This week’s Friday Column is an absolute must read! We put a well deserved spotlight on Mrs Sade Thomas Fahm. Her journey starts from studying Fashion in the United Kingdom way back in the 1950’s to coming back home to Nigeria, right down to implementing all her ideas and becoming the first woman to own a boutique in Nigeria. The 83 year old revered Fashion Doyen is indeed a great inspirational figure, and one who’s voice should constantly be sought out and heard.
Mrs Fahm has a published book titled “The faces of She“, chronicling her life as Nigeria’s first Fashion designer, down to her Boutique called the Shade’s boutique, her modelling career, her designs, patterns and so much more. She is a leading pioneer in so many ways.
I had a very insightful interview with her for today’s column, filled with really powerful nuggets from her wealth of experience till date.Please read below
1.Ezinne Chinkata: Why Fashion?
Mrs Sade Thomas- Fahm: I went into fashion the very first day I was on the streets of London (1953). I was with my bosom friend who met me on arrival at the Euston station. The Biritish Council sponsored some of us to London to learn various vocations. It was just the end of the war and the British council was helping the youths. I went initially for nursing. The first excursion on Edgware road, I saw Model’s and mannequins in fashionable clothes/accessories and I was completely involved. Right there and then I made up my mind to do fashion.
I worked during the day and studied at night for my National Diploma. Immediately afterwards, I went ahead and enrolled at St Martin’s College of Arts (Central St. Martins) to study Fashion Art. Part of the tuition also exposed us to Fashion shows, exhibiitons, history of fashion, arts.I realised it was all I wanted to do and was working towards coming home to show all I had learnt and create the type of garment factories I was exposed to, train people, create jobs.
2.E.C: Looking through your life, what would you say is the best decision you ever made.
S.T. F: Taking the opportunity The British Council offered and making up my mind to follow through with the opportunities open to me at the time. Not only has it given me fulfilment, it has made it possible for me to help others.
3.E.C: Your advice to young creatives trying to make a way in their various crafts
S.T. F:First of all, allow your imagination to run wild. Don’t try to curb your imagination. Up till now I still dream and imagine.I have always being a free thinker. Be persistent. If you really believe in something, go through with it. It doesn’t matter how hard it is.
4. E.C: What quality do you think matters the most for success as a Fashion Entrepreneur
S.T. F: ‘Patience’. As an entrepreneur, you face a lot of difficulties.You have to convince people to believe in what you are trying to project and people are so doubtful.They don’t really want to help you. You have to be patient by being rugged, persistent, believe in yourself and in your idea. You have to see the future of your idea in your mind’s eye and believe that it would succeed. You have to believe in it and be patient.
5. E.C: If you had one wish for Nigerian fashion, what would it be?
S.T. F:I wish that my people realised earlier,the need to really pay attention to fashion, the economic side of it. Most Western countries feed their economies through the garment industry, infact they call it rag trade- Rag to Riches. I would have liked to see our fabrics all over the world,just as you turn to shops and see Western line in any part of the world.It would have done us a world of good.We are many and we need jobs to be occupied.
The Indian fashion, they’ve penetrated the world and have enough to feed their nation.Whereas Nigeria depends so much on imported fashion. Afterall, the western world progressed in such a way that they developed such light fabric for stockings and it lasts weeks without ladder. We could have done the same here with our own such as the Asoke and Teru (Calico),to further improve and develop it. In my book, I referred to a section where I said Nigerians would face a question of identity, we almost lost it to the Western world, thank God it’s coming back.
6. E.C: What is the biggest you’ve learnt from Life ?
S.T. F: ‘Never take advantage of people.Earn more friends because you find that you will always need people’. When they say no man is an Island, it is true. For you to want to succeed, you have to earn it, it would not be handed to you on a platter. People won’t like you because you want to succeed you may come across as too persistent. You have to earn your frends, by giving of yourself,being honest, your integrity must be intact. Earn here, I mean you have to go after it. I do so as well, I am outgoing, I make overtures.