Tonia Dibie Chukwu prefers to be called a casual tailor rather than a designer. She started out as a trader, selling first-grade ‘second-hand’ clothes and handbags.
Back then, her friends would make fun of her kind of business but she knew at that point that the second hand stuff was her stepping stone to greater heights. She told Saturday Sun about her brand, ‘House of REV,’ an acronym she coined from the names of her children: Raymond, Elvis and Vanessa. She also talked about the Nigerian fashion industry.
Tell us your journey into fashion?
I have always loved fashion and do stuffs in the fashion line. The truth is that I actually sold okrika, (second-hand clothes). Back then, I would go to Yaba market, pick first grade okrika then go to my shop and sell. I would go to Badagry market buy okrika bags and sell also. That was how my journey into fashion started. Later, I proceeded to selling ready-made clothing. I sourced my wares from Balogun market. I did that for three years before going into my own collections. But prior to that, I had a make-up studio and skin care beauty shop. I do make-ups and also treat skins. I do facials, pedicure and manicure. It was a thriving business. I couldn’t manage the business because they were in different locations. So I stopped. Also, I found out that the ready to wear is highly demanding. I source for my fabrics, I create my designs, and monitor the sewing from the beginning. That is time-consuming. I couldn’t cope with the other businesses.
How do you get inspiration as a designer?
I’m naturally gifted. I’m really not efficient in sewing, cutting, or even pattern drafting. Still I come up with amazing designs and the tailors put them together and all these works on the rack are the natural gift I talked about. We are known for simplicity. We do simple, everyday dresses. We have tops, dresses, mixed prints and ankara, denim. All our stocks are everyday simple wears.
What are major challenges in the industry?
Piracy is the greatest challenge. You see a lot of imposters in this business. All they do is go to China and produce a lower quality of your brand and start selling in the open market, in outrageous prices. The second challenge is the economy challenge.
How do you source for your sewing materials?
I source my fabrics from popular Tejuosho market and I source from Aba, in Abia State. I also get my fabrics from Lagos Island.
What would you say about the Nigerian fashion industry?
If you understand your style then stick to it. My clients have a clear picture of my kind of style and designs. Its imperative you keep to that which you are known for. When I do a design outside my trend collection, they definitely would complain. The truth is that, I have a market for my collection. My market cuts across the young married woman to about 55-60 years of age. The truth is, simply, that money is in the mass market production and once you are able to understand that, I don’t think there’s any problem.
What is your personal kind of style?
I’m a modern fashion woman. I like my dresses short and sexy but I don’t like revealing clothes because I like to be comfortable in whatever I’m wearing.
As a designer what are your favourite colours?
I’m only attracted to prints. Once I like a particular print I go for it. I’m not particularly attached to a colour. Once the fabric is fanciful and eye-catching, I go for it.
What is your vision for your business in the next five years?
I want the brand to be a household name. When you think of fashion, you think of House of REV. In future, I want to incorporate accessories, handbags and shoes in our brand.
You don’t have formal training as a designer and your designs are on point?
That’s because I have professionals and I pay them well. We do division of labour. If one area is not good we know who is responsible for that.