done a phenomenal collection and when it was time for him to do the show, 9/11 happened. On the day of the show nobody came because everybody was scared. Subsequently, I had to leave New York myself after a while. I felt very sorry for him, but I give thanks to God for this, it has never been a sprint, life is a journey, no rush.
How do you get inspiration for your designs?
Men’s wear is cake for me, there’s really not much in men’s wear. Inspiration is natural, women’s work is where you need little brain work. To design menswear on paper for me is cake but the construction of menswear is more advanced than women’s wear. Our suits here are hand tailored, 80 per cent of the suits we have here are done by hand. It would last anybody that buys them for ages, in fact, the wearer can pass it to his children.
How price friendly are you?
I am very price friendly, based on the quality, you can’t give it away. I don’t think anybody would have any problems when it comes to the price, we have made it very affordable, we aren’t cutting people’s head off.
Why do you work alone in the design process?
I like perfection, so I like to do a lot of things myself. I arranged all the clothes here myself. I don’t even have time to teach people how to sketch.
So, you don’t look forward to having a fashion school?
Of course, I do. I need to be on the lips of everybody first, people have to know me, the school would come later. For now, I need to work and make FAW Couture a household name. At this point every single thing has to pass through my hands. There is no store you go to in the world that we cannot compare with, it’s a globally accepted standard. It’s a Nigerian brand but whatever you buy here and wear in Europe they would ask you where did you get it, if you tell them it was made by a Nigerian they would not believe you. All that takes time and energy with full concentration.
So, when you told your late dad you wanted to do fashion designing what did he say?
He was like you want to be like Gucci and Chanel. He was a very modern man, respect to his blessed memory. He was energetic, remarkable, enormous, he knew everything, there was no subject on earth he couldn’t take you up on. When I heard his approval it was enough for me, besides I already enrolled in school but he didn’t know. When he came to America, I took him to my school, he was like so they dedicated such huge building to fashion, so I explained to him there were photography students, jewelry, fashion merchandising. He prayed for me and said I would succeed.
What would you miss most about your dad?
Everything, he was larger than life. I didn’t know he could die. He was always in control of the family, he knew what was happening in Nigeria, in his business and even the family. He was like a spirit, he was my idol.
You got married about three years ago, how has married life been?
Very fine, I don’t talk about my family, marriage is a good thing.
How many kids do you have?
I have three kids.
Wow! Three kids in three years?
Yes, I am a machine.
In five years where do you see FAW Couture?
I want to be on the lips of many, I would be great and I know that God would grant my heart desires.
– TOSIN ODUMOSU