Bold, provocative designs and colours are some of the hallmarks of ZAZAII, a new total lifestyle store in upscale Victoria Island, says FUNKE OSAE-BROWN.
The building that houses ZAZAII on Balarabe Musa Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria stands out of the pack. Seated on a couch in the sprawling store is Isoken Ogiemwonyi, the creative director, ZAZAII. She warmly welcomes me into her store as we sat down to chat for thirty minutes.
Isoken’s tenacity endeared me to her a couple of years ago when I first encountered her pieces as an editor at BusinessDay at the time. I admire her courage to start her own fashion label, Obsidian, which has now metamorphosed into a retail store, ZAZAII.
“ZAZAII,” she tells me, “is the global address for shopping established and emerging African fashion, lifestyle and beauty. It is the next step. We are creating a store where brands can build a following and have steady sales or in the case of more established brands, want more distribution points.”
It is a retail store where you can discover an ultra-modern line of more than fifty well-known and emerging fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands from House of Tara, to JLabel, Toju Foyeh, Obsidian, Eve And Tribe, Things Nigerians Love, Kamokini among others.
She says she is inspired to start ZAZAII when felt the need to expand her line. “My line was called Le Space. The initial plan was to give fashion designers the time and the opportunity to be more commercial. As a designer in Nigeria I found that it seemed like a futile effort because you find out Nigerian fashion designers are doing lone stuff. You discover that you have one person here another there. It is for this reason we started Le Space. We wanted to do something bigger, something with a more contemporary focus.”
Part of her move is also to discover and showcase new local fashion brands. “We drive discovery of new brands, and visibility for existing brands. We are showcasing the brands that we really, really believe in. We also made options for self-made designs. We made our options a lot more refined. If we love a brand we go for it because we really believe we can sell it. We conceptualise it for the consumer and pick designers that we thing they will like.”
Isoken explains some of the dresses, sunglasses, bags and footwear she stocks are handmade and sourced for locally. “We have a variety of designers. Some of them are handmade some others are manufactured. They are all African brands. I have my own brands but I also those that are manufactured or handmade.”
According to her poor infrastructure and lack of adequate skills by artisans are impeding the growth and development of the fashion industry forcing designers to manufacture their designs in Turkey or China.
“The way infrastructure is here in Nigeria; the sort of knowledge artisans require is not there. They don’t have the skill to do some of the designs. They don’t also have the capacity to do as much as two hundred or three hundred pieces of one style at once in different sizes. It can be difficult. Hence most people have to do that outside the country. People do large quantities in Turkey or China. Turkey is closer. The zip makers, buttons manufacturers are also in China. Turkey also has a strong textile industry so everybody is going there to get fabric.
“Almost all our fabrics are imported. I tried not to be bugged down by the exchange rate and inflation rate. At the end of the day, the thread, button, even the machines we used are imported. In some places some people use Koreans or Filipinos, Senegalese or Togolese artisans. Everything you are buying to make the dresses or whatever clothing you are making is imported. All the prices have gone up for those accessories. In addition to that is the issue of power. Most people generate power themselves. You still have to spend money on diesel or generator. It is a huge cost.”
Using local fabrics could be challenging for Isoken as it is the case with most Nigerian designers. She argues that most artisans do not have the capacity to produce Adire, a locally made fabric, for instance. “Adire you can’t go to a factory and say you want a bale of Adire or in a thousand yards. You can’t get it because they don’t do it that way or don’t have the capacity to do that. Even for Adire all of the base materials are imported so it still comes to the same thing. There will always be an importation factor that will affect cost. I sketch my designs. We are a retail store so we stock other labels.”
ZAZAIII flagship store at 36 Balarabe Musa houses over 40 brands and the ZAZAII Beauty Rooms boast retail beauty, skincare and haircare brands, as well as beauty services spanning blow dries, skin and body treatments and nail art.
In addition, there is a cocktail bar, run by the formidable Elle’s Icebox. It promises to treat shoppers to mouth-watering bites and delicious cocktails. “The Pop Up Party X ZAZAII is a low cost, high impact distribution and promotion platform, based on a four-day residency, for fledgling businesses to inform and engage their target consumer. Our monthly event enables all brands, regardless of their size, to reach countless members of the public, and our strategic partnerships both online and offline enable us to pursue a collective promotional agenda. This not only gives brands huge savings in marketing expenses but also frees them up to concentrate on other aspects of brand building.”
With over five years in the business of African fashion, Isoken says ZAZII delivers worldwide to over sixty countries.
You can experience the ZAZAII Homes; a section in-store where you can purchase bespoke home fittings. You can visit the online store: www.zazaii.com or any of its concessions nationwide (Ikeja, Lagos, Abuja and Calabar).