Type to search

In The Hands Of Few Good Men

Men's Fashion News

In The Hands Of Few Good Men

men2Dressing up is in fashion again and Lagos tailors are stepping into the limelight write FUNKE OSAE-BROWN and OBINNA EMELIKE.
What is the collective noun for ‘tailor’’? On Oxford Street in London, it would have to be a row of tailors with whom you can get some of the rarest and creative cuts in the world. But in Nigeria some years ago, there was the rarity of tailors in the true sense of the word. By this we mean there are few tailors to whom you can actually entrust your cloth, let alone rely upon to squarely inset a sleeve, calibrate your interface or navigate the intricate distinctions between patch, flap or jetted pockets on jackets. The truth is an authentic tailor is not so common.
There are many dressmakers, shirtmakers but a well trained tailor is really rare. But that may be changing as the taste of Nigerian consumers is shifted towards the handcrafted, the made-to-measure and the bespoke. There are bespoke tailors at Sophisticat managed by Lanre Ogunlesi. And so, the cognoscenti among Lagos top executives have been turning to that dainty handful of skilled professionals, that rarity of tailors, to sculpt and embellish their bodies. It’s partly a result of a general dressing up of the male species. Not just in the workplace but also for evening and even weekend attire.
It’s not a surprise that Sofisticat represents the bespoke tailoring outfit where politicians, company executives, and trendy men, who wish to satisfy their tastes for high end fashion feel sophisticated and express deep dress sense.
Inside its Maryland showroom, the compelling impulse for a first-timer will be to, first, relish the aesthetic beauty, which variety of garments and other accessories confer on it, before taking a decision on what to pick. In case he has a camera, it will be ‘no-holds-barred’.
Some of the fabrics on display are imported, but the enterprise, which Lanre Ogunlesi the managing director co-founded with his younger brother in the 1970s, goes down in history as one of the first ventures that pioneered the business of garment making in the country.
Of course, price tags on the items look deterring to people in certain rungs of the social ladder. But, with the exotic array of garments –– suits of all kinds –– shoes, ties and other fashion accessories with palatial picture of nobility, the customers need no doubts.
“We attain great quality, but also attain price that is not crazy,” says Ogunlesi. “Now, if the normal street price for sewing is N8, 000, we cannot sew for N20, 000. We only review our prices by 10 per cent once a year to cover inflation”.
Most high end tailors do more fashion-forward approach for suit making but the essential is that the garment fits well. Hence they tend to go for lighter construction, to ensure comfort.  And colour really maximise the taste of the wearer including the nature of the outing.
At times, the body of the client can pose a problem. Sometimes during the second fitting, says P. Prance Klodin, a suit maker, padding needs to be removed, arms cut more narrowly, waists carved into a more elegant shape. 
Some tailors are already building their businesses into formidable brands. And Ogunlesi proudly says his men’s fashion house is probably good_menbigger than some companies, which stocks are today traded on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. “We are bigger than some of the people who are listed, but we don’t really want to go that way.”
Why not? “That will be a discussion for another day.”
But Ogunlesi believes one must be a tailor to go into tailoring. Therefore, he is exploring opportunities in training graduates on how to use sophisticated equipment which will help the country compete favourably in the international market.
“We are looking at setting up a graduate training school to mature people, who have had the basic education and want to go into clothes making with sophisticated machines,” he says.
“We hope that someday, Nigeria will compete with the West in the industry. We have the infrastructure and the population –– we only need to teach people the skills.
“We plan to establish a grooming centre for men upstairs. We are also planning a mass revolution of this premises, because we are going to have a lounge and a real massive redevelopment and designing,” he reveals.
Ogunlesi’ says he dresses the very sophisticated. Looking elegant in his tight-fitting suit and tie to match, the exuberant proprietor of says there’s no limit to elegance at Sofisticat.
“I’m sophisticated; and I dress very well. Sofisticat is derived from the word, sophisticated,” he owns up. “Traditional wears for different tribes — Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa — it is the men’s shop. We have everything for men — shirts, ties, traditional wears and shoes.
It’s not a surprise that Sofisticat makes clothes for the very sophisticated and its clientele profile is almost intimidating. “We make clothes for politicians, presidents, business men, civil servants, governors,” he says proudly. “In fact our clientele is very wide. It is for the man, who is conscious of what he wears.”
Anthony Arwunudje , amy not be a well known name like Sophisticat but he sure knows his onions when it comes to making perfectly cut suits.  His tailoring shop located under a storey building, along the Kirikiri Road in Olodi Apapa, leaves nothing to desire in its structure but the suits produced there are jaw-dropping.
