How MUDI built Africa’s fashion empire from Scratch
When Mudiagha Clement Enajemo moved to Lagos, Nigeria, in 1990, he had no idea it was his promised land. He had secured a job but lost it in eight months, leaving him devastated and in despair, not knowing it was fate rerouting his journey. Thankfully, some friends raised money for him to register as an apprentice at a roadside tailoring workshop where he learnt the skill that bailed him out of poverty.
From a one-bedroom apartment in Lagos, Enajemo built MUDI Africa, becoming the first Nigerian fashion designer to open stores outside the shores of the country. The brand now has a footprint in Ghana, Kenya,
Ivory Coast and South Africa.
The Afrocentric designer has clothed presidents, celebrities and kings, including the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI who once visited his showroom in Lagos.
In this interview, Mudi shares insightful business growth tips for budding fashionpreneurs who are struggling to navigate the fashion industry in Africa.
Q: You have built a one-of-a-kind fashion empire in Africa, you have clothed the high and mighty of the society. How did it all start?
A: I started in September 1993 from the scratch. No structure, no Godfather; no capital. I moved into Lagos in 1990 and worked with an uncle of mine for about eight months. When I lost that job, I began to live on the goodwill of friends and others.
When the opportunity showed up, I attached myself with an established roadside tailor, to learn how to cut and know a good stitch. I think what I have in me is the ability to create, to imagine. You don’t learn creativity, it has to be in you. You can only learn tailoring.
Social media is helping now unlike when I started. I built my business through pure hard work. I grew through creativity, referrals, and what have you. These days, upcoming designers focus more on the packaging which is the social media thing and there is no substance. Social media is good but when you focus too much on it, it makes you lose the substance that you need for the job.
Q: How did you transit from that humble beginning to where you are now?
A: First of all, you must be creative and above all, if I make money I put money back into the business. That’s why I said discipline is key. I get to my office 7am every day since I started the business (27 years ago). I’m married to my job. It’s what you put in that you get. That’s why people don’t believe that I’m only into fashion because they don’t believe that you can do one thing and do it well enough to achieve so much success.
When I was working to get my first shop in 1997, RMD – Richard Mofe Damijo (iconic Nollywood actor) came to my rescue. He paid for the first shop which was N47,000. I worked from my one-room apartment in Ketu (a Lagos suburb) from 1993 to 97. Little after, I was able to pay for a shop in Anthony (area of Lagos), for three months I didn’t move in because I was working hard to raise more money for the painting and other essentials. I started off there with only one sewing machine. As I made money, I put it back into the business. It’s a process. Some designers want to be like me but they have just put four years into the work. The likes of Giorgio Amani are still working at their old age. But most people are always in a hurry. Before you go into business, you must have what I call the PDD – Passion, drive and discipline, and that’s after the creative ability.
Read the full interview in the latest edition of Business Elites Africa magazine here: Find it on pages 10 & 11.
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