Victor Asiegbu, CEO of Toriflo design speaks on the Growth of Nigeria’s Hat Making Industry
Victoria Asiegbu is an engineer who has a passion for making hats.
As the creative director of Toriflo Designs, she has been in the fashion industry for over 9 years and millinery for 10 years.
She is married with three kids.
In this interview, she explains the growth of the hat making industry.
NOW, TELL US ABOUT WHAT INSPIRED YOUR JOURNEY INTO THE HAT MAKING BUSINESS?
While growing up we would always dress up, wearing hats to church and this continued right up till my university days and then I stopped because most of the time I would be the only one in the room wearing a hat. After graduation and returning home my love for millinery was rekindled, but on getting to the market to buy a new hat I couldn’t quite find one to fit my purpose, hence my millinery journey.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR CREATIVITY WHEN MAKING HATS?
Mostly nature. I feel inspired by the elements I see, so I use mostly naturally occurring materials like leather, sinamay and straw to work.
YOU ARE A TRENDSETTER IN MAKING FASCINATORS IN NIGERIA, HOW DID YOU ACHIEVE THAT?
By trying as much as possible to stay distinct and keep innovating. I keep finding new ways to get inspired and I never stop training and re-training myself.
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?
I wouldn’t say millinery is the western culture… decoration of the female head has always been a part of African culture. The gele or ichafu the women tie on their heads to weddings or church is also millinery. Now though we find new ways to bring the African culture into it by using African prints or asooke or akwete to create headwear and costumes.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED SO FAR IN RUNNING THIS BUSINESS?
Access to materials. Because of lack of accountability the cost of materials is high. Then I find myself limited to the things I find in the market. Most of the time I try to break this jinx by creating my own design tools like flowers and trimmings, just to get a desired look.
Another is getting the word out on social media. One needs to do a lot of advertising to increase insights and boost visibility and it could sometimes be time consuming, but in the end, always worth it
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT DETAILS TO PAY ATTENTION TO, IN ORDER TO EXCEL IN THIS BUSINESS?
I tell most of the milliners who cow for training, that everyone is doing millinery as a business today because they believe it is in vogue, but what should make you stand out is your attention to detail. That, above all else should be your trademark. Like whenever someone sees your work anywhere they should recognise it as “your” brand.
So your finishing should be your trademark.
SO, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO CARVE A NICHE FOR YOURSELF, DESPITE THE COMPETITION OUT THERE?
We are still carving really, looking for those who love contemporary African design. Those who want to look distinct. We search everyday.
A YOUNG FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OUT THERE IS THINKING OF FOLLOWING YOUR FOOT STEPS, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL HER?
The challenges are numerous. There will be many sleepless nights. Always find reason never to let go and whenever you get to that point, remember why you started in the first place, pick up and keep moving.
To follow this lagos based designer on Instagram @toriflodesigns