“My jobs come through word of mouth,” he says. “Most of my customers mainly from the corporate world keep telling their colleagues about my cuts and they keep coming from many parts of the country”.
His ability to replicate same suit on the pages of foreign magazines for his clients is one thing he learnt overtime with persistence. “I sell suit materials, all I need is your measurement, design, the type of material you want and the time you want the suit”, Arwunudje assures.
He cannot recall learning all from his master. “I was never scared of mistakes. I make them, and my clients then complained, but I kept to my promise of not repeating any mistake again. Today, there is no suit I cannot sew. The difference is the machine that gives the perfect finish and stitches”, he insists.
Truly, judging him by his shop, one will never patronise him. But the stitches speak for him. He however thinks repacking the shop will mean sales girls, more taxes to government, security among others. That for him will be when he is ready to go very corporate in business. “I need up to N15 million to set up the kind of tailoring company I want. By then, I will have a label name like foreign suit designers”, he notes.
Of course, Arwunudje is among top tailors whose business is all-year-round. He sees no rush for tailored cloths this festive season. According to him, by the last week in November, most tailors stop collecting materials for Christmas from people. “The hardship is biting harder and people now go for already-made cloths. Besides, China suits have spoilt the market. They are cheap but with inferior materials. So people go for them even for Christmas wears”, he decries.
The bespoke tailor notes that his designs are informed by the trend in vogue, amendment or improvement on designs he sees on catalogues, also good designs do come from mistakes on a particular design, while some stylish customers may come with vague picture that becomes a perfect design at the end.
While Arwunudje creates the best of suits, Sese Ndomi, a Togolese tailor in an obscure place in Agboju Lagos, sews beyond ordinary tailoring.
The middle-aged man is gifted in crafting beautiful African designs no matter the part of Africa the design is from.  He is among the tailors that created slim-fit designs with native fabrics, yet he did not pass through a fashion school.
“I learnt tailoring in Ghana. Left it for bus driving in Lagos, but went back to it when my landlord’s wife needed to sew ‘aso-ebi’ for her mother’s burial.  I came back early that day because I lost two of my tyres to task force nails, on seeing the heaps of materials she was struggling with, I came to assist. She later left her shop for me where I am till date”, Sese recalls.
On pointing to a fine design done with gold embroidery, he says. “It is for Baba Politician. His aid just brought the materials this morning. I left all I was doing to sew it today. He pays in hard currency”, Sese enthuses.
Besides the Baba Politician, many top personalities have adopted Sese as their tailor. “I don’t even know most of them, I only see the drivers or their aid come of the jeeps with tinted glass to drop the materials or money. “The only issue is their measurement. To get the measurements, I go to their office, their house or I simple take the measurement from their height and size. But the final thing fits well”.
Because of the calibre of people he sews for, he takes time to do the cuttings and supervises the people that do the embroidery. “A big man can lock you up for messing up his design. It has happened to me severally some years back. But he can pay you a fortune for giving him the best dress for his occasion”, he notes.
However, his designs are mainly from his customers who either come with a design in mind or point to the ones they like on the catalogue. But his best designs are in his head and are obvious when a customer says ‘give me a good design’.
“My creative ingenuity is sharper when I am at liberty to design what comes to my mind. It works to perfect the idea in my brain that will fit the customer”.
For him, traditional wears are all-season now especially now people make less noise about Christmas. Again, he thinks there are many occasions within the year that sustain his business more than the festive rush.
“I even have job some months earlier than now. Parents no longer sew for Christmas while children now prefer already-made cloths. Adult youths impress us with more demand for traditional designs but not during Christmas. Differing taste and the harsh economy are among the reasons for the less demand for Christmas cloth”, he explains.
In same vein, Yinka Jimoh, popularly known as Baba Yinka, another tailor, says the business of sewing has gone beyond the ‘Christmas cloth thing’. “We live in a world where people celebrate everything from birth to death. The celebration goes with matching outfit. If you sew well, deliver the finished cloths on time, and also network, you will always have enough work to do”, he says noting that the problem of most fine tailors is insincerity.
“Tell customers when to come for their cloths, keep to that time, and make sure the job is as good or fitted as they want. Then there will be no space in your shop. But most tailors especially the younger ones will engage themselves with unproductive things at the expense of their professional job”, he concludes.
Previous Article
Next Article

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *