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Nigerians are very current with fashion

Jemi Ekunkunbor
Mrs Padu Jiandani is an Indian based designer with over 22 years experience. Her works which are basically one of a kind-custom made haute couture have graced many countries of the world, USA, Canada and Singapore.

•Mrs Padu Jiandani
•Mrs Padu Jiandani

Her label, Wardrobe, boasts of fashion pieces with delicate details-sequins, stones and embroidery for which Indians are known. Recently in Nigeria to be with her husband, Padu introduced the Sari to a few friends and it sold out like hot cake. Now she plans to open shop in Nigeria as she says that Nigerians have embraced the sari with opens.
How did you get into   fashion?

During my process of college, every year  in school, they had a beauty pageant. My passion was to enter that pageant. I did and won Miss Best Dressed. I learnt to cut and sew for myself from my mother. After that pageant, every day was a party day for me in school.

I developed a passion for clothes. A lot of people, my college principal, my dad everyone was very supportive and they encouraged me even though sometimes the sleeve would be somehow on the shoulder.

But it still looked good. So I started making clothes for people and by the time I graduated, I was all set to open a shop which I did on experimental basis and I sold out within 10 days! I didn’t even need a month. So from then, it’s just been growing.

What makes your designs stand out that you sell so quickly?
My garments are all unique. I try to keep uniqueness as my motto. I basically make one of a kind. I don’t repeat my styles. Fashion in India is not easy, it’s a very competitive field. So, you have to keep to what is current. I have customers who have been coming to me for the past 22 years. So every time they come, they get something new. It’s not like that here. Nigerians like to buy what they’ve seen with someone else. Even though it’s easier to repeat a design, at the end of the day, creativity is lost.

How is sari being received   and how do you see fashion in Nigeria?
I would say Sari has been welcomed with open arms; something that I never expected. When I started, it was just an experiment. I brought about 40 pieces.

I can proudly say today that I don’t even have one left. My husband sent mails to some people he knows and those who received the mails, who like what they saw, have come over and bought. As a result, I have made a lot of friends in the last eight weeks and I can with confidence say that everyone who has bought something has sent one or two friends over to buy. So, I’ve just networked that way.

What would you say about the Nigerian fashion and sense of style?
It is very advanced. Nigerians are very fashion conscious people. They keep themselves updated to the current styles all over the world. They want to experiment with all kinds of fashion so they are open and receptive to something new. They buy from all over the world but maybe not India. But since India has come here through me, they have welcomed it and taken the pieces. It’s not just the saris, there are tops.

I’ve had a couple of the girls from the banks come here and one of the Fridays when I went there, I found four of them wearing my tops on a dress down day. It felt good.

What would you say is especial about the Indian fashion that Nigerians find exciting?
Sari is a new concept here and Indian fashion as you know is a lot of fusion, a lot of blend. You  wear a lot of fish and six piece skirts and the sari is very similar to that or the traditional drape. Maybe that is why they’ve taken to it. Again like I said earlier, they like something different, something new. All my pieces are handcrafted because I specialise in embroidery, sequins, beads, laces and all kinds of things.

When you were bringing those stuff from India, did you think Nigerians would embrace it so quickly?
No. It’s been a shock for me. This thing has moved so rapidly. I plan to hook up with people over here so that I could start something because it’s a very big population and a very big market, very lucrative.
It’s a long way from home what is it you like about this environment?

Nigeria in a way is very similar to my home town of Chennai. The climatic conditions are almost the same. I live by the coast so Nigeria is like home as far as climatic condition is concerned. The only thing is, I have to get accustomed to NEPA problem and go slow (hold up ). Those are the two things I don’t face in India. So my life there is faster. I’m able to achieve eight things in a day but in Nigeria,  I just do one at a time.

As a designer what do you like to wear?
It is most difficult to put something on myself because I’m highly critical of my designs. Basically, I’m a jeans person because I’m working throughout the day but when I have to go out, I’m not a sari person because I’m short. So, I wear a lot of skirts when I’m going out. I’m more of a skirt person.

What was your first culture shock when you came to Nigeria?
Because I had stopped at Dubai, I was very shocked when I got to the airport here. I didn’t expect an international airport to be like that. But I guess I’ve grown into it and of course, things have changed quite a bit.
What are those Nigerian things that you are used to now?

It would be the traffic. Now I plan my day with the traffic in mind.
What do you miss most about India?
I think I’m happier being here because my husband is here. But when I go back to India, I have a lot to miss. I’m glad I came to Nigeria. People are very skeptical and apprehensive about Lagos. You are told all kinds of things you would encounter. I’ve learnt the word four one nine because somebody who received one of my e-mails advertising my clothes called me up once to ask, “are you a four one nine (419er) or are your designs real?” So I learnt 419. Nigerians are very loving and very open.

What are your plans now?
Well, to set up a shop in Nigeria. It will be called Jiani. It would be different from Wardrobe. Its going to be more to the Nigerian sizes. They have a lot of model sizes here. The colours will be different but its going to be one per size.


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