Idakwo Alfred is the executive officer of St Elles International, an Abuja-based fashion outlet that clothe selected individuals for luxury. The young designer speaks with Deborah Ocheni about his fashion philosophy, the trending tunic shirts, challenges fashion designers face and sundry issues.
What do you think of the trending tunic shirts?
Tunic is an everyday wear. Naturally, traditional wears look bulky so people do tunic because it’s easier to pair with any bottom and can be worn to any event.
Why do you choose to design for selected people?
I clothe for luxury and not everybody can afford luxury. What is your personal style? My style is simple, classy and attractive.
What do you think of details?
There are a lot of details many tailors don’t care about. Before you make an outfit for a client, you have to consider the person’s size, the cut and the finishing.
These are details that tailors don’t really care about but we care about it as professionals.
What really matters in fashion are fabrics, tailoring and finishing.
They are the things that distinguish you from other tailors.
What is your ready to go outfits?
Traditional wears because they make one to look unique.
Who is your best designer?
Which is your most preferred fabrics?
Cashmere because it’s classy and durable
Which accessories do you live for?
Watches and eye glasses
Do you have a signature perfume?
How do you love your shoes?
Simple but with a touch of gold because I’m a king
What will you never be caught wearing?
Clothes that are not starched because I like my clothes crispy
What determines what you wear?
How easily do you get fabrics in Nigeria?
It’s very easy because we have lots of importers here.
What informed the decision to go into fashion designing?
I have been an inventor right from when I was a child. I love fashion so much and at a point I found it so difficult to get my choice of clothes. Tailors don’t get my size and design perfectly, that was how I started making my wears; then I did not think of going commercial but at a point I decided to make fashion designing a career. The first two suits I made were made in Aba during my National Youth Service at Owerri in Imo State and eventually I won the best dressed corps member award for National Association of Catholic Corpers. After NYSC, I knew I could not work for anybody because I had my taste. Finally, I arrived at fashion designing after much thought and I was convince I could do it easily.
You have been in the business of fashion designing for a while now. How would you describe the experience so far?
It’s been so wonderful but very tasking as well. I’m a graduate of Mass Communication and I have never taken any course in fashion and designing but immediately after my Youth Service, I proceeded to doing fashion. I did fashion just to earn a living between 2010 and 2012 after which I decided to take it as a career.
What are you offering differently from other fashion designers?
The truth is whatever business you do is saturated, it takes creativity to stand out, I know St Elles is a brand right now because we take our job seriously, we take special care of details and designs. All the designs I create are a result of my imagination and inventive genius. That is what is keeping us in the business.
What inspires your various creations?
Everything; people, my environment and colour inspire me because I’m very imaginative.
Do you also design for women?
I’m not a copycat. I do unisex clothing that is English and traditional wears
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Accessibility to funds
What do you think government can do to assist young fashion designers?
Government should make it easier for SMEs to access loan because trends evolve daily and we need funds to be in business.
Do you think fashion can help in growing the economy of Nigeria?
Very well, fashion is entertainment, if you talk of the 10 richest people in the world, fashion designers are among them. It means if government invests in fashion they have nothing to lose.
Does your background influence who you are now?
Lion beget lion; my late father was a political hero and I chose not to do politics because of how it is played in Africa.