The Nigerian fashion industry will ever be agog with the story of how, a couple of years back, Deola Ade-Ojo Sagoe, the Nigerian born international designer lost some of her tailors to Fati Asibelua, the super-rich Abuja based businesswoman. Deola Sagoe needs little or no introduction. She is the lady who o wns Oodua Creations, the award winning fashion outfit which is situated in Lagos. Over the last decade, Deola has helped to put Nigeria on the world map, through her designs and creations. It goes without saying that she is the most famous designers in Africa today. And she has multiple awards to show for this very lofty achievement. Fatima on the other hand, is an enterprising businesswoman who has vested interest in various fashion ventures. She owns Exquisite Fabric, which is located on IBB Way, Maitama, Abuja. She also has a fashion outfit called House of Momo. Fati once veered into
publishing, and she published Sleek Magazine International, the now rested glossy style magazine, which was easily comparable to any international magazine, in size and quality. She also owns Sleek Studio, a style consulting firm and a grooming label. However, of all her business ventures, Fati is most synonymous with Exquisite Fabric.
Investigations made by us, revealed that what happened between Deola and Fati can best be described as poaching. It is pertinent to add that there is no rule guiding against poaching among fashion designers. Besides, it is not an unusual occurrence within and outside the fashion industry. However, poaching is usually frowned at and it is considered as being very degrading, as it exposes whoever indulges in it to outright ridicule.
A close source disclosed that Fati had had cause to patronise Deola Sagoe on one or two occasions. Moreover, some of her friends do patronize her on a frequent basis. One of her friends was said to have made the contact which culminated in the mass exodus of Deola’s tailors. It was this lady that Fati used to get the tailors to leave their former place of employment. It was gathered that Deola was away abroad, for a fashion show when the poaching activity was being carried out. Quite interestingly, Fati was reported to have dangled mouth watering offers, in luring the tailors, and they could hardly resist these offers. For instance, Fati was alleged to have bought Deola’s Head Cutter an official car, in addition to getting him an apartment in Abuja. She also accommodated the other tailors in as well.
Interestingly tough, when Deola eventually came back and learnt of what happened, she was undaunted about the whole episode. And within a few days, she travelled down to some Francophone countries and recruited more tailors. Those who are quite familiar with the iconic fashion designer explained that she gets most of her tailors from these French speaking countries, because she believes they are well grounded in the art of designing Parisian oriented couture. Now what Deola has going for her is her creativity. She is known to be the engine room of her labels. She designs all her outfits, and she strives to come up with new creations and innovations as well. And in Nigeria today, it is not so much how good your tailors are, but how much of creativity that goes into the making of the designs.
This is an edge which Deola Sagoe seems to have over most other designers. And quite unlike most Nigerian designers, Deola hardly ever makes the same designs twice. But most designers are always quick to duplicate her designs. Fortunately for her, none of the poached workers is a designer. They were mostly cutters and tailors. Had this poaching act been done on a fashion designer who is not grilled in the rudiment or nuances of the business entails, it would have crashed such business. Predictably, We gathered that just as Deola refused to lose a sleep over the poaching act, so has she lost any sleep over the issue of clientele. Rather, she has been churning out more, new designs. On the other hand, Fati’s fashion outfit, House of Momo, initially, churned out some of Deola’s old designs to her clients, she later adjusted and has made some improvement on her works. However, even after many years since the feud occurred, the two fashion designers have refused to mend fence and resolve their differences.
By: Abeke Olabode