FORMER TV girl, Eyiyemi Pratt-Rogbinyin has come a long way as a designer. Though she studied architecture at the University of Jos, her talent and passion for designing kept her off what she studied to pursue her dream.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with her about her fashion house, Olivia Concept, married life, days spent as a broadcaster and much more.
It’s been a while we heard from you, where have you been hiding?
I have not been hiding, I have just not been in the public eye. Sometimes, you need a break. Life is a bit more real than the social life of Lagos.
So, what has been happening to Olivia Concept?
Olivia Concept is in the process of restructuring, there are a lot of things we didn’t put in place from the beginning. So, we are trying to do all that now so that the business can transcend me, which is what every good business person should do.
It seems marriage has kept you off the scene?
No, I have only gotten out of the public eye. I don’t know why people say that. I left TV before I got married. I stopped going out two years before I even met my husband, so it is not marriage. In fact, my husband is pushing me out now, telling me that I should start going out. That people know me, there is no need to hide.
How will you compare business since you kept yourself from the social scene, isn’t it affecting you business wise?
No, it has not. Generally, business has its bad and good days. They said that I shouldn’t be negative. Business is challenging anywhere in the world and we just pray we can continue to do better jobs. One impression most female have is that, if they have money they can run a business. That is not true. We need good structures in place, we need to put things in place that can make our business run without us. A lot of us don’t do that. Like I said, that is the process I am going through now. Structure the business so that it can run without you.
What informed the change in hairstyle?
My hair has been natural for seven years. I just used to try and weave it, do one or two styles. I hate going to the salon. I have always hated doing that. As much as people say natural hair is difficult to maintain, it is not. It is amazing how easy it is to maintain. I wash my hair myself every week. I twist it when I am going out. I just loose it, that is all.
How will you describe married life?
Married life is actually very interesting. We women are more honest with each other because of all these girl power thing. A lot of women don’t care so much about the marriage institution again. For me, the fundamentals of marriage are deeply embedded in the Bible. No matter how high you are up there, your husband is in charge of the home. Whether you like it or not, you have to respect him. If you do not respect him, you can’t progress. Life will give you a lot of experiences, it is now left for you to take a lesson from it and implement it so that you don’t make the same mistake all over again. That is very, very important.
What is the best thing about being a designer?
I keep saying that I am not a designer, people have told me not to say that again. So, we should leave it at that. The best thing about being a designer is seeing the cloth transform from just five yards of fabrics to an absolutely beautiful dress on the client and the client feeling happy. No matter how good you are, if your clients are not happy, you have not done anything.
Do we see you going back to TV?
Yes, I am working on it but more of radio than TV.
Why do you prefer radio to TV?
I think radio is more life. I have connected to more people on radio than TV. You can be yourself on radio. In front of the television camera, a lot of people are not themselves.
What memorable moment of the broadcasting days do you still hold dear to you?
There is nothing like being a star in quote. It is good when you walk down the street and you see people saying hello to you. For me, that is a plus. If they don’t like you, they wouldn’t say hello. Also, working with the dynamic duo, Kenny and D1, that was fantastic for me. They taught me a lot, not only about broadcasting but about life itself.
What do you miss about broadcasting?
Honestly, I really don’t miss anything. I still have my fans, I am one of those people who can walk down the street with my shorts, a scarf on my head and my spaghetti and people will still walk up to me and say, ‘Are you not Eyiyemi Pratt?’ So for me, it is like I haven’t been gone. I am not really missing anything.
You were a tomboy?
I am still a tomboy. I only wear all these because I am making clothes. I have to show that I am versatile. That is why I wear a lot of dresses now. But I am still a tomboy at heart.
Aside your designs, whose designs do you wear?
I can’t say that I wear anybody’s design. I see a lot of designs that I admire, especially from the new and upcoming. I don’t go out and buy things. It is easier for me to make my clothes myself.
What is your comment about the fashion industry, a lot of designers are springing up every day. Do you think the industry is getting over-saturated?
We are hundred and fifty million people, how can the industry be saturated? Nigeria is a small place, there is no way at all. I think it is good, because it will boost our economy. A lot of people will be self-employed. They will also be able to employ more people. The only thing I wish is that we should work together as one. We are a much more formidable force when we are all under one umbrella than when we are scattered. I am sure if you ask any upcoming designer, they don’t have an idea what FADAN is. They are not even members.
How visible is the fashion industry to Nigeria’s economy?
A lot of people here sew their clothes. Whether you have money or not, there is a tailor or a designer in quote at every street corner who can make your clothes. They are all contributing to the growth of the economy. People will always wear clothes and people will always eat.
If you want to change something about the industry, what will it be?
That we will unite and stop thinking that if we help the upcoming ones, we are less of who we are. The more you give, the better you are. Let us unite, it is giving, let us be one. Let us take the industry together. We will all enjoy the benefits, much more than when we try to do it ourselves.
How do you draw your inspiration when you want to design?
First, the client I am working for because no matter how creative you are, if you do something and the clients don’t like it, that is the end of your creativity. Second, the fabric does a lot for me. If a client comes with a fabric, after getting a design, I can change my mind completely about the fabric if I think it wouldn’t go with the design.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, February 21, 2012