You may not yet be familiar with O’Eclat, thanks to the low-profile of its founder Gbemi Johnson. Since launching her Lagos-based Made in Nigeria label a few years ago, Gbemi has finessed her formula for fashionable, functional purses, with a thoughtful and discerning attitude to retail and design, uncommon amongst designers on the continent.
Focusing on perfecting her product and the attendant slow-burn success, the talented Gbemi is building a brand, and importantly – a business that is here to stay. With an unrelenting mindset, despite formidable infrastructural issues plaguing the fashion industry, she soldiers on – producing an extremely well-made leather line and best selling purses season after season.
With this stable foundation, O’Eclat is poised for more ground-breaking success – she boasts more than a few fashion insiders as her brand loyalists, and word of mouth is her best press.
The label’s core collection, with signatures including the Michelle Midi and Michelle Maxi handbag, her bestselling pieces are available for sale in nationwide through her online store and partner stockists.
On choosing the brand name O’Eclat & its meaning:
O’Eclat Designs (pronounced O-eyklah) is a derivative of my name Oluwagbemisola and Eclat which means Style, confidence, distinction etc. I wanted a name that is not entirely eponymous and would not be too much hassle to register as a business name.
O’Eclat Designs is a Nigerian ethical leather handbag and accessories design label, birthed in 2010 by Gbemi Johnson.
We produce quality and affordable handbags using premium leather and indigenous fabric handbags and accessories locally from our workshop in Lagos, Nigeria. Our range of handbags will take every modern woman from dawn to dusk, appropriate for a business meeting as they are for brunch or happy hour, giving you the freedom to go about your day with ease, empowered to better live your busy, modern lifestyles whilst also preserving the traditional techniques used in the production of our handbags, providing jobs for the skilled artisans and supporting indigenous businesses.
How did you start the brand ?
O’Eclat Designs was born out of a need to find the beautiful, perfect sized and affordable handbag and clutch that fits all our essentials and allow us keep up with our everyday lives. The need encouraged us to find skilled local artisans who are [into] handbag making within the country.
On the design process
‘A lot of thoughtfulness goes into the production of each and every O’Eclat piece. The design aesthetic[s], the quality of material used and the attention to detail. After coming up with a new design or product we normally would start to see what the pattern and the form, which is the size and the silhouette, the function, which includes the purpose and ideal use and then the materials, which includes the fabric, leather, lining and the hardware that will work perfect with your designs.’
Behind The Seams at O’Eclat. A snapshot of the production process.
On launching a brand in the Nigerian fashion industry:
‘It takes a lot of effort and determination. You have to do a lot of research about the industry, be persistent as the competition is a lot and you can easily loose track if you’re not committed to your journey’
What was your greatest challenge? And how did you overcome it.
My biggest challenge till date will be finding the right team who shares and understands my vision for the brand.
I was very determined and I knew giving up on my business will never happen, getting my desired business goal might be slow but I knew I’m closer to it each time I put in an effort and try again.
What do you think makes O’Eclat different from other brands?
The affordability and quality of materials used.
We also offer a 12 month warranty on all of our bags. If you are experiencing unforeseen quality issues, we offer free and easy repair options within the warranty period and charge a small fee when warranty period expires.
What’s your favourite product/design and why?
As the designer, it’s hard choosing a favourite as each and every product has a story and the purpose it serves. I love my Michelle Midi handbag as my everyday workbag due to its size and functionality; I switch to my Michelle Maxi handbag due to its size, for days I want to go in between business meetings. Weekends and Travels are for my Michelle Mini handbag and Mila Clutch.
On a day in her life:
I start my business day with my emails, which most times determine how my day will go if I have not had anything pre-planned before,
I get to spend most of my day at the studio to supervise what we have going on, visit some of our retailers and attend to business appointments offline and online.
What have been your best sellers so far?
Michelle Midi and Mila Clutch
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start his or her own business?
Stay true to yourself and be committed to your journey. It’s not going to be an easy ride, prepare your mind to failure, pick yourself up when you do and start all over again. It’s all part of the process.
What’s next for O’Eclat?
We are working on introducing a range of small leather goods while continuing to improve on our production quality and expanding our sales channel[s].
What has given you your biggest boost as a business (fashion show, tradeshow, publication etc)
We are yet to showcase our handbags at a fashion show, so it has to be Publication and Tradeshows in that sequence. Publications have given us a lot of media awareness and exposure while tradeshows allow our customers and first time buyers experience our products first hand, they get to see, touch and feel what they are paying for.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt on your journey so far?
Staying true to myself and being persistent.
In three words O’Eclat is:
Stylish, Affordable, Quality
You can purchase O’Eclat online at http://oeclat.com and at her stockists listed below.
Grey Velvet Stores (Lagos and Abuja)
Ikeja City Mall, Ikeja
Circle Mall, Jakande Lekki
Centro Lekki Mall, Lekki
Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja
Glam’d Africa Abuja
40, Durban Street, Wuse II