Constructive Criticism Helps Your Business–Mimi Maagbe
Mimidoo Samantha Maagbe is the CEO, House of Mimi, a home of Class & Culture specialising in creating handcrafted African inspired avante garde & bespoke pieces. She also runs a parallel agency for sourcing & managing Models.
TMG> Tell us about yourself…
MM> I am a graduate of International Business at the University of Greenwich. Following my graduation, I worked as a Customer Service Officer for Southwark Council but had to leave a year later due to a family emergency. It was in Kent I decided to learn to sew as I have always wanted to design my own clothes. I booked a beginners course in 2015. I started by making gifts for people and from there it grew into the business it is today. I am from a polygamous family and have been blessed with 3 brothers & 8 sisters.
TMG> Why did you decide to choose fashion designing as a career?
MM> I enjoy working with fabrics, revamping pieces of clothing and making of my own accessories. I am not a fan of high street fashion so I decided to tap into my creative side, as it has always been an innate passion of mine to design my own wardrobe; and as aforementioned, life happened and redirected my focus to my hidden passion-fashion and design.
TMG> What are your qualifications as a fashion designer?
MM> I wish I could tell you that I obtained a degree in fashion & design but I did not, neither did I attend a fashion school.
What I did was take two courses (a beginners and an advanced course) to set the foundation I am building on now. The rest I learned as I went along.
TMG> Everyone has their own way of viewing fashion. What does fashion mean to you?
MM> Fashion to me is tailored creativity. That is, the idea of putting something trendy together and making it your own.
TMG> How would you describe your personal style?
MM> I would describe my personal style as chic and ultra-modern
TMG> What is your favourite part of being a fashion designer?
MM> The ability to play around with different fabrics as well as create my own wardrobe is my favourite part. However, I derive satisfaction from what I do because it affords me the opportunity to support Wasem Charity Foundation (WCF) with 20% of our profits. So, each of my clients are indirectly sponsoring orphans and less privileged children in Nigeria through formal education and catering for their wellbeing via WCF.
TMG> Who and which things are your inspiration while creating designs?
MM> Everything! I believe everything around us can be a muse and give that ‘Eureka!’ moment. For instance, if I were creating something for someone I am familiar with, I tailor the creativity to suit their person.
TMG> It is believed that children’s clothes are more difficult to design/ sew. Do you face this difficulty and how do you handle it?
MM> They are much more complex, I agree. We face similar difficulties, however, our focus is to keep our designs simple but trendy. Part of our goal is to ensure that our children’s designs are modest as opposed to risqué.
TMG> What skills, according to you, are necessary for a successful fashion designer?
MM> An Eye for Details, Creativity, Drive and Passion. However, the secret to my success is putting God at the centre of all I do. You cannot go wrong with this formula!
TMG> How do you stay up to date regarding fashion?
MM> I often read fashion magazines/blogs. I do my best to attend fashion shows and other events pertaining to fashion.
TMG> What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
MM> My ability to push beyond boundaries and work outside the box is my greatest strength. In the process I may make mistakes but I use them as learning curves. I consider my greatest weakness to be my intolerance to failure.
TMG> How will you handle stress?
MM> Being a designer can be stressful and demanding, hence I take regular breaks to recuperate and find alternative solutions to problematic areas and just get on with it.
TMG> How would you deal with a difficult or arrogant client?
MM> We take the polite approach as we are in the business of providing tailored products. From experience, we have found that the key underlining issue with difficult or arrogant clients stem from dissatisfaction with finished products or delayed delivery. Consequently, we deal with each case individually by examining the facts, taking into account the client’s perspective and ensuring the client leaves satisfied with the outcome. Every client desires to be heard and made to feel important, and we do both.
In order not to be taken advantage of, anything outside of these we deal with firmly as stated in our policies.
TMG> How would you relate past and present fashion trends (in relation to childrens’ clothes)?
MM> The dynamism of fashion has so evolved from when I was a child to now. Presently, children are dressed almost as adults, which is a key concern for House of Mimi. Therefore, our design goals are simple but trendy.
