Interview with Vanguard Nigeria

Since time immemorial, Nigerian women have been in the fashion retail business on every level, but fashion retail has been taken a notch higher by a Nigerian, who designs and sources wedding gowns for Nigerian brides from her US base.

How does she do it? In this interview, Toyin tells us about wedding gowns and selling on the internet.

Excerpts.There is this trend now with brides wearing strapless gowns with boleros, which they take off at the reception. Do you support this trend? The wedding industry is a facet of the fashion world. And as we all know, fashion trends come and go. The current phenomenon is the wearing of single strap or strapless gowns but people, in an attempt to appear more modest, add a bolero to the equation. This form of dressing can be said to originate from the West but it is possible to look very elegant on your wedding day without appearing too revealing. In my opinion, the choice of a wedding gown style or design is entirely up to the bride. She should use feedbacks from friends and family and/or instructions from her pastor when making the selection. There is absolutely no reason to go against the requirements laid by your parents or pastor.

I remember having a bride show me pictures of what her gown had to look like. This was based on specification from her church. Her request was that the gown should not have a train and it should be simple and elegant. Under six weeks, we were able to deliver her choice and she was very happy with the results.

But what is your own opinion about that? My opinion is that brides should follow the rules laid down by their church leaders. There are many design alternatives to choose from and, ultimately, the bride makes the call.

Let’s talk about colours; which colours are suitable for which brides? The most traditional colour for wedding gowns is pure white. At times, people could go a bit off white or ivory. To get a distinct and unique design, the bride can also decide to spice it up with coloured sequins and embroideries. The bridal jewelries is another way to splash on colours.

The bride can decide to match her jewelry to her bridal train. For example, say your train colour is cream; you can get jewelry set that matches that specific colour. Personally, I would not suggest any colour other than the various shades of white for a bridal gown. This is because white is a symbol of purity and generally accepted across board. White looks good on all brides but, beyond colours, the most important piece of the gown is the cut.

What you do is quite intriguing. I mean, why did you use the Internet as a platform? First, I have a graduate business degree in Management Information Systems. It is a proven fact that the internet is the single most powerful tool in business because it can reach more people located in places you may never visit. Living in the US and interested in supplying Nigerian brides with the best quality wedding gowns, I decided to use the internet as my main platform. This allows me to showcase our gown catalogs that people sitting in offices or at home can enjoy viewing.The idea for the business was birthed in 2006 but it did not kick off until late 2007. You see, brides everywhere in the world want to look their best on their special day. I decided to provide this service so brides to be need not cross the ocean to buy.

You speak about wedding dresses being a “Western phenomenon”. Is there the likelihood of an African touch being added anytime soon?

The African traditional wedding ceremony is where our culture is most expressed. I do understand why we would want to incorporate this somehow into the wedding dress design. I have seen many attempts to do this but none, in my opinion, quite cuts it such that it is repeatable and appealing to a lot of brides. But, as the saying goes, anything is possible in the future.

What is your advice to new brides preparing for their wedding, how can they take off the pressure? I am aware that each bride has a unique taste and our job is to make the selection process easier by providing multiple options.

In choosing bridal accessories, what factors do you consider? I would say the intensity and gleam of the jewelry. If you have a very simple gown with little simple beading, then you want to go with jewelries that stand out and sparkle. On the other hand, if your wedding gown has a lot of sequins, you may want to have the jewelry toned down a bit. This is so that it does not overpower the gown, thereby competing with the sequins. Sometimes, you may also attempt matching your wedding gown with the jewelry. Depending on the shape of beadings on your gown, you can also get similarly shaped accessories. Jewelry need not be expensive to look good. Go for costume jewelry, which can be often more attractive than the very high end ones. Gold is a no-no when wearing your gown - leave that to the bridesmaid and mother of the bride. Go for crystals, diamonds (if you can afford those) and silvers and white or coloured beads. They come in all sizes and shapes. Tiara is another type of accessory to choose. Try to match it to your facial shape.

The big question: how do you combine work with business and family. What are the challenges? There is no question that next to God, my family is the most important in my life. My business and job I believe are avenues to touch lives and, hopefully, put a smile on people’s faces. In combining both family and work, I try as much as possible to put first things first, which is my family. I try to be available and make sure all is well on the home front before venturing out on business. This is very important, as the family is the foundation upon which you build your career. As I have grown older, career has come to mean less and less to me. Life is now about serving God and serving people. I try to bring this to everything I do in my business, especially when working with partners and potential customers. The golden rule for me is to do unto others what you want them to do to you.


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