3 February 2013

Nigeria: My Mum Is My Fashion Icon


Ese Erhueh Mudiaga is the owner of Plus Haven, a fashion house that caters for the clothing needs of plus-size men and women. In this chat with Kehinde Ajobiewe, the lawyer cum creative designer talks about her life, passion and business.

Have you always been a fashionable person?

Yes, I learnt from my mum. She is the fashionista of the house. If you look at her old pictures, you'll know that. Fashion really does go round year in year out. Some of the things she wore in the 70s, people are wearing them today again. She is my fashion icon really. I get my tips from her. My younger sister is also very awesome. I'm surrounded by live muses, and they inspire me everyday.

Tell us about your fashion house?

It's a fashion house and a boutique where I sell clothes for plus-size persons. In my house, we are all plus-size, except one of my sisters; and we found it difficult to get things of our size to buy. I always love to sketch. I don't know how to sew, I just design my clothes and get other people to sew them for me. But they usually have to do with an inspiration from a wardrobe item. Something my mum wore, or something I saw somewhere, and I said to myself that I could improve on it.

Especially when I see slim people wearing clothes and they are all looking very gorgeous and nice, I felt such clothes could also be made for fat persons. So, I develop on the designs, make them something that will be proper for someone who is plus-size, be it busty, wide hips, whatever it is that you think, it's too large on your body. I can always design something to take away attention from it, and make you look fashionable as well.

What kinds of wears do you design?

I'm very passionate about the environment. I like the whole concept of recycling, so a lot of my clothes have recycled elements to them. I could have an old Ankara that I have had in my wardrobe for the past five years, which the design is no longer in the market, take pieces from them and combine them with something new to come up with a dress, skirt or whatever it is. You will always see an element of recycling in my clothes, nothing is totally new.

I like the idea of making clothes that you can just pick out of your wardrobe and decide to wear for church, a wedding, an evening outing or just to sit at home. My clothes basically can either be dressed up or dressed down, they are not strictly high fashioned; it depends on the accessory you put on them. The shoes you wear could make it high fashioned. The slippers you wear could make it totally casual, but I don't make anything for the office.

How long have you been in the industry?

I have loved fashion for years. I started off by designing clothes for myself whenever I had the materials that I had to make. I go to the tailor's place and they always seemed to feel frustrated with me, because they show me magazines, and I'll be like what I want is not in the magazines. I'm not always so excited wearing a popular item. I don't really follow the trend. I have been designing my pieces for as long as I can remember, but I started making pieces for money after I graduated from the university. I always like my brain working.

So, I started designing clothes for men. I stayed away from designing for women, except myself and my sisters, because I didn't like the drama that women came with. So, I focused on men because they are very easy to deal with, and I inspired their confidence in me. And they happened to go with whatever I suggested, because I take my time to listen to what my clients want.

Tell us more about yourself...

I'm Urhobo from Delta State. I'm a graduate of Law from the Madona University. I got my LLB from Law School, Kano. I did my NYSC at the NNPC Headquarters, Abuja. From there, I went to England where I had my Master's degree in International Commercial and Maritime Law at the University of Wales, after which I came back to Nigeria and found out that I seemed to be over-qualified for the job market.

Wherever I went, they kept telling me they couldn't pay me or they didn't have any vacancy. I got tired of waiting, so I rediscovered my passion for fashion. I do both side by side; I have my own private practice together with my mum and my sister who is also a lawyer.

How has it been so far?

It has been really challenging. I always have to consider who I am designing for, the aim of the outfit. I always have to really understand what is happening almost on a personal level for them, and then, I have to think of my materials. It has been very challenging, because I want my things to be affordable; I aim to please my clients with things of good quality, because I always want them to return.

What is your definition of style?

I believe that first, you must feel good with whatever you have on yourself; it doesn't have to be a complete outfit. To me, style is wearing what is appropriate to make your day.

How do you unwind?

I love to watch series; anywhere I go, I'm looking to watch series. I'm actually more interested in watching series, than watching the latest movies.

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