Hey guys!

This is a topic that I’ve been meaning to address for a while but stayed away for reasons best known to me. If you follow me on Twitter , you might have seen me tweet about this topic in frustration a few times.

DISCLAIMER: I am not bashing anyone’s work ethic and in no way insinuating that I have experienced this across all Nigerian fashion designers or retailers. I speak from personal experience, personal pain and from the view of a customer that just wants to be treated right.

“Frustrations of the average customer/consumer in the Nigerian fashion/design industry”

The Nigerian fashion industry is dominated to a great extent by designers and retailers who are solely focused on publicity strategies and the prestige that comes with the label ‘designer’, that they have chosen to overlook that the end goal, the point of creating a label is retail, in a nutshell. You create clothes to attract the customers that pay.

It is important to understand that different customers have different motivations for buying from a label. For some people it’s the end satisfaction (just having the piece in your closet), it could also be for a sense of belonging (oh, I’m wearing ____), but for most people, it’s the experience as a whole.

The experience associated with buying from a designer or retailer begins the moment a customer walks into a store or in some cases, the moment that e-mail is sent for a price quote and ends when the customer is satisfied. A typical wow experience consists of elements like fast response time, proper engagement with the customer, the right attitude & problem recovery.

Personally, I have never felt the experience, much less with the “wow” factor while shopping in Nigeria.

I have bought clothes quite a few times and had to give them away because on arrival, they were nothing like what was portrayed on their website or social media accounts.

Most Nigerian designers lean towards the use of celebrities and public figures to promote their pieces and while this is an arguably good marketing strategy, we all know that celebrities are mainly influencers and not big purchasers. And why should they? They are given clothes for free in return for a few photographs, so they cannot understand the value of the work that goes into the dresses they wear.

However, I cannot for the life of me understand why an “average customer” who actually wants to spend their hard earned money on these items is being denied access to the highest quality of service.

I was having a conversation with a friend on twitter some days ago and he said this “Designers feel the need to ‘dot their i’s with celebrities because they have a wider audience and influence, and feel regular consumers don’t, and as such don’t deserve as much consideration”. I have never heard words that best describe the nonchalant attitude of designers/retailers towards the average customer.

“I once bought a pair of pants from a popularly known Nigerian brand and it arrived in an unspeakable state. It was damp, smelly,  torn at the hem and had the button falling off. “

“I was at an event in Lagos over summer last year, I walked up to this designer to start up a conversation. I had seen images of her work and some of her pieces had caught my interest. So I got talking with her and eventually asked for a price quote on one of her dresses. She looks at me, a glass of champagne between her fingers and obvious contempt on her face and goes “Are you sure you want to know?””

You’ll be horrified to find stories like these are a pretty common occurrence.

Designers are so focused on attracting ‘luxury’ customers that they mistreat regular customers who with the right kind of service would easily become loyal lifelong consumers. What they don’t realise is that the luxury crowd shops at Gucci where a concierge service picks them up from the airport and ensures their champagne flute is filled till they leave the store. What kind of ‘luxury’ service can our designers who have snubbed the ‘plebeians’ give that will match that?

Now let’s talk pricing. Why does a simple t-shirt cost an arm and leg? WHY? I understand that not every designer’s customer demographic is the lower or middle class and that is perfectly okay. I mean, that is why we have Chanel and there’s more affordable options like Zara, but when you promote your brand as one that should cater to a certain demographic, then your price points should reflect that. It’s simple marketing sense.  

The whole point I’m trying to make with this article is, while price is a great deciding factor, customer service is key to attract and retain customers. Giving customers what they want doesn’t have to be expensive, it has to be relevant. Modern economics tell us that the key to success in any business is not attracting new customers, but converting the ones you already have into repeat customers. I want to buy from Nigerian brands, but until they learn to treat me better I will vote with my wallet.

If you enjoyed reading this, please leave a comment below to join the conversation. Also, don’t forget to share and subscribe for updates on posts. Thank you

Till next time…


(Written by Alma & Edwin Okolo)

Comments (21)

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    YOU READ MY MIND TO THE T. *drops mic*

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      Hahaha I’m glad I did..*possible twinnies*

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    Oh my God someone need to cc this designers. The funny thing is when they are upcoming they are so modest and all but once they one z-list celebrity wears their outfit they become rude and silly. Someone on instagram had to tag linda ikeji & co the outfit a so called” I have arrived” nigerian designer sent to her. Completely diff from what her celeb ambassadors wear before the designer apologised and promised to redo the outfit. I saw a comment made by someone and I do that now. The person said ” Get a good and local tailor. Find time in your neighbourhood you would see copy their designs replicate it and tag them since they want to be silly” funny comment but made sense. My local tailor is not a designer so I will let them be a designer for him.

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      Local tailors are winning right now! And they’re getting better too. Thank God!

