Ejiro Amos Tafiri has solidified her status as one of the most respected and sought after designers in Nigeria. Her journey has been rooted in self reliance, resilience and faith with the designer refusing to follow the traditional path set out for her by her family. On the route to study medicine, Ejiro fell in love with fashion and never looked back. In 2016 alone, the designer has showcased five different collections to rave reviews. She represented the South Western region of Nigeria at the Vlisco 170 anniversary in Holland and most recently showcased as one of six designers at the GTBank Fashion Weekend.
We sat down with the bubbly designer to find out how she got started in the fashion business, the obstacles she has faced pursuing her dreams and what we can expect from the E.A.T brand in 2017.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
No, not exactly, growing up I was going on to become a Medical Doctor, I was a very good science student, very inquisitive, very bright… But everything changed when I found fashion in SS1. My Agricultural science teacher was pregnant and wasn’t teaching much so I dropped the class and picked up clothing and textiles. On my very first day of joining the class, we went to an excursion at the Yaba College of Technology, Fashion Dept. and I was hooked. It just opened my eyes and I was like this is it.
I have always loved mathematics, technical drawing and being analytical – and fashion for me combined all those things. Fashion is the perfect combination of arts and science.
What did your parents think of your decision?
I didn’t tell them! I did my JAMB for medicine and made sure I didn’t pass. Then I got another JAMB form and instead of filling Science Lab tech, I filled fashion design. When the results came out, my father was livid. But I went to fashion school in the end and that’s how I become a fashion designer.
Do you think it is important for a designer to study fashion design?
It isn’t compulsory but with everything in life that you want to do, its important to hone your craft. Fashion is not just art, fashion is science fashion is arithmetic, fashion is all those things its beyond “oh I’m a creative person”. You have to be able to use your creativity to execute tangible projects so a formal education is important.
What other obstacles have you faced being in the fashion business?
First of all, I would say in the beginning I was looked down on by friends mostly. People couldn’t believe I went to a polytechnic to study something as ‘frivolous’ as fashion. My parents were embarrassed when their friends would ask them what their daughter is studying. People would be shocked referring to me as a ‘tailor’. But once they realized my mind was made up; my parents and my brothers started supporting me and now I have everyone’s support.
Other challenges would be the fact that we don’t have financial assistance in the fashion industry. Also, the lack of technical know how is a big problem. People end up importing tailors from the Philippines and other African countries because many Nigerian tailors lack a formal education. This was a major motivation for me to start my academy.
Tell us about your academy
Its called Ejiro Amos Tafiri School of Design (EATSDN) and It’s is one of the peak points of my career. We offer foundational fashion business courses from 6 weeks to a full length 6 month program.
What makes you tick as a person?
My faith in God and my self belief. I believe a lot in myself. You don’t have to rely on anyone and you can help yourself you can do stuff by yourself. My parents are paramilitary, so I’ve always grown up to have that mind set of whatever you want you can achieve, My dad will never help you bribe anybody, or help you talk to anyone to get you a job or a placement anywhere… So I have that self believe that what ever I want if I work hard at it, if I follow the right way and I do the right things I will get it… and I have faith in God.
What inspired your white collection at GTBank Fashion Weekend?
First of all, GTBank Fashion weekend was an amazing experience. From the production team, to the dressers, to the stylists – everyone made it such an easy and fun process. It was refreshing to see the same standard of show that I would see abroad, at home in Nigeria. By the time GTBank Fashion weekend came about, I had already done 4 collections earlier in the year. From print, to sequins, to tie and dye to Vilsco – so i wanted something that would be fresh. I decided to go back to my original first love which is draping and just make a clean, simple and chic collection.African women are strong and resilient and play a very integral role in the social economic building of Africa as a nation and of the people who become the strong Africans whether male or female – Ejiro Amos Tafiri
Tell us about your experience being a Vilsco ambassador
That was one of my highlights of 2016. They sent me a letter saying they wanted me to be one of their inspirational women. They were picking women from all of West Africa – they wanted me to represent South West Nigeria. The other the women they picked were women that had been retailing Vilsco for over 100 years. They picked a woman from the East who despite being a young widow – has managed her husbands’ business and now is the biggest retailer in the whole of the Eastern Nigeria. They picked really strong and inspirational women like Angelique Kidjo from Bene Republic as well and they picked me and I felt like i had dome something right and it felt really good. Traveling to Holland and being around these women reiterated the fact that African women are strong and resilient and play a very integral role in the social economic building of Africa as a nation and of the people who become the strong Africans whether male or female and I was really proud to be one of those women selected to be celebrated on such a platform.