‘You have to stay updated so the world doesn’t leave you behind’

Anjy Luminee

Abiodun Folashade Tokunbo is the CEO of Anjy Luminee Couture, also known as House of Luminee, a high profile designer outfit in the heart of Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. Anjy Luminee Couture believes in the promotion of indigenous fashion with particular emphasis on the use of at least a touch of Ankara fabric in most of her designs. She spoke to IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on her passion for the profession and how to successfully run the business.

How did you venture into the business of fashion?
Growing up I have always had a love for sewing and mending clothes but I officially started House Of Luminee in 2013 right immediately after my final exams from Lagos State University (LASU) with one sewing machine and a yard of the lining.

What is your growing up endeared you to fashion?
I like to think fashion designing/tailoring was something that is inborn. I loved to craft anything, I will cut pieces of old leather bags and craft it into baby shoes. I used to take my dad’s clothes (agbada) from his basket and cut it with razor blade then place it on the chopping board he used to sell meat and use it to sew something nice. My dad used to wonder why I was so hardworking as a little girl. At the same time, he would scream out my name in the neighbourhood that I had destroyed his clothes.

What do you look out for when styling a client?
I take my time to study my clients before I even add the first thread to their material. I try to analyse their personality, ‘can they pull off the look’. Their body size is also an important factor. When I’m satisfied with my answers then I go-ahead to start sewing. If otherwise, I try to suggest a different look/material.

With over a decade in the fashion business, how has it evolved in your opinion?
The world is moving fast. You have to stay updated and on your toes so the world doesn’t leave you behind. Technology and social media have really helped take fashion to a whole new level than what it is when I just started, the reason I have plans to study further to expand my understanding and knowledge about my work.

What stands your brand out and how did you come up with the brand name?
People never always believed that I made the clothes whenever they see it. It was hard to attach the brand and personality. And when I started paying particular attention I noticed how all of them resonated and had this glittering feel. Then I just thought of my brand as an ‘illuminator’ and the word Luminee was formed. Just like a light that brightens up the atmosphere, my brand brightens up the minds and mood of people when they wear them. I think the unique glitz and glamour that naturally comes with rocking any of our pieces as it stands the brand out. They automatically make you look like a superstar.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion to me is expression. With every outfit an individual wears, you are expressing a mood, culture, an attitude, a mindset. That is why every dress code is a value because if you look through and ask questions, there is a history to learn and a new story to know.

You seem to have a defined market, the high profile class. Any specific reasons?
I think I have a mix of everybody. I have regular clients and they account majorly for the success of the brand. They see a celebrity wear my outfit and they are impressed and most want a recreation of the look or a new pattern to the design.

Having a touch of Ankara in your designs seem to be your signature, is that your way of promoting tradition?
I grew up using my dad’s already sewn local and traditional clothes to perfect my sewing skills hence my love for Ankara. Adding the Ankara twist makes me nostalgic and I remember all the humble beginnings every time I attach it to a cloth I’m making. Also, it promotes my culture and makes clothes unique.

How do you source for your fabrics, are they readily available or imported?
I source materials based on the nature of the job at hand and the client’s preference. Some clients come with theirs, some have me sourced locally or internationally. Like I said, it is mostly based on clients’ preferences. Upon starting, I was mostly buying all my materials then from the Oshodi.

Tell us about the challenges you face running this business?
My challenges are just the regular challenges we all face as entrepreneurs in Nigeria. I am blessed with a very up and doing stuff. Fast to take correction and always ready to deliver their best.

Are there regulations that do not sit well with the fashion business in Nigeria?
I cannot think of any. As long as there are no rules that clamp on the creativity of designers then we are good. Like I said there is a story/history behind every outfit you see on anyone and the way the industry is going, we are begging to make clothes that speak a lot of without saying a word and no rules distort that process. So I am good.

Looking at when you started and now, what has changed?
The workload has increased. The organisation has hugely improved. Before, I go to Apapa to borrow a sewing machine in order to make clothes for people and take those clothes back to my customers myself. Now I have all my sewing tools in our place and I have people do the deliveries. Also, every day we are improving on finishing because the market is stiff and we have to meet the international standard. So, every day is a constant strive for excellence.

What is your take on women entrepreneurs and empowerment?
I am who I am today because I empowered myself and took my craft seriously. Upon graduation in 2013, I thought of the fact that there were no jobs available out there, and I didn’t want to sit down at home. Since I know I wasn’t going to get my certificate until after two or three years, I decided to start immediately I finished my final year exams. Because of this, my brand is fast becoming a household name, I can afford things by myself without running to my husband. It is important for women to understand that in earning their own money, they reclaim a certain kind of independence and their voice is heard.

What is your style?
My style is best described at the moment. I open my mind to be influenced by my environment and the world at large. I let a lot of things and remix them to make clothes and that has pretty much worked for me.

What is your philosophy of life?
Be yourself, have a good attitude while at it. Treat people with respect and how you want to be treated and things will work out for you in ways you will be shocked.

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