29-year old Christiana Talabi shares inspiring story of how she started business with her mother's abandoned sewing machine

The Chief Executive Officer/Creative Director of Christal Wears, Christiana Talabi, 29, shares her experience as a fashion entrepreneur with ’FEMI ASU.

What do you do at Christal Wears?
Christal Wears is a clothing business. We design elegantly unique wears. Presently, our products are for females. We have ready-to-wear designs and our service includes designing bespoke bridals, corporate, casual and native outfits.
How has the journey been so far?

I started out in 2014 but officially last year. I can boldly say it has been challenging and I have learnt so much outside my little training. I have come to understand that the gift is in me. I have so much joy clothing people well. I am blessed to create; creating unique designs is my strength.
What informed your decision to start the business?
I have always been a fashion lover. I can spend the last money I have on clothes and shoes, but I have never dreamt of ever becoming a fashion designer. I studied Linguistics and I had interest in broadcasting. I wanted to be a television broadcaster. Although my mum was a fashion designer, she lost interest in it long time ago. She had a sewing machine in the house for decoration. I can never forget how restless I was in my hostel during my final year in school. I just had designs in my head; I tried to ignore them but I couldn’t. It all began with sketches as I felt I could sketch my designs and have tailors make them for me.
During my National Youth Service Corps year, I joined a tailor close to the Corpers’ Lodge after returning from the school where I was teaching. All she allowed me to do was to watch her. She asked if I could use a machine. Even though I couldn’t, I said yes. That was how I started my journey into fashion designing.
How do you create your designs?
Since I started fashion designing up until now, I don’t have a single design magazine. It was a challenge I gave myself to enable me to think and create my own designs; there are no rules to the achievement of my designs. I have had to go back to some designs if I want to make something similar to them; and that’s because I don’t know how I achieved most of them. I play with fabrics a lot. I try out new things even though not all of them suit my taste. I am motivated by my fabrics. I would know what to make with a fabric once I see it. My style is elegant and unique.
How do you cope with competition?
My take on this is ‘don’t wish your competition were dead’; just wish your business is better. Actually, competition is good for business. It makes you work and think harder, smarter and better. This is a good thing unless you’re a lazy person. Competition is also good for customers. It makes them feel more powerful, wanted and appreciated. You only get distracted when all you do is watch others when you are meant to be watched; make efforts to grow yourself while you encourage others. I am not competing; rather, I’m making my brand. If making my brand means competing, then maybe my brand is my competitor.
What difference do you want to make in the Nigerian fashion industry?
We have many good designers in Nigeria, but I will really like to address indecent appearance. I believe we are all naked and the essence of clothing is to cover up and beautify appearance. But we are derailing in that aspect. Fashion designers should know they are creators, they should be mindful of what they create. With my brand, I will beautify. If all designers think this way, the industry’s orientation will change.
How did you get the initial capital to start the business?
I started with my mum’s abandoned sewing machine. I saved my NYSC allowance to start the business. I have supportive parents.
What were the major challenges you encountered when you started?
At the start, I had issues with location. It wasn’t easy for clients to access me and that affected delivery.
Also, getting good tailors was, and is still, a challenge because I was afraid they won’t sew to my taste and clients might notice the difference.
What other challenges do you currently encounter in the business and how are you coping with them?

I wish this electricity issue had been dealt with. I just pray it’s something our government can do. We need electricity to work, but it’s not stable; so, we find alternatives such as working with manual machines and the likes.
Again, the fear of working with the wrong tailors is a challenge. Everybody wants to be a boss. Some tailors are not so good and you train them, only for them to run away. Presently, I do the major work myself, from cutting to sewing. I just hope we can have laws guiding every business in Nigeria. If there is a stage or level you must have attained in training before you can start a fashion business, maybe, all tailors and designers will be well-disciplined.
What has been the patronage of your service so far?
I can only bless God. Sometimes, I don’t take all orders. Presently, I need good tailors that can work well. We do online marketing on social media, and we’ve had countless referrals from satisfied clients.
What are your future plans for this business?
In the future, I hope to make Christal Wears a household brand, locally and internationally. I am passionate about clothing the needy too, which I have started doing already.

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