By Prisca Sam-Duru
For Joseph Lucky Desmond, art is life, and life is art. He almost dropped out of school for art. His interest in the creative profession started at age ten when he began to try his hands on sketches and drawings. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, but never practiced engineering for one day because his interest in the arts grew and became a passion, which in turn, gradually pushed him into becoming an art enthusiast and collector. In this chat with Vanguard’s Arts & Review, Desmond who is also the CEO of Jo’monde Wears, shares more on how much success he has recorded in his business through art and much more:
Also read: I use every time I have to do something productive, says Nelly Idagba, Lawyer, Pencil Artist
Tell us about your interest in art collection?
Well, I began collecting artworks five years ago. I visit the museum and exhibitions often and whenever I see nice works, I make sure I go home with the ones that interest me most. I’ve also received artworks as gifts because most of my friends know about my passion for art pieces. The last one I received came all the way from Port Harcourt to Lagos, and the artist, I must confess, did a good job. Some of the sketches I do for Jo’monde, come from some of those inspiring works. I have this inner joy each time I buy artworks. So, it’s fulfilling being an art collector and I hope to become a renowned collector as well.
Most people interested in visual arts go into drawing, painting, photography, installation, and exhibitions, why did you choose clothes designing?
Well, it’s always something I wanted to do from my childhood. I fell in love with creativity when I was about ten. It even got to a point in primary school, where I almost stopped going to school because I wanted to be a creative person, a visual artist actually. I thought I didn’t have to waste time going to school.
Fast forward to my days at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. You know, as some parents would interfere in their children’s career path, I was forced to sign up for Mechanical Engineering. While in school, I was doing my fashion business by the side. You know, when you have passion for something, it doesn’t die. It wasn’t easy combining studies with business, but my passion for creativity helped me pull through. At this point, I expressed my flair for creativity by helping friends and family purchase their outfits for diverse occasions. I was constantly consulted on matters of fashion or what to wear, which my mother considered a distraction from my education. Since I could make my own sketches or designs, I was able to give my clients something unique.
So, did you attend any art school upon graduation?
No, I didn’t. Everything I’ve done so far is just raw talent. It is a gift because it’s inbuilt in me. I have a passion for it. But then, if I get the opportunity to go back to school, I would go for a course on creativity; creative arts, fashion designing.
Coming back to your question, as the last child among five siblings, I lost my dad when I was about six months old. So, after school, I didn’t have sufficient funds to go further or start my business. I got a job with a fire fighting company and was there for about one year. My fashion and design gift kept propping up. So, after another experience with a beverage manufacturing company, I decided it was high time I began reviving the creative talent in me. So, that’s how Jo’monde Wears, my company which specializes in premium ready to wear fashion and accessories, was birthed.
What does Jo’monde mean?
It means ‘I rule’ in French.
Do you make what you design?
Not at all! I only design and then send them to the manufacturers. I have an edge because I get back from the manufacturers exactly what I want, putting into consideration my clients’ desire. I don’t just place orders; I give the manufacturers my own sketches/designs.
You’re already successful in the path you’ve chosen, why the desire to go back to school to read art?
I have a general interest in the arts and I believe no knowledge is a waste. This is why I collect beautiful works by very talented individuals whenever I see them.
How do you know the design that will be suitable for a client’s desire?
I read a lot. By reading, I come up with novel styles. In fact, reading has helped me so much to run my business. I do a lot of research on fashion and creativity and this helps me to know more about what is trending when to change styles, as well as what works for each individual.
Do you read only books about fashion and creativity?
I read books on fashion, creativity, styles, and literature. These books inspire me a lot. As I said earlier, no knowledge is a waste. I believe the more you read, the more knowledgeable you are.
Which Nigerian authors do you enjoy reading most?
Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. Their works inspire me a great deal.
Do your designs promote African culture?
Yes. You can see what I’m putting on now. It’s a combination of ‘Ankara’ and foreign material. I designed it. Jo’monde Wears is actually working on diversifying into native attires for unisex. We are also opening more stores within and outside Lagos as well as outside the country because we have clients outside Nigeria. That way, we promote our culture.
We are looking at doing more in terms of promoting our culture by using locally sourced fabrics. We are working on designing wears with a combination of English and our local materials such as ‘Adire’ and Ankara. If you look at the way the whole thing is going presently, our culture is being appreciated. Now you see people putting on suit designed with Ankara material and Ankara trousers with an English shirt. That’s what we are working on. My goal as a designer is to make sure I give my clients what will fascinate them.
Could you speak briefly about your forthcoming project?
It’s a mentorship initiative. We are collaborating with corporate organizations to mentor and finance young entrepreneurs and Creatives in both the Art and Fashion industries. The project is borne out of my desire to make an impact on society. Looking at where I came from and where I am today, it’s not easy to get to this point. So, I like to give back to society. And, it is my wish to see my brand not just become a place where there is the convergence of quality, affordability, and personal style, but a brand that helps nurture young talents.
Any word of advice to the youths whom you are targeting for the training?
This is what I’ll say to them. Whatever you’re doing or want to go into, you must have a passion for it. Do introspection to be sure that it’s what you truly desire to do. Will that give you inner joy? Don’t just dabble into anything because others are in it or are making money from it. Remember, what works for others might not work for you.