The traditional ‘Iro and Buba’ piece is a sophisticated nightmare for many Nigerian ladies. While one cannot deny the elegance of the attire, one can’t overlook its tediousness also. Then Lara Ade-Afun stepped into the scene in 2015 with one ambition; to make Iro and Buba, Abayas also with contemporary western fabrics. And so Iro Lagos was born.
The brand has been described as a ‘sexified’ version of our traditional attire. Lara’s flagship store has been thriving well in the very competitive fashion space in Nigeria. She shares her business journey and ethics with CP-Africa.
What is the story behind the choice of business and brand?
The concept as a whole started in February of 2015.
The traditional fabrics used to sew Iro and Buba didn’t appeal too much to my figure and often times made me feel frumpy. I found that I preferred to wear clothing that consist mainly of stretch fabric because it takes form without adding volume except if the intention is to add volume.
We started Iro Lagos with 7 pieces of different styles and gifted them to different ladies from quite a vast spectrum in terms of Age, Figure and general interests. We also conducted an informal survey from the Ladies and we got positive reactions all together.
What were you doing before the launch of Iro Lagos?
Taking it back a decade or so, I was working in the banking sector in England and then I moved back to Nigeria about 7 years ago, started a small dessert catering business known as Cupyd Patisserie. Cupyd Patisserie is thriving and is a sister company to Iro Lagos.
Having been in business for almost a decade now, what is your greatest business lesson so far?
Apart from the importance of developing world class customer service, one must always put everything in writing no matter how trivial. It will start you off on a solid foot.
What is your biggest challenge as a business owner in Lagos?
There is a common biblical saying, “There is no rest for the wicked” with Lagos being the fashion capital of West Africa, creating a “Wicked” brand does not stop at just being creative. One must constantly think beyond the periphery of the box. It involves a lot of mental work which then translates to hard graft. It is challenging but it also serves as good training for life in general.
What keeps you going still despite the challenges?
The Buzz of it all, the reactions I get when we bring out something new, generally just watching a dream unfold, hoping that it will continue to gain momentum as it were.
Iro Lagos has 6 celebrity ambassadors. Is it an exclusive luxurious brand? Who is your average walk-in customer?
I can say that Iro Lagos is unique in the sense that it covers almost equal parts of a wide spectrum of women ranging from low to high income earners, mid-twenties all the way up to old age pensioners. So the law of the average does not particularly apply to Iro Lagos.