TMG> How well do you take criticism? Give an example.
MM> It is my belief that I handle criticism well. What I tend to do is compartmentalise what I perceive to be criticism in two categories – constructive or non-constructive.
How I deal with criticism is by looking inward to pinpoint the possible origin or factors that may have given rise to the lapse in judgment or error in design or query in question.
I then proffer solution via internal and or external means to combat the identified issue(s). However, should I find no bases for the criticism I consider the matter no further. In other words, I don’t worry my pretty head with non-constructive criticism.
For instance, when I started my business a few years back, I had products returned due to various reasons. One customer stated that the quality of finishing was poor as the stitches came undone after the first wash of which she found dissatisfying and unacceptable.
I took a close look at the returned item and found that indeed she was right. Two stitches had come undone. I could have questioned her method of washing as it was stated on my label to perform only delicate wash at 30 degrees. Instead, I accepted it as a design fault and offered to replace the item to compensate her for the inconvenience with a complimentary gift. If that wasn’t acceptable then we will return her money back.
She was more than satisfied with the replacement and found the complimentary gift very useful that she ordered for more. She is still my valued customer till date. In this regard, I considered her comment to be pertinent.
For it made me put in place a quality control measure that has served not only to improve the quality of our finished products but also reduced the index of returned products due to poor finishing drastically. For clarity, I categorically dismiss comments that do not address design errors, sizing, colour or fabric type. “I just don’t like it” is not a constructive criticism.
TMG> What are your challenges as a children’s clothes designer?
MM> I believe that the choice of style, standard sizing by age and fabric colours are the key areas that are most challenging when designing children’s clothes. In my opinion the most challenging of the three is standardised sizes based on age.
I have discovered that waist and weight are better measures of fit than age is, simply because children grow at different rates and in different directions. This therefore, complicates matters when deciding on what demographic means to adapt when assigning sizes. I decided to adapt a sizing range that cuts across the Petit and Wide fit using the standard age sizing index as a guide. Our focus in this respect is more to do with comfort and style.
TMG> Are you into bespoke or ready-to-wear clothes? What fabrics do you use for your clothes?
MM> Both. We create ready to wear clothing as well as providing a bespoke service. Fabrics we use at the moment are 100% cotton Ankara, Kente, Satin, premium faux leather amongst a few other fabrics depending on what is being made.
TMG> What is the best way to market your clothes? Tell us about your favourite and best selling outfit/ brand…
MM> We use all available platforms to market our pieces from social media, radio, pop up shops. I do not have a favourite piece as I enjoy creating all pieces, but my best selling outfit at the moment are the Motherland baby grows with matching headbands/bibs.
TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of?
MM> Starting my own business. I have always wanted to be my own boss.
TMG> Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
MM> I see House of Mimi ranking within the top 5 African designers both home and abroad. I am confident that within the next five years our chic and ultramodern products will be well sought after, as we keep innovating and customising our products, on multiple platforms. We are currently exploring new lines, which will be revealed at a later date.
TMG> What else are you into?
MM> I also run a parallel agency for Sourcing & Managing Models. From a young age I also developed a keen interest in helping others. So, I do voluntary work with the homeless shelter and sometimes support work with young adults. I support women empowerment programs especially in Nigeria.
TMG> What advice would you give upcoming designers as well as other youths about becoming an entrepreneur?
MM> Be persistent, work hard and don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is just a stepping stone to greatness..
My favourite saying is:
“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence”-Colin Powell.
Identify someone who is brutally honest with you, yet a constant support as a mentor!
Someone who has your best interest at heart, will always tell you the truth, support you emotionally and uphold you in prayers. I am fortunate to have my Mother as my mentor and number one fan!
TMG> How do you spend your free time?
MM> I spend my free time catching up with family and loved ones when I am not engaging in activities like rock climbing, reading clubs, etc.
Most importantly, I take pleasure in my ‘me time’. A time I used to reflect, rest, pamper and grow.