Adedayo David Eweje popularly known as David Wej is living his dream. He has a wonderful family an unshakeable faith in God and has begun to make money from fashion which is his passion.
This humble and media-shy gentleman who just turned 40 is gradually building a fashion empire right in Lagos, Nigeria. With six outlets in Lagos (Victoria Island, Ikeja, Lekki, Sururele 1 and Surulere 2) and strong presence in all top online shopping platforms, David Wej is certainly on the rise. Here is one young man who is silently making a giant stride in the Nigerian fashion industry.
If you have not encountered his brand, just think about Saville Row suits, cuts, stitches and quality but with a friendly price, little wonder that some top celebrities now adorn the end product of his creative ingenuity.
On his 40th birthday, he hosted a lively thanksgiving service and party at the highbrow Eko Hotel & Suites-and it was attended by friends from way back, clients, church members and Pastors of the Daystar Christian Centre, (the church where he is an active member).
Days after, he had an engaging interview with Ovation, where he outlined his journey to the top.
At what time did you realize that you had a passion for fashion
I believe it is an inborn thing because I discovered my passion for fashion at the age of 5.That was when I learnt how to tuck-in and from there, getting into secondary school, I was like a neat freak, my school uniform was properly ironed, sparkling white socks and well-polished shoes. I have always had neatness in my blood. So when I got to the University when one had the opportunity to pick and wear what he or she liked, I was on top of the world. I explored a lot and I won many awards, including the well-dressed student in my department.
Fashion was one thing people noticed about me. It was the one constant thing, and it was no longer a big deal when people compliment me that I always look so good. When I got to Globacom, it got to a stage where people started persuading me to help them buy clothes for their husbands and wives, I didn’t think too much about this until when I began to ask myself what I could do on my own and I found out that the easiest thing I could do was following my passion which is fashion.
OK, lets take it from the very beginning, tell us about yourself
My name is Adedayo David Eweje. I was born on 29th January, 1977; I attended Command Children School, Ikeja and Command Secondary School, Ipaja, before I proceeded to Lagos State University. I started my career in the telecommunication Industry with Inter cellular Nigeria Limited, moved to Econet Wireless and later, Globacom before I started my own fashion brand.
Any reason why you went to Command for both your primary and secondary education
My father was an ex-military man and command is a military school.
Did you grow up with a silver spoon
Hmmm my spoon was far from being silver (laughs heartily, growing up for me was fun, I was raised all alone by my mum because my dad had many wives, he is late now and he died when I was 12 years old.
Even before then, we were not living together, so his impact on my life wasn’t really that great, it wasn’t felt.
My mum was an entrepreneur so I learnt a lot from her, she was taking care of five children at the same time but thank God that she was able to do her best, she sent us to school and I would say that I am really grateful to her.
She was a disciplinarian and a business tycoon, so I saw and learnt more from her business acumen. It gave me a clearer understanding of how I can start my business, how to make it grow and become a source of livelihood.
It was indeed rough, she had to struggle so much, it became rougher when she fell seriously ill at one point. I really felt this in my University days and that was what made me understand that I had to grow into a man fast. I told myself that, I should be able to start fending for myself, that was why I started work at an early age of 23, I had to sought things myself and God has been good.
Back to the fashion story, how did you nurture that love that began at age 5
From age 5, it was gradual development. I read a lot and also did a lot of research along the way.
Where are you from
I hail from Ogun State, Abeokuta to be precise but I have never been to my village (Smiles).
How did you decide on theb name for your brand
David Wej, David is my middle name and I got the Wej from my surname.
What is the connection between telecom and fashion industries
If you look at it, Telecom business is for people with experience and also an acquired skill, while Fashion is passion. My idea was either to become an Executive Director of a telecom firm or probably set up my own firm. But as we all know, telecom is a highly capital intensive business, it is not what someone can set up in a day, so I looked at it that since fashion has been my passion, it was the next best thing for me.
Where there other considerations apart from fashion that made you leave Telecoms
One thing I looked at was the growth, You know telecom was one of the fastest growing industries as at that time but I just got tired and got bored doing the same thing every day, I was part of the resolution team, resolving customers’ complaints. I realized that I was doing the same thing every day, nothing interesting. I needed some zest and fashion was it. In fashion business, you are confronted with different challenges every day.
How did it begin and how did you get to where you are
Firstly, I started from the scratch, from the boot of my car. So there should not be any excuse for not starting that dream. I could not afford a store at that time. I used to take products to the clients and deliver to them, then I started using my house because it was a four bedroom flat, I converted some part into the storage and changing room. It grew from there till when I got my own store, so now I have 6 stores and we sell a lot online too.
