Gabby Ibeabuchi is a celebrated model who has worked some notable brands over the years. He moved on to the corporate sector, banking to be specific before rediscovering his talents as a designer. Today, he has carved a niche for himself as the CEO of Twelve06, making clothes for Nigerian celebrities . In this interview with YETUNDE OLADEINDE, he talks about his passion, potentials among others. Excerpts
What should your clients expect from you in the new year ?
We had an amazing 2018. I have no doubt 2019 will be a more fantastic year for Twleve06. We just released a new collection to mark our anniversary on December 6. The collection is titled ‘IMAGINE’ (imagine a world without fashion designers) aimed at showcasing the immense creativity of the fashion designers. This is just a drop in the ocean compared to what we have coming. We are giving birth to a sister company that will change the fashion game in Africa. We are partnering with some international agencies to extend our brand presence to more countries and races. I must say that there is so much packed up to mention a few.
What were the achievements in 2018?
As an internationally driven brand, we were able to extend our service to more countries. We have stronger presence in the UK than before. We have more states covered in the US and Canada. We have distributors in these locations now. We have a new online partnership for effective distribution beyond Africa that will be unveiled shortly. We have improved on our service generally. We have a 48 hour turn-around time at no extra cost. We have also built a stronger distribution network hence our new emerging sister company. We have more designs at the showroom – over 300 per time – and we hope to increase that in 2019 to ensure you get what you want once you walk in.
Did you discover new areas?
We are working on producing and using only our own exclusive fabrics in the nearest future. We want to give our clients exclusivity. My trip to the UK/US during the summer opened my eyes to the yearning of people for creative African designs. I sold a top I wore in a mall to an American who jokingly told me how beautiful the outfit was and if I could sell it. I jokingly affirmed and he offered money. I had to quickly buy a T-Shirt which I wore out. People over there irrespective of race, love our designs. We are obviously exploring that and more.
Let’s talk about some memorable moments in your life and career.
There are so many. This includes having worked as a relationship manager in a corporate bank, meeting and relating with high net worth individuals has been something I am used to. But my job as a fashion designer has taken that to another level. I get calls from politicians, MDs of companies, foreigners, clergy, etc requesting our service. I believe people at that level also want someone they can relate with effectively. We understand how they think, their challenges and expectations, hence, they are more comfortable dealing with us. This comes with favour and respect for us as well. I travelled to more states than I planned in the US courtesy of customers and friends who just wanted to see me and get their measurements taken especially those that our communication had been by phone and e-mails.
What are some of the challenges encountered?
My biggest challenge as a fashion designer is dedicated manpower. People are just there for what they can get, not necessarily to get the job done with dedication and passion. It’s quite frustrating.
How do you cope with them?
I conduct training like every other day. Currently, I have become a professional trainer because I constantly work on discovering new ways to overcome these challenges. I use moral suasion and positive reinforcement consistently to drive my staff. Trust me, it’s more work that the real work.
Let’s compare when you started and now. What has changed?
As a banker, I hardly had time for myself. It’s even worse now because I spend more time working on building the brand to achieve the vision with which it was set up. I hate failure. I never give up. My social life has become a shadow of itself. I know it is expected at the stage the business is now. Hopefully all that will improve soon. I hardly travel out of the country except when pressingly necessary. Customers most of the times like to deal with me one on one.
What are some of the changes that you would like to see in the sector?
I would like to see the fashion industry grow like the comedy and music industries in Nigeria. I look forward to a time when sponsors will invest as much as they do in other aforementioned industries considering the great potential that the fashion industry holds. I want to see brands endorse fashion designers as ambassadors. The fashion industry is a gold mine waiting to be tapped. Investors take note.
What is your definition of style?
Fashion is usually what you are offered while style is what you adopt. Fashion is a mass trend. It is by and large dictated by fashion designers. Style is personal and customized. It highlights your best features, and declares your personal taste. Your personality can be expressed through a personal style.
What are some of the things that you treasure most in life?
I like peace of mind. Struggle is not for me at all. I don’t like noise. I like efficiency especially when things work smoothly without hassle.
How do you relax?
This may sound funny but I love World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). I don’t like violence, don’t get me wrong. Those guys are one of the most creative people in the world. I am attracted to creativity any way. They have a way of entertaining you while you long for more. Watching WWE refreshes my mind.
What are some of the principles that you hold onto?
I have three words that form an acronym which I have adopted as my core value. Passion, Integrity and Service(PIS). Passion-love for your job which constantly ignites enthusiasm aimed at satisfying the customer always. Integrity – guided by strong moral principles. Service – relentless in providing quality service.
Let’s talk about the people you admire and role models.
I respect passion and consistency. I like people that have done one thing over time and also been able to make out something worth emulating from it. In the African fashion scene, I respect Mudi. After 23 years of doing same thing, he is sure a role model to look up to.
If you have to advise young people, what would you tell them?
You can make out something great from anything you commit to. Don’t always try to be someone else. Be yourself rather. Find what you are passionate about and pursue it with resilience. I left banking for fashion on realizing my unending passion for it. I have been able to excel in it because I am very passionate, creative and hungry to succeed. I do it with ease as much as it gives me joy.
Author: YETUNDE OLADEINDE