Speaking with Joy Kelecha Abuda, the brain behind fast-rising fashion brand, J’apparels, was like walking through mini-tutorials on how technical running a ‘Ready To Wear’ fashion line is. According to the fashionpreneur, studying Human Anatomy formed her sense of style.
Abuda talked about growing J’apparels from next to nothing, running a business and working full-time, work-life balance and fashion trends in Nigeria, among other issues.
How did you find yourself in fashion?
Primarily, I am an Information Technology consultant. I work with an IT firm, a Microsoft partner. My passion for fashion has been there since I was a child. I have been interested in fashion since I was 10 years old. Back then, I couldn’t sew, but my mum used to sew. She made clothes for us. When I was about 15, my elder sister was the one sewing. We used to queue and wait for her to make clothes for us. I, like my other siblings, used to wait for her to make clothes for us while she was making for her friends. One day, I asked her to make trousers for me and she was taking forever. Out of impatience, I took the cloth, cut it myself and I made it. That was how I started sewing. From then onwards, even till I entered university, I started making clothes for my close friends. I made party dresses, cute tops and trousers and gowns. It wasn’t on a large scale. It was on a personal scale. I collected change here and there. At some point in my university days, I became busy and could not make clothes as often. And, of course, I graduated and came out of school and started working full-time.
At what point did you decide to make a business of it?
My fashion business started Bust 38, Waist 28 and hip 40, a standard size 10 here in Nigeria is Bust 38, Waist 30, not 28 and then Hip 40/41. So my size 10 is different from the US size 10. This is why my measurement can fit the majority. Even if I get someone who is a size 28 at the waist size, it won’t look so big because it would just be an inch bigger. I have adapted our size to my market. My standard 10 is to fit the Nigerian shape and sizes.
So someone into the fashion business has to be accurate in mathematics to get the cutting and sewing perfect?
Absolutely. Fashion is not that simple. This is why when people make clothes and it is worn, it sometimes fits awkwardly. When I am making my designs, I have a standard chart that I have drafted. My tailors know this. They know the standard size for arm, thighs, waist and hips. We have fuller thighs in Africa, compared to the UK and USA. You can buy a UK size 10 trousers, the waist will fit you but your thighs will struggle to enter. The adjustments I made was to add an inch to their size on the thighs and hips, so that someone who is fuller can wear it. While someone who is slimmer can also wear it. I pulled up different size charts from different countries and compared it with sizes of people that are size 10 that I have made clothes for. I even included my own body size because I am a size 10 too. The sizes are different but I blended it in such a way that even if you are a size 27, or 28, 29 at the waist, you can blend in into the size category I created. It will fit almost four categories of people. You will get snugly fit, exact size and slightly bigger but not obvious.
Does this mean that ‘Ready To Wear’ fashion is more technical than couture tailoring?
Of course, it is more technical than sewing for a particular person. In a way, it’s easier for me. Sewing someone’s personal fabric takes more time but if I am sewing my ‘Ready To Wear’, I cut about five dresses in one go. The time I use on cutting one dress, I can use that same time to cut five size 10 dresses because I lay up to five fabrics and cut. I save more time and I produce more items with my standardization. Couture is also not simple. When you take a fabric from a customer and you have two weeks to sew, when the customer picks it up, there is likelihood it may be tight because the person must have added weight within that two weeks. So, I prefer to do my ‘Ready To Wear’. I design, sew and display, if you like it, you buy it.