FAIR skinned Alero Fafowora, is arguably one of the best designers in Nigeria. Though, she is not the loud type but her works speak volume. She is currently working on a new brand, Heych, which will hit the market soon. She is also among the few designers representing Africa at the Summer Olympics in London. ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with her about her designs, her new brand and much more.
It’s been a while we heard from Hallero, what has been happening to you?
We have been operating, doing what we have always been doing but recently we are diversifying. We are introducing a new brand, it is called Heych. The word was gotten from Hallero. The purpose for Heych is to create a cheaper brand, where most people can come in and have a feel of what we are doing.
What about quality control, are you assuring people they will get the same quality at a cheaper rate?
Oh yes, same quality, if not better. We are kicking off in a couple of weeks, though we have been producing for the goodies for a year now. Customers can walk in and get their stuffs at a cheaper price.
Can you refresh our minds with the goals you set out to achieve this year for your outfit?
Our one stop shop is one of the goals. I have been planning it for the past two, three years. When I started planning, it was as if it wouldn’t come to pass, thank God we are almost done. It is not just clothes, it includes accessories, jewelry, slippers, all for men and women. That has been the major focus.
What has been the pains and gains in the last eight years?
Eight years is a long time. The greatest problem most entrepreneurs face is work force, we need reliable workers. If that can be in place, there will be more achievement in the industry. Power is also a great problem, it has been there for years and it is as if it is getting worse. We are a developing country, we should grow in that aspect as well. At times, it kills your drive. At least, in a month we spend up to N400,000 on diesel alone. The gain is basically seeing people wear my outfit. Fine, we all need money but the joy is from the satisfaction my clients get from our service.
What has been your staying power in the past eight years?
I have a passion for what I do. I am not doing it because others are doing it. I am not doing it because I feel like. If you have a passion for something, that passion keeps you moving, no matter the odds. This is what I have always wanted. Like I said, it is a thing of joy when I see my wears on people. I still want the name to keep glowing and I know it will for a long while.
Would you say the recession in the economy is affecting your business?
In a way, yes. It is not only fashion, it is everywhere, only if one doesn’t want to be sincere. We pray it picks up soon. That is what I tell people, no matter what comes your way, it is only a stepping stone, you will overcome it. We can’t say because the economy is like that you will now abandon your country, even if you do, the recession is not only in Nigeria alone. It is everywhere. So, where else will you run to?
What is the preparation process prior to designing a dress?
When I want to design, I don’t need to go through any preparation, I get my inspiration from anything around me. I just sketch. I don’t prepare. The only time that I plan is when a client comes in and wants something very special. So, that will depend on who I am doing the outfit for, what they want, I will look at them and the material. For the making aspect, I have made it a point of duty to cut all the clothes they make, I cut for my tailors and assign them jobs according to their specialty.
How many staffers do you have?
At the moment, we have like 25.
What happens when a client doesn’t like what you designed for her?
Yes, it happens. There is a saying that customers are always right. No matter what you want to give them sometimes, they might not want what you give them. So, you have to listen to them and do as they want. So, we make amends and give them what they want. We try to make them happy.
What can Hallero offer that other designers can’t?
I believe that my strength lies in my cut, that is why I do my cut myself. Nobody can cut for me. Most of my works are not flamboyant but when you wear it, it sits well on you.
Presently, what is Hallero working on?
We are representing Nigeria in the London Summer Olympics. We are doing some traditional outfits, basically ethnic attires. We have a stand over there and we will be there throughout the event. The other one is our new brand, Heych.
Do you try to send out a message or theme in your clothes?
Oh yes, when you see my wears, you will identify them as my handiwork. They have my signature.
So, what’s in vogue?
Colourful things are in vogue, military styles are also in vogue in terms of style, combatant, ash, abstract, sculpture stuffs are in vogue.
What will you tell somebody who wants to start this kind of business?
Do they have an idea, do they have the right training in the field. My advise is that no matter how little, they must have knowledge of what they want to do. They have to be on top of their game, they have to be a step ahead of whoever is working for them, you have to be on top of your game. Then you must have your resources, don’t wait till you have millions, start from that little stage and learn by the day.
Does a woman need a lot of money to dress well?
No, I believe looking good and dressing well is all about taste and class. Two people might wear the same thing but it will look different on them. It all depends on how you package yourself.
What is the hallmark of a good designer?
The finishing, creativity, everything counts. If you have a very creative piece but a poor finishing, everything will look tacky, even if you are not too creative but you have a good finishing, I will still give you credit. You are coming from somewhere and there is room for improvement. For anybody to be able to build on any foundation, you must have something you are building on.
Is it hard being a designer?
That question is very difficult for me because initially I thought you must be able to design before you become a designer. But now, almost everybody is designing even though they don’t have a clue. For me, I am on top of my game, I enjoy what I do so it is not difficult being a designer but for some it can be pretty difficult.
What are your expectations for Hallero?
I believe the sky is the limit. It all depends on what comes your way.
- SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN
This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, July 17, 2012