Mariam Afolabi, the beautiful lady whose business ideology stands her out amidst her contemporaries, is the daughter of one of Nigeria’s tycoons, Taiwo Afolabi, the CEO of Sifax Group. She recently launched her multi-million naira fashion store inside Lekki Phase 1, Lagos. The complex called The Style Café comprises a fashion label, Mademoiselle Aglaia, a unisex salon, a beauty parlour, a spa and an eatery where local and intercontinental foods are served.
A graduate of law, Mariam is presently in Law School, getting ready to complete her law programme. But just like her father, who is a lawyer as well as a businessman with tentacles in various sectors, Mariam has imbibed the gift of multi tasking from him as well, necessitating her one stop fashion and beauty arcade.
What motivated you into fashion?
I have been a lover of art since childhood. I like working with fabrics. From there, I moved into fashion. I loved using fabrics in expressing myself and my artistic line.
For how long have you been planning projects like this?
We started small. I think we started in 2010. From then, we had big plan of establishing a place but I was schooling abroad. So, I never had time but now I have moved back to Lagos.
So, what were the challenges so far as a fashion designer?
To be honest, I think everyone has his personal challenges. I think it’s just making sure you are getting what people want. You can have ideas of what you want but nobody wants to wear it. So, it’s about knowing what your customer wants. It’s not easy to know what people want to wear, especially when you’re not based in Nigeria.
At The Style Café, you have Spa spot, barbing salon and a boutique and all that, do you do everything?
Everything here is attached to my whole family not just me, but obviously, I came to the table with the idea of my fashion house and we were like let’s get a place where everybody can bring ideas. So, my sister, my brother, my mom, my dad we all came together to do this. It’s not just me, it’s all of us together.
Looking at the location of your business, one would assume your products would be very expensive.
If you go inside, they’re very affordable. Have you gone inside to take a look? We are not trying to rip off anybody. Obviously, we have to add our own margin; I can’t just give you at the same amount I made it.
You do both male and female dresses, don’t you feel threatened with the likes of Mudi and Yomi Casual and Vans Kere in your line of business?
I don’t feel threatened. In every market, especially fashion business, it cannot be monopolized. It is a business whereby if you have an idea you can come into it. Today, I may get tired of always going to one person and decide to move to another. Nobody wears the same designer only.
If you look into your wardrobe, you have different designers, so, I don’t feel threatened. What I do most times is to praise them and say oh, their stuff is really nice which I hope they do the same to my products.
How do you keep your skin looking radiant and what are your daily routine like?
When I wake up, I pray. If I am motivated that day, I walkout in the morning, then I just get straight to work.
You’re a beautiful young lady who has friends who would love you to hangout with them. How do you manage your friends without affecting your business?
I don’t have so many friends but when it comes to fun, weekends is time for fun. From Monday to Friday everyone has to work and when it is Saturday, Sunday, I can make myself available. Meanwhile, my friends are busy people too. We are all trying to work towards a certain goal. So, I don’t have friends who just want to party all day or hang out all day.
What do you do at your leisure and how do you catch your fun?
I hang out with my friends, I play my guitar.
You play guitar?
So, we should be expecting you to sing one day?
What is your favourite perfume?
My favourite perfume is called Hanako and we sell it in the shop as well. It’s like Arabic and French fusion, it has a very peculiar smell and we have different Arabic oils and we mix them here as well to get our own scent that we really want.
What will be your utmost advice for anyone who is coming into the business?
You have to know who your customers are. You can’t just open a new business and think you’re going to be successful. You must consider the risk involved and how to manage it. As for us, our aim is to keep every customer that steps into the building because we make sure they get everything they want.
What is the lowest price of an apparel here?
I think it is a top and it costs N6,500.
What is the advice you have for the up and coming fashion designers?
They should be creative and continue to put out good materials, they shouldn’t give up, they should keep pushing and they should just be prayerful.