Good looking Debo Collins is the husband to celebrity lady, Toyin Collins who is behind popular and upscale Spa, Freshlook, at GRA Ikeja, Lagos. Beyond that, Collins is a fashion influencer, a successful businessman, notable politician and a top Lagos socialite. The Lagos born, in this interview with Wole Adepoju, opened up on a couple of interesting issues that include how he delved into the fashion world, met his wife and what has made their union great. He also spoke about his involvement in politics and service to humanity.
Aside the socialite status, who really is Honorable Debo Collins?
Let me start by saying Honorable Debo Collins is a very simple person, a grass root person from Lagos state, born and bred, and I am very passionate about the welfare of my people. I am also an entrepreneur with over twenty five years in business and in the hospitality sector in Nigeria, this is my thirteenth year. And prior to that, I was in the fashion industry. So, I have always been in the business field and also the political field.
Can you recall how life started for you, I mean after school?
I am more of a generation that saw a Nigeria that was functioning. When I left school in the early 80s, I had the opportunity of going to the United States and I spent about twenty five years there, but I have always had love for Nigeria, always had passion and believed everybody have to contribute their own quota. Having said that, I need to add that I am one who believes in hard work, be dedicated to what you choose to do, so, I am more of a selfmade person.
What was your growing up like?
Growing up for me, like I said, I witnessed when things were right. I was born at Island maternity, Lagos and I grew up in Surulere. Also, my formative years were in Ebute –Meta, Apapa road. I am a mainlander, both parents are from Lagos. My mother is from Lagos Island and my father is from Lagos mainland, so, both parents are Lagosians with a background in Ogun state.
My childhood was pretty stable. I went to Surulere Grammar School, from there to St. Finbars College and from there, to United States for my college.
And I can tell you my experience while growing up was of a middle class family, very stable family with a lot of love and sense of security.
It is obvious you are a fashion person, what attracted you into fashion business?
You see, in the 80s, fashion was a big thing and Lagos was the place that set the pace and there was a place in Lagos back then, if you are a fashionista, you must go there, which is Bristo. Back t h e n , American influence was very strong in fashion, music, entertainment industry was very strong then.
So, it was the matter of that influence and the generation that impacted me, so, I started my clothing line. I had my clothing stores in America and actually, I was the first black African that had a clothing boutique in the biggest mall in Los Angeles at that time, Upscale clothing line. It was the passion from growing up in Lagos.
So, fashion was just natural, it was part of me. And I also believe that the way you present yourself, the way you look and comport yourself, people would judge you by it, whether you like it or not. And you don’t get a second chance to make the first impression, so, your appearance matters.
Definitely, your character matters but people need to know you before they know your character. So, the first thing is your outwards appearance, so fashion is always been part of me. Although, I am not into fashion as a form of business right now but like you said (Referring to the reporter) when you see me, you will know this is a man that has style.
People who lived well in developed countries often find it hard returning home because of the situation of things here. What was the motivation for you to return?
That’s a very interesting question. You will see it that a lot of people find it very hard to make that transition. To me, if you spent more than ten years in any foreign country, you find it hard to come back, especially if you have established your family over there, and like you said, it’s a more stable and more structured society.
But the ultimate thing is, you must love your country. If you love your country, you will be able to accept the flaws and you will be willing to contribute your quota, because at the end of the day, if you don’t have that genuine patriotism of belonging, you won’t stay.
That is why a lot of people that come to establish businesses, the first three to five years will fail. It’s not because they didn’t come in with the right amount of money, it’s not because they don’t have the right business concept, it’s the mentality. You have to be mentally ready and stop comparing and stop criticizing. Look for solutions and look for how you can add value, and that’s what it takes. You have to be able to acclimatize and be committed.
In my own case, I knew failure was not an option and going back was not an option. If you make up your mind that ‘I am going to succeed’, you will. No doubt, there are challenges to encounter but when you understand what a society needs, then you know what to give.
As a politician, why have you not seek elective post despite your influence and ability?
I believe in serving and I believe you can serve at any level. You don’t necessarily have to hold public position to serve. I am very active in Lagos mainland, my constituency, my ward and I can tell you I am well liked with my grass root people. With the leadership, I am not controversial because I believe you should be humble and modest in what you do.
In politics, some people want appointments, some want elective offices, some want to be at the fore front but I believe as long as you can impact people, you have done your own quota. For instance, since the pandemic broke out, we have done a lot like giving palliative, educating about how to keep safe and the rest.
So you can serve in any level. If you mention politics, for some people, it’s a career but for some of us, it’s in built in us. So I don’t even think I need to be in any elective office, because every day to me, it’s service. And when you do it, people will appreciate you. People will recognize you, they will thank you. People will walk up to you and show you genuine love.
When I move around in my area which is Lagos mainland, all the way from Costain, Ebute Meta, I just move. I don’t have any body guard, I don’t have police protection and believe me, you see people calling and greeting me and I greet them. Some would even walk up to you to tell you they have this issue, this health issue, this situation, job and the rest, so, when you are a community grassroot person, that is politics.
Your wife is a socialite who is under the spotlight, does this have any negative effect on your marriage?
My wife. I would say I have a fantastic woman and partner. She’s my best friend, not just my wife. When you have someone as a friend, each of them would have individual personality. My wife is more down to earth and extremely friendly, she has her own career, she’s independent and I have what I do.
She let me be Debo and I am who I am. When you have equally yoked marriage or friendship, there is no issue that is bringing insecurity and nobody is trying to control anybody. It’s a marriage that is built on a very solid foundation and that’s why we are like best friends.
We laugh, we go out together. She’s is more involved in the social thing while I am more selective on who my friends are and where I go but she has always been like that. My wife has always been a socialite, someone that is out there and I have no issues with it.
Meeting each other, was it love at first sight?
It’s something that is a spark. I met her at an event. There is this magazine, City People, and they were having Christmas/end of the year party and I remember walking into the venue, Ebenezer Obey was performing. It was a nice event. Everybody was there, and I just looked across the hall and I said, who is that beautiful lady?
Everybody around me knew her but I didn’t and I remember sending someone. I said, when you get to that table, point at me and I would wave.
The young man got there, pointed at me and I waved and the rest is history. That was how we met and that’s how we became one. And since that day, she’s been a blessing. When you have a partner that you really get along with and you are friends, you will always enjoy it and feel good.
Marriage has up and down and we have had our fare share because as friends, we can withstand anything. That’s why I tell people that if you want to choose a partner, make sure they are your friends. Because if it’s just infatuation, physical attraction or outward attraction, or status based, it won’t last. The substance must be there. So, I can tell you we get along very well and I thank God for that.
What is your most cherished fashion accessory?
I love wrist watches. Wrist watches and shoes. I don’t want to sound like I am vain, I love shoes. I cant even tell you how many peers of shoes I have. I have a keen sense of dressing. The rest is very trendy, your watch is not trendy, and your shoes are not trendy. The shirt, the stripes, the color, all those can change but you can have a wrist watch for thirty or forty years.
You can have a shoe for ten years, twenty years.