YOUNG and enterprising cloth maker, Clement Effanga, is the MD/CEO of one of the leading cloth making companies called Clemas Garment Company. He spoke on how his love for looking good made him establish his own clothing factory in Nigeria and other related issues.
For the benefit of those who don’t know you, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Clement Effanga, MD/CEO of Clemas Garment Company Ltd. We are into garment manufacturing, branding and fashion merchandising.
How long has Clemas Garment Company been in existence?
If you look at the Clemas logo, you will see underneath it since 2000. The idea has been there since 2000. The first item that came out of the stable of Clemas was made in 2000, but officially we had our first factory that could cater for the needs of the public in 2005. However, you want to put it, we have been existing since because it has been an incubating process. We have been perfecting our strategies on how to hit the market because Clemas will not want to come out and not be accepted in the market. Now, we are ready to come up to define what we are doing to the public and how we can identify with whoever is interested in identifying with us based on the fact that we make quality items.
What are those challenges you went through before you established your company?
From my background and research, I want to tell you that the smallest factory in China will cost about a million dollars to set up and to also understand the fact that China has probably everything from electricity, network, cheap labour now, if they have all these and they are going to be needing at least a million dollars to set up a standard factory, come to imagine the kind of challenges that we have to fact right here. Our economy is one that probably does not have anything to offer to the manufacturing sector. Industries are folding up by the day. Of course, we had to buy machines, we need constant light to run those machines, we need manpower, how do we get these? How do we run the machines without light? We need diesel and generator, and not just any kind of generator, we need generator that will be able to stress itself as much as 24 hours non-stop. We also need funding. Of course, we have to understand the fact that an average Nigerian does not want to stress themselves. They will always want short cut to a means so we had to tackle that. As I speak with you, it is still an ongoing process but ultimately, we are out to exceed low standard, that is why we are having this kind of product come out of a Nigerian clothing company.
Have you been given approval by Standard Organisation of Nigeria?
As it is right now, we don’t have that kind of approval per se, we are still filling the papers to get that approval because like I told you before now, we had been underground, we have been trying to perfect everything. We have had overwhelming response from the public, of course, who is the public? The public creates standards. However, if the public accepts your brand that means your brand will be accepted anywhere. Our brand have successfully sat side-by-side with internationally known labels and you will probably not differentiate which is from Nigeria and wherever.
What is new about Clemas Garment Clothing?
On July 5, 2009, we would be having an event around Adekunle Fajuyi Way, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos and we are using the avenue to launch our designs for 2009 in catalogue and it will be given out for free to every customer that walks into the store to purchase an item and also, we will be launching our 2009 vintage look collection and our range of polos. We are going to be showcasing a lot of blazers that before now excluded the public and it is going to be wonderful.
Are your clothes meant for the malefolk alone?
No, we make clothes for both sexes. We make virtually everything except leather products for now. We make bridals, shirts, polo, pants, jackets, blazers and suits, even bow ties.
What has been your unique selling point?
Looking at the business setting in Nigeria, you will understand the fact that people don’t want to go to a tailor’s shop because they are scared of being disappointed. We have to look at it this way, how do we actually get our market share and not be like the regular clothing label out there. Are we going to be making ready-to-wear items and display them on our racks? Are we going to meet those customers out there to take their measurement, come back to the factory to show them the fabrics, that is not being done. That is called bespoke tailoring. If you look outside this country, an average citizen doesn’t wear bespoke items because it costs a lot. But we had to break the market by offering what we can afford. Of course, let’s take our operation to be 100 per cent, 30 per cent will be for ready-to-wear items for people that are in a hurry because we want to capture all the segment of the market and 70 per cent will be concentrated on effort to meet people one-on-one, identify their needs, taking measurements, showing them fabrics and also producing to suit their taste at their price.
What fabric do you make use of majorly?
We make use of 100 per cent cotton for our shirts. Of course, for the suit range and for the blazers range, we make use of three kinds of fabrics. For the purpose of this interview, I will categorise them into two. We make use of 100 per cent traditional wool for our suits, we also make use of wool with the combination of any other material like lycra, etc.
How do you get these materials considering the fact that the federal government wants to promote our local materials?
The government of this country still has a lot to do in terms of that. If they want us to use fabrics locally sourced, they should be able to give the textile industry a conducive environment to set up factories that will be able to cater to the needs of people like us. We are in a global economy and if we can’t use what people elsewhere are using then what is the essence of wanting to set up the standard to compete locally and globally? You also know that the importation of fabrics has been banned, we still source for our raw materials within the market as it were. Also, we have international partnership with organization ultimately, we are using these products here and we also export and with the laws of the land, it is allowed that if we are going to be exporting some of the items, you could actually source items from the country you want to export to. So, we have being using that as a strategy, bringing in materials to use.
Has there been increase on the part of your clients and income ever since you started?
Right from inception, it is expect that you will always have a client. As you go on, there is always a repetitive process. One client tells one, one tells two and it is like a pyramid. Before you know it, you are up there. At a point, you get to find out that if you started with one, eventually you might have a hundred. Now, at that point, you start defining your market. Now, we have been able to define our market to an extent and we know people who actually need our product. People that have a unique clothing needs and we are actually targetting them. We have a lot of such clients and they are happy with what we give them.
Who are your clients?
I will not want to mention names but we actually make items for top CEOs of banks, CEO of media and right now we have one of them as our brand ambassador.
Looking at fashion, what is your definition of style?
Style itself doesn’t have boundaries. Everybody is an icon of style depending on how your mindset is at whatever point in time. But ultimately, look good and let people comment on whatever you have on.
If you were not a clothe maker, what would you have been?
Actually, I read Chemistry and I wanted to travel out, I was in love with computer softwares. Probably, I would have being one of such too. I love sports too.
Can you tell us the schools you attended?
I went to Lagos State University, I did pre-degree in 1999-2000 and I got into year one in 2001, I started my clothing career in 2001.
In the next few years, where are we going to see Clemas Garment Company?
Clemas as a brand would have being a household name. We are looking at taking clothing market globally. Just last week, we shipped some items to US and UK. In August, we are sponsoring the Black Face of UK, we are going global and by the grace of God, we will get there.
Are you married?
No, I am single but I have a family that is caring and very loving.