By Victor Akuma
Unemployment remains a big issue in Nigeria, no doubt. But those worst-hit are youths who are mostly still stuck to the fast-fading and seemingly unrealistic orientation of just going to school to acquire certificates.
Not for Onyekere Ifeanyi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Outlinefashions, though. A graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in Enugu State; Ifeanyi, known by friends as Mandela, understands the importance of certificate and skill to function in the contemporary world.
This understanding inspired Outlinefashions, a fast-growing company, based in Enugu, South Eastern Nigeria.
ln this chat with CRISPNG, Ifeanyi talks about his foray into the fashion landscape and why Nigerian youths must embrace entrepreneurship.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Onyekere Ifeanyi Chris. I’m currently a fashion designer based in my state, Enugu. I own Outlinefashions which was founded in 2018.
What is ‘Outlinefashions all about?
Outlinefashions is a fashion house so passionate about making people look unique in their fashion sense. In this 21st century, it’s been accentuated that you are addressed the way you are dressed, more so how simply. We believe that African wears are not different from those of other continents. One day, we believe, those born wearing coats and suits would wear African made attires because of efforts put in making them neatly and uniquely.
We sew, we sell fabrics and other fashion accessories such as broche, ties, belts, wristwatches, footwear, and so on. Economically, and as a sort of our social responsibility, we train individuals to become independent through entrepreneurship.
CRISPNG understands you studied mass communication, what birthed the idea of fashion designing?
Hahahaha. Yes. Well, it’s been in my mind since I was in secondary school. My aunt who is also a fashion designer influenced me very much with her elegant and creative designs. My mum is a civil servant but she sews part-time. I’m always thrilled to see how straight, plain materials are put together to give people this touch of panache. When I was a little younger, I used to sew with hand-needles.
Meanwhile, fashion is also one of the ways we communicate. We communicate our feelings, mood, situations, time, weather with fashion. And mass media is glamourised by fashion. They work hand-in-glove.
How long have you been into the fashion business?
Immediately I left the university in 2016. My apprenticeship ran from late 2016 to the middle of 2018 when I went for national service. So, 2018 is the year I started officially.
What does it take to be a fashion designer and when did you learn the skill?
The passion is the first thing just like in every other trade. Then, you need consistency. You learn how to be easy on yourself when you make mistakes. Learn how to correct or convert your mistakes to creativity. Then, learn from someone who is good. This could cost you some money and time, but it’s worth it. You’ll cover up your costs sooner.
Are there some prominent people you have made clothes for before now?
Well, every of my customer is prominent to me. It’s the same money everyone pays. I’d rather want to believe that there are some prominent designs I’ve made.
How much have you made in this line of business?
Well, it’d be difficult to calculate that now. But one thing for sure in this line of business is that you don’t run empty pockets for long. If you have good skill of whatsoever type, people and money would always locate you.
Is fashion designing your mainstay or do you have other side hustles?
Fashion designing has been one of the few things I’ve been doing for so long. Once I learn one thing, I want to learn another thing. Aside from fashion designing, I sing, I’m currently learning how to do graphic designs, there was a time I wrote for some online news outlets till time started choking on me, and I do corporate MC. All of them na hustle o.
What are some of the challenges facing you as a young entrepreneur?
First, the tools for work. In fashion designing, you need a lot of machines and tools to be ahead of the game. And most of them are quite expensive.
Secondly, obtaining financial aid from people and government is not easy. How I wish government could look at people with skills and aid them. These ones employ a lot of people not just themselves.
Another challenge is power supply. You have to use the money for machines to buy generator, then, almost half of the money made is spent on fuel. Again, people usually don’t trust you at first. However, with time and test, this is phasing out.
We’ve come a stage in our national journey where skills are gradually beginning to gain more spotlight than certificates. How do you think present day students can strike a balance between the two to be relevant in the society upon graduation, especially considering our rising unemployment statistics?
I once wrote a post that went viral on Facebook: “Before you graduate, ensure you learn a skill even if you have that NNPC job waiting for you”.
The private sector drives the economy. All that the government needs to do is provide the conducive atmosphere, not providing jobs per say. Your being educated adds to your knowledge, exposure and connection. Don’t just go to school so that you’d come out and start searching for job except if you want that to be your job. Most millionaires are entrepreneurs. And I believe everyone is blessed with a skill or more. Find yours and hone it.
What is your advice to youths who are yet to take that bold step you have taken in your choice of career?
The economic situation of our country lies on the shoulders of the youths. You can make it on your own. Learn a skill today it might be your source of livelihood tomorrow. This is where you stand to determine the price. Skills speak volumes more than anything else. Everyone must not work for the government or a company. Find joy in building from the scratch, you’d understand the foundation better. It’d take only your effort.
However, I’d want to say that ‘bold-step’ isn’t just for entrepreneurship. Take bold step in whatsoever your doing especially in the learning process.