In this interview, OLABODE ONANUGA tells ANGEL JAMES about his emerging brand, Aristocrats Luxury.
The striking images of Aristocrats’ Luxury shoes and bags will surely arouse the interest of anyone who adores quality men’s Luxury shoes and high-end leather goods.
Quality leather shoes have always been adored by those who love and appreciate their worth. These are statement shoes that make the wearer stand out of the crowd.
This philosophy has been the push behind the new premium men shoe brand, Aristocrats Luxury started by Olabode Onanuga Jnr. in 2016.
A native of Ijebu Ode in Ogun State, South-West Nigeria, Onanuga was born in England over three decades ago by loving and highly enterprising parents. His parents influenced his interest in the business of fashion.
Onanuga honed his business skills while working for two highly successful entrepreneurs before setting up Aristocrats Luxury. He is a graduate of Business and Law from Nottingham Business School and Lead City University.
Aristocrat Luxury is the outcome and love child of his escapades in Europe. He has been able to create an exciting world-class fashion brand led by Africans. At the moment, Aristocrat’s Luxury offers men’s shoes and high-end leather goods, handcrafted in Europe by some of the finest artisans in the world.
“Our clients are typically well-travelled, smart, stylish, affluent or comfortable and highly exposed,” Onanuga says of his target market. I included the word ‘smart’ because our clients understand that we offer world-class and exclusive luxury leather goods at amazing prices. We offer the Luxury Business Bag or shoes handmade by the same European artisans at a considerable price than a traditional European Luxury brand. So effectively, the profit stays here when you support us as an African brand and you also get a fair deal. That’s a win-win. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Before starting his label, he was privileged to learn, serve, and hone his skill working with highly successful entrepreneurs. His first role in Nigeria exposed him to some of the biggest manufacturers in the Food and Beverages sector, leaving to developing the skill set required to manage a multi-million dollar business very early in his career. It was a steep learning curve for him.
Besides, he worked at a successful consulting and business process outsourcing company that ultimately exposed him to the world of unlimited possibilities in business.
As with all entrepreneur, the fund for his business has been a challenge for Onanuga. Yet he refused to back down from his entrepreneurial dream.
Onanuga says he started Aristocrats Luxury with the little savings and cash raised from his colleagues at work.
“I would invest almost 80 per cent of my salary every month and also invite some colleagues at work to co-invest. I had to sign an agreement before they released their savings to me. I invested in my business very aggressively for over two years before I felt comfortable enough to leave paid employment and work for the business full time,” he tells me.
As someone who is not motivated by quick profits or short-term gains, he believes that integrity, great products and fantastic customer experience are the critical ingredients for long term success in business.
“I remember one of my mentors told me ‘integrity can make you very rich in Nigeria. I am not rich yet, but I am serving and delivering great value to our customers. Success would naturally come as an outcome of what we are doing by the grace of God. You have to promise and consistently deliver value, and this is important.”
His love for distinguished gentlemen and aristocrats informed his brand name Aristocrats Luxury. He says his shoes are designed for men who are seeking excellence.
These are men who are well travelled, stylish and exposed.
Aristocrats Luxury rarely repeat its designs. The label consistently releases new and bespoke designs periodically.
“We release new loafers, sneakers, sandals, leather bags and purses very frequently. We are still a small business growing organically through referrals and social media efforts. We also have a robust retail strategy to expand our retail footprint. Our shoes are stocked at Twice as Nice Shirts in Ikeja City Mall, at Ceddi Plaza Abuja and Avenue Montaigne Lagos Lekki phase 1. We intend to work with more luxury fashion retailer going forward. We also intend to ramp up our marketing efforts this year. We have been working very quietly.”
The young entrepreneur sources for materials in Europe as he is, he pays great attention to details and the quality of materials used in manufacturing the shoes. He puts in so much time and efforts to learning and self-development.”
“I attended a leather goods exhibition in Milan in the first quarter of 2020 and got some Gelato,” he jokes.
Furthermore, at the heart of his products are designs that speak to the personality of its wearer.
“Aristocrats Luxury shoes are designed to seduce men, women, children and anyone who appreciates the finer things in life. The choice of design is mostly based on feedback from Aristocrat Family. Our Instagram followers have been very supportive and helpful in identifying new and exciting trends. My background (a combination of Nigerian and British fashion), travel, social media and everything around has influenced my designs. I spend a lot of time on research and engaging the Aristocrats Family.”