Statement pieces are great, but what are you supposed to wear for the other 300 plus days of the year? You still need a visually appealing day-to-day selection, which is sophisticated and functional, as well as, relaxed and uncontrived. 87ORIGINS can help with that.
Launched in April 2016 by Tiwa & Tolani Tubi, 87ORIGINS is a mission-driven brand that wants to bring design and quality to the forefront of how utilitarian products are seen in Africa. Theirs is an effortless selection of fundamentals encompassing menswear, womenswear and leather accessories. An offering that caters to customers who shop thoughtfully, embrace lasting style and desire quality. We talked to the husband and wife design duo to find out more:
What does 87ORIGINS mean & why you decided to launch it?
We are both born in 1987, so the name felt right. Deciding to start 87Origins was very organic. We both really dove into our love for creating after we left university, moved to London and started working in fashion. We wouldn’t say there was anything in particular that shaped our decision to take this path, it just felt right and we are 100% sure this is what we are meant to do. We love to design and we have very similar aesthetic in the things we like (art, clothing, and furniture) so working together came naturally and we’re thankful it came to fruition.
Why did you decide to base it in Nigeria as opposed to the UK?
We both always dreamed of owning our own design company but it was extremely difficult to compete in the apparel world in the UK where we lived. So when we decided to move to Nigeria, we felt it was the perfect time to try. There were very few brands in Nigeria that made clean, high quality, reasonably priced clothes for everyday life so we decided to fill the gap in the market.
You both have worked for luxury brands in the UK. Tolani, what was your experience with bespoke menswear tailoring?
I started off working with brands such as TMLewin and Charles Tyrwhitt. As time went on I wanted more and wanted to be part of the design process, especially while I worked at Charles Tyrwhitt. So I started by doing a menswear design course and a sewing course while I worked there. With that knowledge I was able to get a position as Tailoring Consultant at a company called King & Allen. With this role I oversaw the front of house, which involved helping pick the right fabrics in the right styles for what the customers wanted, measuring them and also their first few fittings.
We are 100% sure this is what we are meant to do.
After a few years I wanted to expand my knowledge so I enrolled for a bespoke tailoring course at a college in London. This course ran for a year and I worked part time whilst doing it. All this contributed to 87Origins design process positively as we take time to get the right fabrics and design them in the right fit and finish.
Tiwa, your experience is more marketing and e-commerce oriented. Did your experience help to formulate 87ORIGINS strategy?
During my time living in the UK, I worked for a few brands like Mawi, Nicole Farhi & Liberty. Yes, I did learn a lot about marketing & e-commerce that helped with how we run 87Origins, knowledge that I am so grateful to have because it made the construction stage of our company a lot more straight-forward than it could have been.
We create clothes that people want to wear over and over again.
However, Nigeria is a completely different market so some of the marketing strategies I learnt while employed in those companies do not work here and we had to learn that the hard way. We have had to go back to the drawing board many times to figure out what works well for the market we are in and it’s been an exciting process.
The reason behind the colour scheme used and materials.
We take our time when sourcing fabrics because we design specifically for tropical weather. The fabrics need to be light, comfortable & still look great after a long day in the heat. The colour schemes we choose depends on what we are drawn to at the time, it’s never trend driven but rather colours we feel will make getting dressed for everyday life much more enjoyable.
Why is comfort an important pillar of your brand?
Clothing should be comfortable, especially if you are going to be in those clothes all day. We create clothes that people want to wear over and over again. If you feel trapped in a piece of clothing you most like won’t wear it very often or possibly ever again.
87ORIGINS is very utilitarian driven …we like to create clothes that are functional
Where does production take place and how big is your team?
At the moment we are a team of two. We are looking to start hiring this year. Production is based on where we can source the best fabrics, ranging from Lagos to Asia.
What sets the brand apart from other fashion houses on the continent?
Our designs are extremely wearable and reasonably priced. We also focus on the quality of our pieces and functionality rather than follow trends. We take the time to ensure that the fabric, fit & finish of our piece are well balanced so the finished product is something that can be worn time and time again and doesn’t have to cost a small fortune for customers to enjoy.
Tell us about your most recent collection…
The aesthetic of our brand is very minimal and clean; it’s an extension of our own style. We don’t work in collections because we want to develop our company in a sustainable way and create the best products mindfully. 87ORIGINS is very utilitarian driven so we like to create clothes that are functional. We roll out a few new styles at a time, which can serve as year-round classics.
Biggest highlight this online brand has experienced so far?
We now have stockist in a few countries within Africa, which feels like tiny steps toward our goal of becoming widely spread across Africa.
The most significant one going on for us is getting customers to shop via the website. When we first started the company, we assumed people would just get on board with shopping online because to us it was easy and straight forward. We didn’t realise that we had to build trust with customers here. The Nigerian customer is only just warming up to the idea of shopping online, so we’ve had to find other ways (shopping parties & pop-ups) to build awareness of the brand offline.
The fashion retail market here is still very new which makes it difficult to navigate without a huge advertising budget, especially for an e-commerce brand. We’ve realised that it will take a lot of patience and constantly giving customers an encouraging nudge towards shopping on our website. [Nevertheless] we are very optimistic that eventually it will become second nature to people who enjoy shopping with us.
What’s next for the brand in 2019?
The major things for us is to continue to improve the products, offer more and build our brand exposure. We were able to work out some production issues last year, so 2019 will hopefully be a smoother year. We also like to focus on the long run – organic growth and scaling in a way that is sustainable is very important to us – because we want this brand to stand the test of time.
We are only three years in and we are grateful to be progressing but we see this being a 30 – 50 year journey. Africa is a huge continent and we want to be the go-to brand for people looking to buy good quality wardrobe classics that fit well.