Fashion Business Is Good Business - Duru

Vivian Duru may not have graduated from any reputable Fashion Designing Home or any fashion School of any sort, but she is arguably an amazing Designer. Her story started during Youth Service in Sokoto when it dawned on her that she is begging to get her dress made by a fashion designer because she needed to attend a cousin’s wedding.
Yet, she is a daughter of an expert tailor with 30 years of working experience. And all she knows was to match the sewing machine. Today, Vivian is not only a good Designer but she has trained over a hundred good hands. In this chat, she talks about her childhood, what she studied in the University, her challenges and so much more.
Read on...

You bear Duru as surname, are you from the western part of Nigeria?
I am from Ikeduru Local Government Area in Imo state.  My surname Duru, means Kingmaker.

How was childhood like?
My childhood was like every other normal child. There were times when it was not all rosy but l thank God, I came out strong. When l look back at the situation, I decided that all my Children must be great. Like most average Nigerian family, l attended a boarding school all through. At one point in school, my parents did not come to pick me up, so l came home myself that day and we all realised that l had started growing up and becoming independent.
As l grew up, l started to ask myself questions, my purpose for being on Earth, the kind of life l wanted to live and once l imagined the life, l wanted to live, l decided to go after it. At that tender stage, l started reading and planning out my life.  Looking at other kids, I was never moved by peer pressure, when it came to measuring wealth of my family and others. My young mind drove me to start discovering my purpose in life. I made personal choices to be a better and reserved person. l read a lot of books too.

Would you say that being reserved helped shaped your life?
Yes, it did. Although sometimes, little things happened that would make me almost regret but l never did. I realised l could not really relate with people but I was friendly. Back in my University days, in the university of Ibadan, I was always independent and a loner.

What lessons did you learn from being independent?
I learnt to be confident in myself in all I was doing. I did not have it all but it made me very contented with all l had. I was more involved in politics back in school, so l started to see myself as a motivational speaker. I kept daily journals, writing all I experienced and what I wanted to become in future.
I set goals for myself and pursued them. The more I strived to achieve, the higher I went in Life.

What did you study in the University?
I studied Agric Extension and Rural Development. I am supposed to be a farmer.

So how did you end up a fashion designer?
My mother was a seamstress for almost 30 years. She had a lot of people learning from her. Looking at that now, I wanted a life that would encourage and motivate other people, not just one that would not give me time for myself. There was a sewing machine in the house, so l usually play with it when l had the chance, not actually knowing what I wanted to achieve.
During my youth service year, I decided to perfect my sewing skills. I spent time with an Aunt who was also a fashion designer. 

What challenges did you face becoming this type of fashion designer?
I started learning to sew officially during my youth service year in Sokoto. I learnt on the job. I tried to interpret designs from catalogues, I was like a self-taught tailor. People were always of the opinion that I learnt from my mother, but I did not. I only learnt to match the sewing machine from watching my mum unconsciously. 

How did you juggle youth service and learning to design?
I was posted to the Ministry of Agriculture in Sokoto State. As it was then, Corpers did not really have much work to do, so that gave me time to attend to my learning. I also took up an extra job of revising school work with pupils and l got paid doing it. My clients at that time also contributed to motivating me and it became my business in no time because as soon as they knew I could match the sewing machine, in came clothes for me to make.

I had no choice to learn on the job. Also during youth service, l got a job with a travelling agency but I never dropped sewing. I moved my machine from Sokoto down to Lagos. With time, I started sewing for my colleagues in the office. As a person, I didn’t like the fact that people still get disappointed by tailors because tailors have being known for failing to meet schedules, so. I focused on the human resource. I started becoming disciplined because l wanted to become the change agent in this craft. And the Change Agent robbed well on me because I was different and always on time when meeting deadlines for deliveries. Yet, I was still learning on the job and a novice in the industry. To remedy that, I tried to seek out other designers who have made their bench- mark on the craft, so that I could gain more knowledge from them and I got better.  

With the right platform, what are your plans for the Nigerian Fashion Industry?
I would love to create more job opportunities. It gives me satisfaction to see that tailors are working. Regardless of whatever situation that comes up, there should always be another to represent so the work continues. A good workshop should consist of both those that are learning and those already working!

How would you advise a customer who doesn't know what suits him or her, especially if he or she has a particular design in mind?
First of all, l would access the individual physique and size, think of a style that would fit perfectly and advice them. Then if the advise thing isn't working. I would do what they want, but with a plan B on the side. We do not only design clothes, we make sure our clients get to wear these clothes and look at full size mirrors to see the outcome before they leave with it. Sometimes, they may not be impressed by what they have chosen themselves. That is when plan B works for us. We have had issues like these at the office when good advise fails to work, so with a plan B, the customer go home happy at the end of the day.
We try to work with the outfit they have imagined, being careful not to tamper with the beautiful image they already have in mind towards the outfit.

How affordable are your designs?
They are very affordable and l always try to work with people's budget. There is a label on every cloth l sew.

Was there any point in this career that you felt like throwing in the trowel?
Yes, there was! But the most important thing is remembering why you started in the first place and the distance you still have to go.

What advice would you give to a would-be Fashion Designer?
What is worth doing is worth doing well. Fashion business is good business, whatever it is, remember why you started and never give up!

Where do you see this business in another 5-10 years?
In the next five years, this business would have expanded beyond struggling measure by God's grace. Team work would always make the team work, as long as you are willing, we would move forward!

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