Oyinkansola Abimbola Tijani, the amiable Creative Director of Tennie Tee Couture is the daughter of famed Ibadan businessman, Otunba Abimbola-Davis. Despite being the daughter of a successful man, she, however, started her fashion business with only N10,000.
The entrepreneur did not start her fashion career on a whim; she knew what she wanted from the start and she went the whole hog. Her struggle for independence and the need not to walk in peoples’ shadow got her to where she is today.
She told her story to Parrot Xtra’s MAYOWA OWOGBADE and ADUN OLABIYI recently.
Who Is Tijani Oyinkansola?
I am the Creative Director of Tennie Tee Couture here in Nigeria
Can you tell us about your family background?
I am from a family of eight. Dad, mom, four brothers and a sister. And we are from Ibadan.
And your educational background?
I went to Mayflower Junior School in Ikene and Mayflower Secondary School also in Ikene, then I went to Babcock University in Ilishan, Ogun State.
How did you get into the fashion business?
It has always been in the family. My grandma as well as my great grandmother used to sell fabrics here in Ibadan. Although my dad is not into the fashion business; he is a very fashionable man. Fashion is something I am passionate about. Being born into it is a plus because you can’t mention fabric without sewing.
What did you study in the university?
International Law and Diplomacy.
Why did you decide not to practice what you studied?
Well for me, I have always loved to design my clothes right from when I was growing up. Most of the time when I get my clothes and I am not satisfied with it, I tend to alter it myself. So right after secondary school, I enrolled at a fashion school and I was in training even through my university days.
How long have you been in fashion?
12 years now
What are the challenges you’ve encountered?
For me, I think pleasing people is very difficult. For example, after doing your best and someone comes around and just criticizes everything you’ve done. I have learnt to be calm because people can really get on your nerves but at the end of the day, you realize that it is just part of the job so you just learn how to manage people. The main thing is actually dealing with people. Another problem is that people tend to demean some of my creations.
How big is your company in terms of staff strength?
Like I said earlier, I have been in it for twelve years and the past eleven years have been spent in training throughout my university years. I also interned at a fashion school for two years in Lagos. I started my own company in August 2017 and I have two people working for me now.
Your dad, Otunba Abimbola Davis is a successful business man, what impact has he made in your business life?
I started my business with just N 10,000. I have always been an independent person and I strive to do things my own way. I want to create my own path and not walk in my dad’s shadow. It is not as if he didn’t help me at all, of course I have gotten clients through my dad but I don’t like to rely on him all the time. He has helped me in the areas of business ideas and money management.
Has being your father’s daughter set a certain standard for you?
I don’t think so. Personally, when I was going into business, I made up my mind that my store will cater for every status there is. I try to make clothes that will be affordable to everybody.
How do you manage competition?
I don’t see anybody as a competitor, I only admire their works.
You have been in fashion for so many years, what have you profited from it?
I have benefited a lot in terms of experience because I have worked with a lot of people. During the course of working with other people, I learnt bead work. I don’t like making plain things so I bead the clothes I sew.
What is your dream, where do you see yourself in five years?
I am hoping that one day, my clothes will go global, places like New York Fashion Shows, having stores abroad to an extent that everywhere you go, you will see people wearing Tennie Tee clothing.
How did you come up with the name Tennie Tee Couture?
I bear Teniola, but people tend to shorten the name to Teni and my surname is Tijani Abimbola, it just became Teni Tee and it stuck.
How would you rate Nigerian fashion, in comparison to what obtains in other nations?
If you ask me, Nigerian Fashion has really grown; we have grown to an impressive extent. We have definitely passed the stage of upcoming. Before, people did not like wearing local fabrics but now, you find a lot of people doing just that. But if I were to rate it on a scale of one to ten, I would give us a seven and a half.
Who are those you look up to in the fashion business?
They include Deola Sagoe, Tiffany Amber, Cute Cuts, Lisa Folawiyo. They are people that I look up to. Ultimately, it has always been Deola Sagoe.
Has there been any event that has made you want to give up on your fashion career?
No. I have never felt the need to give up. There have been instances where I put it on hold but never have I ever felt the urge to give up. Fashion is just a part of me. I know that even if I was using my certificate, I will still be doing fashion on the side. I am pretty sure that most of the clothes I will be wearing to work will be made by me.
If you were not into fashion what, other thing would you have done?
If I wasn’t into fashion, I would have loved to be a chef or a makeup artist.
Is it true you only sew for rich people?
Of course not, I do not only sow for rich people. Like I said earlier I want my clothes to be affordable to everybody. There is something I do when people can’t afford my clothes, I give reasonable discounts.
Have you ever modeled your clothes for clients?
Yes. I wear my clothes most of the time and we sew for both male and female
How do you relax?
I watch movies, I go to traditional spas and hang out with my friends.
What advice do you have for the young people in the fashion industry?
These days we have so many designers, what I will tell them is that they should get training from the right people. They should be persistent and not give up on their dreams so easily.
Do your clothes have peculiar attributes that differentiate them from others?
I think it is mainly the finishing and the beadwork. I like making my clothes in such a way that when my clients wear them, they feel confident.