Fashion entrepreneur, Animashaun Aminat Aderayo has over 17 years’ experience in the manufacturing of Afrocentric shoes, bags and fashion accessories. Currently, the creative director of Switt Fashion and Leather Works, where she creates designs and manages factory production, she doubles as the CEO of De’rayo Vocational, where she trains youths, particularly women in the fashion business. In 2019, she launched her project ‘Transforming 10,000 teenagers to young bosses in Oyo State’, an initiative that saw secondary school pupils being taught 12 different vocational skills for free. She was privileged to be selected among the Top 50 women in business in Nigeria (WOMEN X 11) and sponsored by the World Bank to study Entrepreneurial Management at Enterprise Development Centre (EDC), Lagos Business School. She was also nominated by UNESCO for the 50 Stories Of Kindness in the world initiative. In this interview with TOMI FALADE, she speaks on how fashion and entrepreneurship have helped her impact thousands of youth in the country, and why evolving with technology remains key to staying relevant.
Did you study fashion in a higher institution?
No. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurial and Business Management from National Open University (NOUN). I also have a Diploma in Marketing from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State. I also studied French and have DELF Certificate.
Why and when did you decide to take up fashion/accessories production professionally?
I took it up in 2012 when I saw that the demand for Afrocentric products is high and I needed to contribute my quota to the development of Nigeria by using our indigenous fabrics and materials.
You have become a household name in Southwest Nigeria, how were you able to achieve that?
Producing standard and well-finished products locally and globally. I have also been able to establish the brand name by being kind, helping up-and-coming youths in the fashion industry with adequate information for their business growth, and linking top brands in the fashion industry with youths that need employment after acquiring the skills.
More graduates are taking up skills acquisition and winning at it. How important will you say acquiring any skill is in any economy in the world?
A skilled man is a self-employed man. As water is very essential to human life; so is a skill needed in the life of every serious-minded human being. Skill can do a lot of great work in the life of every living soul. Skills help with reducing poverty, increase the standard of living, create diverse job opportunities, employment generation, crime reduction and developing our country’s Gross National Product (GNP)
How have you incorporated technology into your fashion business?
Technology has helped us tremendously. The advent of social media and e-commerce websites enables us to access customers globally. I have been able to create a platform where youths, learn, earn and shop www.derayo. com.ng
What challenges do you still face in the industry?
Human resources is on the list of our challenges, there is a huge gap between what the youths learnt in school and what they can do. Power supply and running on generators have also affected our profit margin.
Critics say fashion designers are some of the worst entrepreneurs when it comes to service delivery. Your opinion.
Those are the bad eggs amongst the good ones, the narrative has changed and new fashion designers with great customer service are now rewriting the phenomenon.
What aspect of fashion is your core focus and why?
Art and crafts and vocational skills. Unemployment is a huge challenge for us in the fashion industry. Thankfully, I have been able to build a platform to connect industries and employees for self-sustenance and for youths to get empowered to create more jobs by learning a skill, providing mentorship and helping them start their own businesses.
You have won many awards doing this. Tell us about them and what they mean to you.
UNESCO nominated my story as one of the 50 Stories Of Kindness in the world, representing Nigeria in kindness matters. I was nominated for excellence in fashion and style by the Federal Government of Nigeria at Aso Rock Villa year 2022, Culture and community building award from BAOBAB Australia. Also, Best Female Entrepreneur Award year 2018 and 2019 from POPA Awards, most influential personality in Oyo State year 2018 and 2019 from Ibadan Media.#
Where do you see the Nigerian fashion industry in the next five years?
In my opinion, the Nigerian fashion industry will be more saturated than it is already. The difference will be the innovative ideas birthed by the creativity, resilience, and dynamics of the current generation. Do not forget the fact that technology is constantly evolving and its input in fashion isn’t something to overlook. We now have virtual runways, full fashion brands of different kinds in the metaverse and different virtual reality and gaming platforms.
How are you positioned to tap into it?
The answer is simple, we keep learning, and we keep evolving with the current wave. We think ahead and follow up with actions that’ll enable us to harness whatever opportunities that presents itself.
Words for aspiring fashion designers?
I’ll simply tell them to identify their purpose, never stop learning, to start with whatever limited resources they have, and position their businesses for global opportunities. It’s not going to be easy but it’ll be worthwhile. There’ll be days where you’ll feel down and unmotivated, it’s normal because we’re human. The most important thing is not to stay down. Keep your heads up and keep the ball rolling.