What was the beginning like, being a telecoms executive to starting from the scratch as a fashion designer
Anything you aspire to do in life, you need motivation because I was one of the management staff of the customer care Department. I knew that starting from the scratch was the best thing; it would give you clear understanding of what the business is all about; you need to do research in order to sample people’s opinion on what product you are bringing into the market. It is a means of exchange, the shame wasn’t there because I was getting my reward, it was just a phase of time, things will change, I didn’t feel bad at all.
How many branches do you have
We have only 6 branches, all in Lagos and we decided not to go outside Lagos because our online platform can take good care of those outside Lagos. We just felt, since people are ordering our products all over the state, let’s just have branches in Lagos. We have two at surulere, two at Ikeja and two in Victoria Island. We have a tight operation of 32 staff.
So will you call yourself a fashion designer
Yes, I am not only a fashion designer, I also can sketch and design other things. I will say I am designer in Fashion (laughs heartily)
What is the difference between a fashion designer and a tailor then
There is a huge difference but people just believe that a tailor is someone who you give clothes to, describe the style that you want and he/she does it to your taste, while a designer is someone who handles it from start to the finish.
The designer sketches first and comes up with a design, he later actualizes the sketch into an outfit. The fashion designer comes up with a concept and actualizes the concept into reality. Most tailors are designers themselves but they don’t see it, there is no how you would sew for a long time and still not have the creativity to develop your own ideas. It is inter-woven, just like saying, what is the difference between an on-air-personality and a broadcaster. An On-Air-Personality will tell you that he is an OAP to brand himself well while a broadcaster will tell you that he is simply a broadcaster, it is all about branding and packaging.
So you are saying that technically, there is no difference
Oh yes, there is a lot of difference, you look forward to different styles and designs in the industry, Fashion trends, it changes, once the change comes up, you are seeing something new and everybody is excited. A designer is much more than a tailor.
Once it is 3 to 4 months, whatever is trending becomes absolutely something new. Because you are coming from the creative arm, you can create something on your own and people would accept it. So anybody that says Fashion is boring, the person is not a fashion connoisseur because there is always something new in this industry. In fashion, whatever happened yesterday is gone, and today is new. I am always excited, the adrenaline ignites the creative juice in me. There is always new ideas, new innovation coming up. Or even jazzing up something old to make it fresh. This keeps you going, I don’t think I am ready to do any monotous job, I can wake up today and say, all I want to do is styling, or product shoot, It is an interesting profession.
What has the experience been like
It has been so interesting, but the fashion industry is just growing, we are booming socially and economically but the infrastructures are not yet there. In your own little way, the economy is booming in terms of Fashion, a lot of people are coming out with a lot of creativity, people have offered me other things but this is where I choose to stay. This where my heart is. We will do far better with the right working conditions, the infrastructure.
Who are your clients
Politicians, bankers, those in the entertainment industry, we have the working class, just a lot. Initially, our main target was the working class but along the line, other clients came on board because of our styles and designs.
Are there some known names that have enjoyed your brands
Don’t know if they will like their names to be mentioned in print but I can say we have clothed Don Jazzy, Ebuka and many known pastors.
Now that we are fully retail, we have a lot of them, fashion has gotten to a big stage that you can’t say you can deliver the permanent wardrobe to someone.
Apart from the awards in School, any for David Wej as a brand
We have won a lot of awards from magazines like Fashion Brand of the Year, Best Fashion Retailer of the Year but I am not just into awards because the business is huge and we have built a customer base that is rising per second. We try to treat all customers equal which is our target.
Are you married
Yes, I am married to my beautiful wife, Oluwakemi. She is a Lawyer and we have two kids and we have said that is enough (laughs heartily)
Can you say that this job has made you successful
Yes, Fashion Industry has really made me a successful person at my age.
How was it like when you made your first million
First, your passion that becomes a source of livelihood is great, Fashion has really paved way for me in the financial aspect but that wasn’t my main intention from the scratch. Making my first million wasn’t a time for me to celebrate, it was a time to understand that this business is real and the struggle continues. I have to take it very seriously and make sure that we expand. Expansion in terms of selling online to Ghanaians at the moment, although we are still working on our online platform, trying to expand it. There is a lot as long as Fashion is accepted worldwide. It is like food and I am trying to build a generational brand so that new people can take over from where I stopped.
How do you feel at 40
I thank God for making it an easy journey from the beginning because I was raised by my mother all alone. I will always be forever grateful to my wife, kids and my entire family. I also thank God for the great men I met on this journey: Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor Sam Adeyemi and Dr Mike Adenuga.
I am thankful to the Almighty Lord for being my pillar, shield and buckler.