FOR Temitope Elemoso Bamgbose, Top Fashion boss, it’s a new life doing business in Nigeria. Having sojourned in the United Kingdom for seven years merchandising ready-to-wear clothes, she thought it’s time to come back home and make a name for herself in the fashion industry. Her fashion outlet on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos can now be described as the hottest one stop fashion centre for the young and young at heart.
Tope, who is the younger sister of Montai boss, Alhaja Tai Elemosho-Okesanjo opened up to ENCOMIUM Weekly on how the passion for fashion started and where she is headed.
When and how did the love for fashion start?
Since my days at the Lagos State University, where I studied Banking and Finance.
So, what attracted you to the business of selling ready-to-wear clothes and not a banker since you read a course related to banking?
I don’t think I would want to become a banker because while I was in the university my thought was to become an entrepreneur in fashion. While in school, I was the best dressed student, people came for me all over the place to tell me I dress very well. I was the first person that wore a rope sandal, short boots, they had never seen anything like that, that was about 10 years ago. And that’s just me and when I travelled, I thought it was a good idea for me to buy those clothes and sell them at affordable prices. I love shopping a lot and I said to myself I can make a living doing this.
Where did you get the idea of dressing very well?
I think it’s just a natural thing. For me, I just love good things, I love dressing well, wearing good clothes, I love telling people what to wear and what not to wear. I can tell you what to wear in a minute and you get it, that’s why my old and new customers can’t help but come back. Some of them come from Lekki, Lagos.
Being a fashion forward person, did you also hone your craft in any fashion related school?
While I was in the UK, I took a course at London College of Fashion. I did that for about a couple of years, because I stayed in the UK for like seven years. So, while I worked I took the fashion course alongside. I knew I was going to come back to Nigeria to do this as a full time business, so I decided to learn more about the craft and it really helped me.
So, when did Top Fashion actually start?
Top Fashion started in London. While there, I was selling clothes on the move, I created a website for myself and the response was big, people started referring me to friends and colleagues. I was getting very popular in London, I was making money from clothes selling and people knew me for what I was doing, so the whole thing started in London.
How did you choose the brand name?
From my name, Tope. In London, there is Top Shop which is one of the biggest fashion stores there. I thought I wouldn’t want to copy that, so I decided to go for Top Fashion and I think people like it.
When did you come back to Nigeria to start your business?
About seven months ago, May 2011. I also sold clothes from home and the way customers were coming impressed me, so I thought I should open this shop.
What is your unique selling point, how do you keep your clients coming back?
I think it’s the interpersonal interaction. Whenever I am with my customers, I provide solutions to their wedding needs, I give them what they want and they keep referring me to friends.
How affordable are your items?
If you enter any store in the UK, you will find something that suits your pocket. That’s the idea, we want our items to be affordable, it’s not about the huge gain, we want to make a name for ourselves maybe it’s because of the passion I have for the trade. I am not concerned about making huge profit from the business. You can come into my shop and pick up a N3,000 item. I have jewellery, accessories, sun glasses, under wears, there is something for everyone.
Where do you shop for those items?
From the United Kingdom, I intend to expand to other places.
What comes to your mind when you dress for an occasion?
I think it’s about whatever you want to wear, make sure it is comfortable and you are able to carry yourself. Carriage matters a lot in dressing, long or short clothes the way you carry yourself matters a lot. Sometimes it’s about the cloth but the charisma matters a lot. You can wear a cloth of N5,000 and look better than someone who is wearing more expensive clothe. It’s the charisma that separates you from others. I don’t dress to please people, once you have the taste for good things, people will love what you wear, even if you have little money whatever you wear will capture the interest of people, just be yourself.
Who designs your own clothes?
I don’t have a personal fashion designer, I just shop.
How do you think the experience you had in the UK will help you in this environment doing business?
I think with the experience I had in the UK, I am going to create an impression in the fashion industry. There is no better profit or gain doing what you know how to do best, whatever you have passion for, go for it. I have long time clients and they will keep coming back. It’s because they believe in me.
With the little time you have spent doing business in Nigeria, what are the basic challenges you have encountered?
Maybe trying to settle down, trying to enroll the children in school, paying rent, children school fees. There are many Nigerians out there in the UK, who are afraid to come back home but I said to myself, go ahead and do it, I have to come back home. What I discovered in Nigeria is that everything seem to be too expensive. In the UK, we don’t need to pay for the children school fees. For housing in the UK, it is mortgage but here in Nigeria you have to pay two years advance. It’s too much, if you want to rent a shop you pay for two, three years when you are supposed to be paying monthly.
But settling down shouldn’t be a problem for you since your elder sister, Montai is already on ground who can fix things for you?
My sister has really helped me. Most of the things I did without her knowledge they cheated me and when I told her she said this is not UK. So, whatever she tells me l listen.
What is the secret of your charming look even after two children?
I think it’s because I am a very creative person, an extremely hard working person. When I fall once, I rise 20 times. That’s the spirit. When I am on the internet I am doing business. My husband is very young so I have to keep in shape as well.
Tell us about your husband, is he also in Nigeria now?
His namei s Adediran Bamgbose, he was my course mate at LASU. We were in the same class and when we finished, we travelled to the UK, where we got married and had our children. He is also back in the country and we are already planning what he will do as a business.
– FOLUSO SAMUEL
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday,March 6, 2012