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    The Alaroro

    Girrrrrrrl, at the moment, I am in a store that carries only Nigerian designers and the prices have me so confused. Like… TF?

    Why do they make clothes? Is it for the exposure or to sell? Because, if it is to sell, you treat ALL your customers like Kings.

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      I think I’ll be fine if they say it’s just for the exposure. No need getting our hopes up for something that the prices don’t click with our wallets.

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    Lol I simply refuse to patronise them when I can buy online and patiently wait for 2 weeks for All my affordable clothing to get to me in mint condition.
    Two shoes at ICM my size is the cost of my entire shopping budget in some online store in the UK plus shipping lol.

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      I totally understand what you mean and it’s so sad that a lot of people still do this when we have “in-country” designers.

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    I really enjoyed reading this piece and I also agree with all you’ve said. Speaking from a “designers” point of view now.

    There are different pricing ranges for different labels. I know I can’t afford a Chanel bag right now so I won’t go to a Chanel store to gloat. I can afford high street brands, so I buy them. There is something I’ve come to learn – Nothing is expensive, it’s just not for me (yet). BUT. This is what Nigerian designers do not understand. They want “Chanel” money but don’t want to deliver Chanel quality.
    If you want to be a luxury brand – be that, but deliver luxury products. Which is not the case here. They ask for that money just because they can, when we all know the fabric used wasn’t even 1% of the cost of the product.

    Moving on, we need “high street” designers. Where we can walk into to get something without paying through our noses.

    Let’s hope things pick up.

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    tonye igbani

    You’ve said something that a lot of us are thinking but have refused to say.
    I bought a skirt from one Nigerian designer it came with a hole in it. Bought a two piece set from another designer it came looking like a pyjamas??. This buy Nigerian thing can be such a scam sometimes. I’m still hopeful though.. One day.

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    I think unfair treatment of customers is a general problem with Nigerian designers. It’s the reason why most people prefer to shop abroad. Every human being wants to be treated right especially when their money is involved.

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    Indiana Rose

    This article is my whole heart. As someone that wants to design after school, I am not a fan of the Nigerian design industry in general because I don’t feel as though they don’t give customers what they pay for in terms of service or quality. Nigerians are paying high prices for mediocrity a lot of times. There are so many issues that span beyond the two main ones you have highlighted here that I constantly speak about whenever I’m in circles where the issue arises. Fashion is about making people feel beautiful. Doing it solely for money is doing it for all the wrong reasons. I keep praying that the industry becomes more customer focused because at the end of the day you’re not paying for anything less than 110% and I don’t see why you should be given less it doesn’t matter if your budget is 5,000 or 500,000 you’re still a paying customer and should not be treated any differently.

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    Some of them don’t even use quality materials to make their clothes and stuff but they’re quick to put outrageous prices on their goods and services. I don’t even bother with them except I’m making a traditional attire. I really want to buy and wear indigenous products. It would even do a lot for our economy if we can even get to a stage where we can export these items that we make

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    Awii Omene

    You are spot on boo! That’s how one so called celebrity designer messed my sister inlaw’s CBM on her wedding day after paying heaven nd earth for one dress, and instead of sorry… we got, i’m tired of being proffesional,i’ll give you back your money. how annoying! A very good local tailor is better than 10 of dem put together.

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      She said what???!!

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    See!!!!! This is one topic I’m always on about, we know where you buy these materials from, we know where you sew it just because we want to buy nigerian you now want to sell on blouse at the same price as the cost of a house Ahn ahn. These nigerian designers need to chill, talmabout ‘luxury brand’ whenever I hear them say luxurious dress I always wanna scream ‘wee you keep kwaet’ in their faces because if you check the dress now it wouldn’t be properly finished. They give out clothes to celebrities and want to get back their money from the hard earned money of other people like we sent them to give out clothes. I hope you eyed that one well and hissed too?

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    Treat all my customers like they’re the only ones I have! That’s the mantra I live by and so far it has worked. (Shameless plug: please see what I do on my Instagram page at @case_notes_)

    I was just having this conversation with a fiend of mine. You took the words right out of my mouth. You order a bag of regular plain white tees from China and slap on an Ankara badge. Out of nowhere, it’s couture. Price tag: N25620. Seams frayed. Packaging worwor. Then the customer calls to complain and you tell them ‘please my other customers don’t complain like this. Don’t disturb me. Because of how much?’. The day this happened to me, I was too taken aback to form a coherent response. My head was pounding. Why?

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      What? You actually got such a silly response? Did they at least give you back your money?

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    Well said. The most unbelievable thing in all of this is at least 50% of these celebrities do not even buy these dresses. They “pul” (borrow) them., because of their unrealistic prices, So what’s the gain? If the aim is to sell, and yet the supposed celebrities who can afford are unwilling to pay for it?


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