•OBA Of BENIN’s Daughter, AIBI EREDIAUWA
Princess Aibi Erediauwa, the 2nd daughter of Oba of Benin Kingdom, Omonoba Erediuwa, is one hard working lady who sits atop a multimillion naira fashion house, Pages in the heart of Benin City . The Lawyer turned fashion designer started her fashion business about 3 years ago and she has been able to build it into a big brand such that fashionistas and fashion designers from Lagos and other states usually patronize her. She owns an international standard factory where she manufactures her stuffs. All her stuffs are made in Benin and one would mistake them for foreign products. She makes shoes, cloths , and everything that has to do with making people turn out very good and beautiful. Timilehin Ajagunna visited her state of the art office, at 10, Ihama Road, Benin City, during which she spoke on how she built her fashion house into a big brand.
Can your tell us how your journey into fashion began?
I’ve always been a lover of fashion. I love cloths a lot, and I spent a lot buying cloths. So it occurred to me one day that instead of buying peoples cloths I can actually manufacture mine and that was what inspired my fashion outfit.
So when did you fashion line come into existence?
I would say 2008. I came back from U.K that same year and I kicked off immediately. And starting the business, I faced a lot to make people accept my vision because at that time many people would prefer to buy stuffs from foreign country.
Tell us how you were able to make people accept it?
It was very rough, because my stuffs are made in Nigeria. They know you and they know who made it, so they tend to look down on it. It is the same experience every manufactures in this country go through. So it was difficult for people to accept my designs , but I started doing slippers for my dad and my siblings, so the encouragement I got from my own people made it possible for me to actually go ahead. So, I decided to make my designs good as the Georgio Armani, the Versace and the rest and that has actually helped me to grow my brand.
Four years in the business, looking back how has the journey been?
It’s not been easy. The journey has been rough and I have sacrificed a lot for it. People have messed up loans, so getting loans has been very difficult. And if you don’t have money you can’t grow your business. And again, people are not patronizing you because they don’t believe in what you are doing. But with the support of my family and the passion I have for the business has made me succeed in it.
Before you delved into this business what were you into?
Before I came back to start the fashion business, I was studying law in U.K. But I never practiced Law. I have always love to be a fashion designer but my dad wanted me to study law. You know there is this thing about social status. I have a royal background and my dad never wanted me to go into fashion, but it took me to wake up one day to say this is what I want to do.
Since your dad never wanted you to go into fashion, how did you convince him about your desire to do it?
The kind of person my dad is, he won’t stop you from actualizing your dream, but he would really love me to be a Lawyer. So when I came back to the country, I told him, dad I don’t want to practice Law, this is what I want and he said you want to be a shoemaker, (laughs). So, remembering the encounter my brother had when he was about floating “Hexagon Club”, my dad said to him, so you are trying to be a Bar man? But now, Hexagon is into so many things. So I took a queue from him and I did 2 pairs of slippers for my dad and he liked it. So, whenever I am making new designs , I always make for him. So, he asked me one day, what is my Business Plan and I told him that it is not going to be a small outfit, it is something that is going go out of Benin, I gave him my strategies and all that. So each time I am going through some challenges, he will ask me if I want to shutdown, and I will let him know that I am probably not getting it right this way, maybe I will do it the other way. And now he is fully in support of what I do, he calls me “Lawyer Shoemaker”.
When did you launch Pages officially?
I started fully in 2009, but it was officially launched in December 2011. Between 2009 and then, I was doing research and setting up a quality factory where I can make stuffs that are of international standard.
Being the daughter of one of the most respected Monarchs in Nigeria, how has that affected you?
My status as Oba of Benin’s daughter has affected my business negatively and positively. Negatively in the sense that, whenever I go out to market my brand people don’t take me serious, they will be like your father is rich, why do you have to sell cloths, they feel I don’t have to stress myself doing this because he is my dad. Again, it is really hard for me to get loan, because they believe that my dad can give me the money I need to grow my business. But life is not like that. I am not the only child he has, so I have to work. The positive side, having him as my father has really helped my publicity, I get to know more prominent people who have been patronizing me. Aside that, I enjoy what I do, he didn’t bring me up as a spoilt child, so I have to work hard. I have tried as much as possible not to let the royal background cloud my dream.
How was growing up like?
Growing up was fun. I have a dad who is very caring. I had my primary school education as UNIBEN Staff School and my secondary education at Federal Government College Benin. I did Diploma at UNIBEN before I left for U.K. in 1999. I studied Law at Thames Valley University and I also did some courses at London Metropolitan University.
How did you arrive at the name of you fashion house, Pages? Of course Pages of the Bible. You did a fashion concert last year in Benin, what inspired it?
We started it last year. Its called Chronicles of pages. We are still going have more editions.. It may be a seasonal, it may be yearly. The event is about us, it 10 to seasonal what we do Pages is made in Nigeria by Nigerians. So the event is also to showcase these young guys who are picked from the street that I behind what we produce.