Tina Ndidi Ugo is a fashion entrepreneur, interior designer, travel consultant, business and Life coach, photographer and a blogger. Her brand DIDI Creations has showcased her collections in some of the worlds fashion capitals like London, New York, Paris, Lagos and Nairobi. She has won several awards across the globe and hopes to keep winning. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, she opens up on her passion, inspiration and some of her achievements in the sector.
WHAT or who inspired you to go into the fashion and bag designing business?
To be honest I’ll say the fashion industry was inevitable and innate for me as I always believed I had something to offer because of my creativity.
I had been told times without number by strangers, friends and family that I was quite creative, whenever I was seen in any of my designed custom made sample pieces hence I decided to pull the bull by the horn and made up my mind to start designing as a means of livelihood.
I started designing Clothing, Bags, Shoes and Accessories as a result of my fetish for these fashion pieces.
My personal love and preference for genuine leather and statement fashion pieces was also a huge factor.
I’m so passionate about fashion and style, to the extent that I’m a collector of most fashion items and accessories.
What was it like at the beginning?
DIDI Creations was launched in 2012, while DIDI Creations Kids was launched in 2016.
At the beginning, i knew I wanted to build a global fashion brand that would outlive me so I gave it my all.
Interestingly, DIDI Creations was berthed in my Bedroom shortly after my graduation from Edgehill Business school; where I was awarded a Master of Business Administration in 2011.
I’ve always loved the fashion industry while growing up and I’m still fascinated by Fashion till date.
So upon my graduation, I was torn between getting a job in the financial sector or setting up my own business. I decided to settle for the latter and the rest is history today. I followed all the steps required to start up a fashion business.
What were you doing before this and what was the experience like?
Prior to launching my brands, I worked with three different corporate sectors (Insurance, Aviation and Publishing sectors) between 2002 and 2005.
I kept changing jobs every year as there was no real job satisfaction, however I’ll forever be grateful for some of the professional experiences I gathered while at my 9-5 jobs, because they helped prepare me.
I quit the corporate world in 2005 to pursue my entrepreneurial dream.This saw me setting up my first business (Black Cashmere Ventures) in 2005.
I have set up a few other businesses afterwards, including DIDI Creations Ltd, DIDI Deluxe Services Ltd, DIDI Deluxe Travel Ltd. and POP UP Nigeria Ltd.
Let’s talk about some memorable moments in your life and career?
My most memorable moment in life was my pregnancy journey and giving birth to my daughter. Words can’t explain my feelings when I saw her for the first time.
The day I officially launched DIDI Creations eight years ago remains fresh in my memory also.
One of my memorable highlights after launching would be when I had my first live interview in 2013 during the Woman’s Hour on BBC radio for discussing African Fashion prior to my first runway showcase in London.
Another was when I took my first bow on the stage as a Fashion designer during Africa Fashion Week London 2013. I have taken several other bows over the years in London, New York, Kenya and Lagos).
In 2016, I opened the show at Africa Fashion Week, London and took a bow with my 7 months old daughter; I’d say that experience and moment was priceless for me.
I’ve also cherished being featured in almost all the major fashion magazines in the UK, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria over the years; including British Vogue, Elle, Tatler, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Glam Africa, Pride, Genevieve magazine, TW magazine, Working Moms, Complete fashion and several others.
I won’t forget in a hurry the brand exposure I got when my brand was chosen alongside twenty nine other British brands by the UK Department for International Trade in 2017 to have our products retailed in a major mall in Paris for a whole month.
Finally, all the awards I have received over the years inspires and motivate me to work harder.
What are some of the challenges encountered?
One of the biggest challenge is production and quality control.
I’ve had quite a number of devastating experiences with manufacturers and artisans in Italy, Nigeria, Ghana and China.
Logistics is also another challenge, especially for those pieces we manufacture in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Finally, getting the products out there on the shelves of major departmental stores is another challenge.
Because no matter how good your product or service is, it needs to be visible and people need to be aware it exists.
Would you consider the business lucrative?
The fashion industry is very capital intensive but can be quite lucrative if you get it right or have a big break.
Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life and career?
My late mum was my greatest influence and role model. She was such a hard working, beautiful woman and serial entrepreneur, so I grew up emulating her.
In her lifetime, she ventured into the Beauty sector, Food sector and Fashion industry respectively. We eventually became unofficial business partners at some point before her demise.
Let’s compare when you started doing this and now, what has changed?
When I started, my retail outlets/stockists and clientele base were mainly in the UK and Nigeria. Whereas now, apart from those two, we do have a presence and clientele across the globe including the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, Singapore, Holland etc.
In what ways has being an entrepreneur changed your lifestyle?
Being an Entrepreneur has made me become a workaholic, as I work round the clock.
What are some of the changes that you would like to see in the sector?
I’ll like to see African Fashion dominate the global fashion scene. I foresee this happening in the near future
What are some of the lessons that you have learnt?
Based on experience over the years, I have learnt to do more market research and product testing before going into full production for new lines and collections.
What is your definition of style?
Style for me is a way of saying who I am without uttering a word. Style radiates in everything one does not necessarily only in fashion. I wouldn’t follow a fashion trend if it doesn’t align with my personal style
Tell us about the things that you treasure most in life?
I treasure my daughter, family, peace, sanity, time and happiness.
How do you relax?
I’m an avid lover of nature. So I relax by watching and capturing the sunrises, seaside, birds, cloud formations and sunsets.
Who are the people you admire and role models?
I admire innovators and hope I can invent something new in my lifetime.
Where do you hope to see your business in the next few years?
I hope to see my business expand into new markets and also have a main stake in the sector.
If you had to advise young people who want to go into the sector what would you tell them?
I’ll let them know it’s a very capital intensive sector. Hence anyone venturing into it, needs to have the will to persevere and passion to continue when the chips are down.
What are some of the other things that occupy your time?
Let’s just say, I literally work round the clock.
Apart from being a hands on mum to my daughter, I’m also a certified travel consultant, business coach, an amateur photographer, freelance web developer, freelance graphic designer, a blogger and vlogger. All of the above keep me on my toes daily.