How did you get into fashion designing?
Professionally, I have been in the industry for about eight years. Fashion is not something I really wanted to do. I am an artist. I do a lot of paintings, drawings and the rest. It was all a mistake. It’s not like I really planned it. When my sister was filling my JAMB form then, she mistakenly wrote Fashion Designing instead of Fine and Applied Arts. That was how I found myself in fashion in Auchi Polytechnic. It was not easy at first because people did not appreciate fashion then. You could not really tell your friends that you were studying fashion in school. I used to find it difficult to tell my friends that I gained admission into school and this is what I am studying. I sneaked in and sneaked out. All they just knew was that I was in school, they did not know what I was studying.
Do you have any regrets?
I do not have any regrets. Infact, I am so happy, I am so grateful to my sister. We were together last year November in Manchester and I told her, ‘big aunty, do you know that mistake has turned my life around’? I really appreciate that mistake. God bless you real good’.
Will you still go into fine and applied arts?
I still draw and paint. If you see most of my designs, you would see that. If you spend about 10 minutes with me in my workshop, you will know I am a very creative person and I am still in love with fine and applied arts. I do a lot of artistic works on graphics. Before they go in for embroidery, I have to sketch on them. Some have people that do that for them but I don’t, I do that myself. I don’t plan to go into it professionally. I might just do it for the fun of it because I love arts. Anything that has abstract arts, I love them so much. I enjoy doing it, I don’t think I would go into it professionally. I can sketch for myself or friends. I sketch for my fiancé sometimes. I used to ask her to sit on the bed and I just sketch her, just for the fun of it.
How did you come up with the name Yomi Casual?
The Yomi came out from Olorunyomi, the Casual is the way I see my designs. Though some people say my designs are not casual, I believe casual is not meant to be boring. This is my definition of casual.
How will you describe your person?
I am a very shy person, I am God-fearing. I love looking good all the time, I am so vain. I love good things, I love cars, I don’t flirt.
Who owns the car you post on your Instagram account?
It is actually a Chrysler 300, all pimped out. That is my recent baby. I call that car my baby because I love cars a lot. I got the car in 2012 and it cost me about N4m. My next car is going to be very crazy, I am going for a monster truck. I’m just living my life like my mentor, Mudi. If you know him, he has crazy cars. You would just see his number plate on one flashy vintage car. Now he just got a 505, 1958 model, very crazy. I love crazy stuffs. I used to drive a vintage Ford. It is a pimped out Ford. It was just two of us that own that edition of Ford in the whole of Lagos. They know me with that car, it is like my brand. If you see that car, you will know that Yomi is coming. What I want to go for now is a monster truck; the ones with the really big tyres. I just want to make a statement with that truck.
Why did you choose Mudi as your mentor?
Mudi has helped my life in so many ways. When I first got to Lagos, the first fashion attire that I would ever hold on to, something to admire, was Mudi’s. When I saw the label, Mudi, I was wowed. I met my elder brother, AY, and he told me to mind how I was touching the cloth as it was a gift from Mudi. He said he couldn’t even afford it. When I asked for the price, he said it costs N50,000, that was in 2005. I was shocked and asked my brother why anybody would pay such an amount for an attire. AY told me to keep fooling myself that I studied fashion and I’m not taking it seriously. I told myself that that was a good business and I had the opportunity to meet him one on one. I told him that he was my mentor and that he inspired me a lot. He told me to keep doing my thing. I am just following in his footstep. If you see most of Mudi’s designs, you will see little similarities with mine. Though I work with embroidery a lot, some of my designs are plain. If you see the plain ones, you will just see some little touch of Mudi. If you see my lifestyle and the way I bring out my designs, it is the same way Mudi does. He uses celebrities only to showcase his design that is what I do.
What will take you about two years to achieve, if you use a celebrity, it will take you two days. People easily recognise a brand associated with celebrities. If you see a celebrity wearing a nice outfit and they ask who made it, Yomi Casual. Before you know it, your name is going places.
Why did you relocate to Lagos?
I moved from Warri and it took the whole family to persuade me to move to Lagos. They told me that I should move to Lagos as it is the centre of entertainment. They argued that if they don’t know you in Lagos, they don’t know you anywhere. They said I should come and make a name in Lagos and if I like I can move back. I did not want to move. You know how it is, living in a place that you are born and bred, my friends and all. It was not easy persuading me but I thank God. I keep thanking Him. Sometimes when I am with AY and he asks me if I want to go back to Warri, I tell him ‘never’. Even in Warri, they are begging me to come for holidays, I hardly go.
What is the most expensive item you have sold to a client?
I think the most expensive I have done for an outfit is N80,000. I sold it to the deputy governor of Jigawa State. It is so funny how he got to know about me, I was so amazed. I got a call from him back then, not knowing that he is the one. He spoke with a Hausa accent and said he had been seeing my designs and he would love to know more about me and send somebody to my office to see what I had. The person came to my office, checked everything. After that, he sent me a text message that said, ‘This is the deputy governor of Jigawa State, I love your design and I would want to invite you over to Abuja to take my measurement’. I thought it was fraudsters or ritualists and I said ‘never’. I was so scared I told everybody. Even the day I was travelling I gave all my friends his phone number just in case anything went wrong. Even till now, he still tells me that I am the best, He told me, ‘You have changed my wardrobe’.
What is it like being AY’s brother?
Being AY’s brother has affected my business positively. Everybody knows me with AY. If you see AY, you see Yomi Casual. I am about the only designer that has his advert on DSTv. You know what it takes to put your advert on DSTv. My advert is there courtesy of the AY show. I am everywhere. The Yomi Casual brand is so big, it is bigger than me. People see me and ask ‘are you the Yomi’? They sometimes say I look so small. The name is so much bigger than me that I try to cope when I am out.
How was it building your brand?
I’ll say it is favour. Also, when you are doing something different, the world will want to patronise you. People love new things, when you come out with something different, people will always want to patronise you. I’ll say my designs helped me and my elder brother. AY is my backbone and he keeps putting me everywhere. Anywhere he goes, its Yomi Casual and because of my brother, by the time I approach any celebrity and say ‘I am AY’s younger, I’d love you to rock my clothes’, they agree. It got to a point that all the celebrities say that if you are not wearing Yomi Casual, you are not up to standard – my tunic, not the suit. If you are not wearing a Yomi Casual native, then you do not know what fashion is all about. I got a call from Segun Arinze and he asked if he was not fit to rock my clothes and I was surprised. These are the people we used to watch way back in Warri and now they want to be associated with my brand. We thank God.
What is the most expensive fashion item you own?
I have a Ferrari wristwatch. Everybody knows how much a Ferrari costs. When I bought that watch, AY was mad at me. He asked if I bought it with my money or if it was a gift. I told him I just needed to get one thing for myself. Funny thing about it is that people recognise original when they see one. Sometimes when I go out or I travel and I have the watch strapped to my wrist, white people come to me to commend the wristwatch. I bought it when I went to the UK; if I convert the price to naira, it is roughly N250,000.