This brand almost didn't happen.
Ask any person running a business based in Lagos, they will wax-lyrical about the level of street smarts and grit required to be successful in Nigeria's most populous city. In launching Kitakiso, we've had our fair share of disappointments when it comes to sourcing fabric.
The fact that we have coordinated our sourcing efforts from the UK, is no doubt a huge factor in explaining our experiences. We have been fortunate to be supported by friends and family on the ground who have helped to either pass us on to trusted contacts or offer to quality check materials in person. Nevertheless, we have still learned many lessons the hard way.
From the start we knew that Adiré silk would be our fabric; a local tie-dye technique which regained popularity over the last couple of years. It results in a uniquely intense yet balanced hue and when performed on silk is versatile and effortlessly luxurious.
We initially set out hoping to purchase Adiré silks wholesale and already dyed. We soon found that if we wanted patterns that stood out we would have to ask someone to create custom orders and create the tie-dye patterns from scratch.
Through trial and error there were common issues found with the suppliers we ultimately chose not to partner with. Now that we have successfully found a supplier, a hugely talented Adiré craftsman based in Lagos, we would like to share the 4 valuable lessons we learned along the way.
1. INTEGRITY is the single most important quality.
Whether its sticking to deadlines or delivering the product as promised, our supplier has upheld a high standard of integrity. There have even been times where he has over delivered; estimating a turn around time of two weeks for example and delivering in one. We decided very quickly that someone so integral would be an honor to work with.
2. Value people whose AMBITION matches yours.
After understanding that we would eventually be making large on going orders with him, our supplier proactively offered to make samples (with no up front payment). He ventured through Lagos markets to source the dyes closest to those we indicated in our designs. This stood out compared to many other suppliers we contacted. His vision and drive matched ours - not something that could be taught.
3. Make clear how highly you value QUALITY.
It should go without saying that quality is important. However, there are parts of the fashion industry where cost trumps quality. A supplier may have been approached in the past and lost business due to their price point, these experiences may lead them to assume that they need to provide lower quality goods or services to enable them to reduce their prices. Making clear up front your expectations with regards to quality empowers them to provide quotes that are in line with the value of their best work.
4. CREATIVITY will make for a lasting partnership.
When we say we have been blessed, we mean it. Our supplier has taken some of our specifications and made suggestions to take them to the next level. The creativity of his work is ensuring that Kitakiso stands out from the crowd.