Oluseyi Bejide Sholaja, CEO of Soye Creations and Millinery reveals the Evolution of Hat Making Business in Nigeria
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR CREATIVITY WHEN MAKING HATS?
When making a hat or headpiece my inspiration first of all comes from God, then I also get inspired by what’s envoque at that moment all trending, things around me, my environment, themes of weddings or parties, even my children and also my husband inspire me at times.
YOU ARE A TRENDSETTER IN MAKING FASCINATORS IN NIGERIA, HOW DID YOU ACHIEVE THAT?
I achieve being a trendsetter in making fascinators and hats in Nigeria but thinking ahead with the trends and what’s envogue around the world of hat making, I tried to come up with new designs and not to do copy and paste of other hats and fascinator designs out there. Even when a customer brings a design for me to do or I see another design that inspires me I always add a lot twist and a different concept to that design thereby creating a whole new design
LOOKING AT OUR TRADITION IN NIGERIA, THE IDEA OF WEARING HATS OR FASCINATORS, IS THE WESTERN CULTURE, SO HOW DO YOU INFUSE THE AFRICAN STYLE?
If you look back in the olden days during the 60s to 80s, our great grandmother’s and grandmothers always had aform of headwear when going out for special occasions (Church services, weddings ,parties, naming ceremony) even to pay a visit to a neighbour nearby and it was applicable to all parts of Nigeria so head covering and headwear is not new to Nigeria,
How I infuse African style to the Western culture is by using the traditional materials to make hats and fascinators and headpieces. The South western part of Nigeria where I come from I make use of our traditional Aso oke to make hats and fascinators that comes out beautiful and I also use the Aso oko to make ready-to-wear which is also a form of hats,i also use our local fabric Ankara to make hats and fascinators and ready to wear turbans,scarfinators by infusing Western cultures using flowers, feathers, trimmings and other accessories to create beautiful pieces
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED SO FAR IN RUNNING THIS BUSINESS?
The challenges that I have are quite numerous, the number one challenge is trend of hats and fascinators fading out which happened in 2003-2004 when I just started in the business after like two years the trend of wearing hats and fascinators faded out for a while and a different trend came in so business dropped and because of that I could not keep up with the business aspect and I had to go into other things but thank God the trend is back and in full Force.
Another challenge is unavailability of materials you need at the particular time sometimes when I have a particular design in mind the materials to make the design will be unavailable in the market and I have to make do with materials available thereby creating a whole new design out of what I wanted.
Another challenge is sometimes you have to look for alternative source of power supply thereby inquiring additional expenses which always reduce the profit margin of the business.
Another challenge is having people pricing your work low because of people doing low quality out there
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT DETAILS TO PAY ATTENTION TO, IN ORDER TO EXCEL IN THIS BUSINESS?
The important details to pay attention to are quality of materials used, improved and detailed designs, neatness of your work, your work always has to be very neat.
SO, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO CARVE A NICHE FOR YOURSELF, DESPITE THE COMPETITION OUT THERE?
As an experienced milliner, I’ve come to understand the need for continuous learning and advancement in this industry. These 18 years of my career I’m proud of the advanced skills and training I’ve been able to gather which has outright given me the edge over my competition and set the stage for me to distinguish myself and thus my brand by focusing on fantasy and alternative inspired headwears at the most affordable prices that appeals to fashionistas and style driven women across every spectrum
A YOUNG FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OUT THERE IS THINKING OF FOLLOWING YOUR FOOT STEPS, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL HER?
I will tell her she has to first of all have a strong passion for hats and fascinators and then the has to acquire the necessary training/ knowledge about the craft then the sky will only be our limit.