From what was just a hobby to the creative use of leather and now charting a course in the leather products industry, Femi Olayebi has come a log way.
The chief creative director at My World of Bags, a handbag design and manufacturing company producing an eponymous leather handbag and accessories line, FemiHandbags, is a mentor to designers in the leather environment. This is a boon to her mentees who are able to gain from her vast experience, moreso in an industry that isn’t well structured yet and has no proper training institutes or road maps to follow.
This led to her January 2017 selection by WeConnect International in Washington as the 2017 Women’s Business Enterprise Winner in the Best Mentor and Role Model category for the mentoring role she plays in the lives of younger up-and-coming designers.
Established in 1994, My World of Bags was dedicated to the design and manufacturing of a wide range of bags. A rebranding effort in 2010 saw the business set out to distinguish its corporate items from its leather goods. This was done because the products were targeted at different segments of the market.
Her love for chosen field and a desire to to see it grow led to her starting the Lagos Leather Fair which is now in its second year.
According to her, she started the fair in a bid to find a solution to the various problems faced by her and other leather designers.
“Being one of the pioneers in the business – I have been running my business for 25 years – I still faced the same challenges as a two-year-old business. Finding the right workmen and women with the right skill sets, inadequate capacity, quality control issues, funding, lack of proper infrastructural support, constantly running the business on generators, and so on. It seemed to me that as a pioneer in the field, I was well positioned to act. I felt a strong urge to do something impactful, and believed strongly that I could be part of the solution,” she said in an interview with Nigerian Gems.
The success of the first edition, the World Bank report and her own love for her niche push her to do more, want more. She is looking to, over time, help the institution of a well-structured platform where leather designers can come together and showcase their work. She expressed her belief that the leather industry, like its fashion counterpart, is capable of standing on its own, pointing to the success of the first edition of the Lagos Leather Fair.
“The sector is a very niche one which we believed could stand on its own, independently of other events, as has been proven by the Lagos Leather Fair, so we decided to give it a shot and begin to build a community of Nigerian leather designers,” she said.
A consummate professional, she credits recognition of a job well done and recognizing she has a market for her goods for her drive and longevity.
“This is extremely humbling and rewarding and it’s something I do not take for granted.”
She hopes to see technological and infrastructural advances within the industry.
“I would like to see the activities along the entire value chain well structured, from the slaughterhouse to the actual processing of hides and the production of leather goods. I would like to see appropriate machinery in place and made available to us, good quality hardware (eg. zips, buckles, and magnetic clasps), components and accessories for the final production of FLGs (Finished Leather Goods). With all this in place, the industry will move forward and become a force to be reckoned with”.
We bid her Godspeed as she continues to blaze a trail in her chosen field.
Source: Nigerian Gems.