Home Interviews I Am Still a Work in Progress – Mudi Africa

I Am Still a Work in Progress – Mudi Africa

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Joke Onitolo

Clement Mudiaga Enajemo, popularly known as Mudi, is one of Africa’s top fashioner designers. The Delta State- born fashion mogul enjoys expressing the dynamism of African cultures through his avant-garde designs.The multiple award winner has been recreating and positioning his brand to meet international standards.

A man of supreme taste, every move he makes in the industry is ultimately intended to promote his brand and win the hearts of his far-flung customers.

Today, his head office is said to be the best fashion house in Africa. In an interview with happenings.com.ng,  he talks about his challenges, aspiration, among  other things.

Enjoy!

How was growing up like for you?

I am  from a polygamous home. I grew up in Ughelli North, about 15minutes drive from Warri in Delta state. My family was of middle class. We were contented with our status then. We had trust and value for each other. My parents were loving and accommodating. My Dad had nine wives and my mother is the 4th wife. We are about 29 children all together.

Growing from a polygamous home, what is your take on polygamy?

These days I won’t support polygamy. Owing to economic factors, people now cut down on the numbers of kids they would have. One thing I learnt from my father is that, if there are four kids from different mother in the sitting room, he does not give us things in front of each other, to create a balance among the kids. My father was a strong man, who controlled the house with love and harmony.

When you started did you envisage you would be this big?

No! But I had that ‘it is possible’ feeling in me. Not that I will loom large, but I am just an optimistic person. In the year 2002, I went to Victoria Garden City, VGC, for the very first time to see a client and deliver his clothes, with my first car ‘First Lady’. When I entered VGC, I decided to drive round to have a feel of what the area looks like, but, it got to a stage that I had to park my car and take a look at the gigantic buildings.

I said to myself in (Pidigin English) ‘ Na person build these kind house ?’. It flipped my mind that there is a big market untapped here.

People on this VGC axis would love to wear good clothes. So I said to myself, let me focus on these people, do their work well and am sure to make good money. The ‘It is possible’ mentality got me going, it served as my driving force. If you are gifted and you have passion for the work; then you must have the drive and discipline to scale through to the next level.

At what point in your life did you discover your talent in fashion?

I discovered it as far back 1993. I came to Lagos in the year 1990, and I settled first in Ketu-Ikosi, close to Oshoffa of Celestial Church of Christ’s House. While I was there, I worked in a factory close to Seven Up Bottling company with my uncle, where we have Daystar Church today.

At what point did you think moving down to Lagos was the next move for you?

When I left Delta State, I moved to Ilorin, Kwara state, My older brother was working in Ilorin. I went there with the intention of staying and possibly gaining admission into Kwara Polytechnic. Immediately I got to Ilorin, my brother lost his job in the year 1990. I migrated to Lagos via train and landed at Iddo Railway Terminal. There was no phone to call, but I had the address of my uncle residing in Lagos.

I moved to my senior cousin’s place in Pako close to Unilag. While I was in Pako, I got employment and worked from 1991 till 1992 where I was earning 3,500 naira. Later in 1992, Five of us were retrenched as the government Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) was biting harder on the economy.

Has there ever been a time you thought of quitting the business?

During the period I was trying to raise the rent for the shop, I went to meet a senior friend of mine, whose house is behind my shop, to assist me for a small loan of 20,000, to buy materials to make ready-made clothes as samples for my customers. The guy called me and said; Mudi, this work is not good for you forget about it. He said he was going to introduce me to his friend who import clothes from Italy so he can give me clothes to sell for him so I can also make money by the side. I nearly cried, but I consoled myself. It was Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD) that helped me out with the rent for my first shop.

You said Richard Mofe Damijo paid for your first shop rent, tell us about it and how did you meet him?

I met RMD the year 1995, when his late wife, Mae Mofe-Damijo was still running classic magazine and he was also running Mr. Magazine. I went to see his wife’s younger sister, who was also into fashion, at the office of Classics magazine. As I was descending down the stairs, RMD and his late wife were going upstairs. RMD saw the way I was dressed, but didn’t say a word. The following day, I went to same office and RMD’s wife younger sibling told me that RMD asked who I was. She gave me her card and told me to go and meet RMD in his office. That’s how we connected till date.

The King of Morocco has visited your store, how do you feel to have gotten such recognition?

The king of Morocco’s visit was a touching one. On a Saturday evening, I got a call from Intercontinental hotel. A man asked if I was aware that the King of Morocco was in town, I said to myself how is that my business? I thought it was one of those calls from some fraudsters. He told me the king was on a one week visit to Lagos and he will be visiting 4 places and my store was one of the places he was going to visit. I didn’t take him serious. Then he called me on Sunday evening, and asked for the time we open for operation, I told him. On Monday morning I saw some advanced team.

They came with two Moroccan ladies and they rode in a government official car. They parked and looked around. An elderly Moroccan man, looked around, and shook my hand; and complementing me for having a good place. The king later arrived at four in the evening . He came with a large entourage. The crowd was overwhelming. I took him round while He picked clothes of his choice. He left immediately and told me to deliver the clothes he ordered for in two days . And I did.

The lesson I derived from this is just simple, it shows that just do your work well, you would be located.

You are an established brand already in the fashion world. Are you thinking of delving into making fragrance and colognes?

You can’t rule that out, it is possible. But I know God determines everything. As at when I acquired this office, I was not prepared to buy one. I was thinking I was going to acquire the building of my former office but God has a better plan. The money in my account was not even up to the amount the house was going to be sold for. I had 11.7 million naira in my account. I wasn’t prepared to buy a house.

It was divine favour. I was forced to open the account. GT Bank rescued me, my account with the bank was just six months old. One of the Executive Director of the bank is my client. He said before he can pay me, I must open a GTBank account. Reluctantly, I obliged by opening it. Immediately he pays the money into the account, I will transfer it to my Zenith Bank account. The zenith Bank I was loyal to did not even come to my rescue.

You love vintage and exotic cars, any reason for this?

Not that I love cars, it is just that any car I come across happens to be a very unique car. I am not a car freak. The three cars I have are extremely unique. My car defines my style. So it reflects in my way of life.

Are you giving back to the society?

Yes I give back but not through an NGO. I like to do my things quietly.

You have different flags of countries outside your office what does it signify?

The Ghanian, Kenyan, Senegalese and South African flags; signifies the countries where my branches are located. With all sense of humility, I am the first Nigerian designer to have billboards in Nigeria and a TV commercial.

Give us five tips to success in the fashion business.

First of all, you must have the talent; you must be creative; you must have the drive; you must have the passion and must be disciplined.

You have a massive collection of awards on your shelf, which one is most precious to you?

The award from City People magazine in 2004, it was my first award.

If you are given the opportunity to change something about yourself, what would that be?

I would say my temper. I am very emotional. I know creative people are temperamental.

How do you relax?

I relax with my job. Each time I create new designs I have this soothing feeling. It takes stress off me. I listen to pure African music. My favourite artiste is Sirleaf Keita, followed by other African artistes

How many African leaders have been to your office?

The King of Morocco and former Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.

What is the future of African fashion?

There is a great future and prospect. Five years ago, people sell Ankara on the road, but now, people open up a massive shops to sell Ankara only. It shows that the value is increasing.

You have conquered the fashion world, what is the next level for MUDI?

I have not conquered the fashion world. It is a work in progress. It is a systematic development. I am still working. I have just made a mark and carved a niche for myself

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