Be it men’s or female’s attires, for centuries leather has been a crucial material infused in the creation of artistic fashion content across the universe.
Originating from animal skin and hides that have undergone treatment and refining with the use of chemicals in order to preserve them, thereby making them meet the high standards of mankind regarding what looks they desire to incorporate it into their lifestyle.
Leather is commonly used to produce content such as clothing, footwear, handbags, furniture, tools, and sports equipment.
However, Nigeria has emerged as a consistent apex supplier of leather to European and Asian markets as it ranks amongst the highest quality of leather in the world.
The top two leather processing countries Italy and Spain source their leather hides from Nigeria which highlights the quality and affordability of Nigerian leather. According to experts both countries are the largest destinations of Nigerian leather in total, covering over 71% of total Nigerian exports, which mainly consists of goat leather, while sheep and lamb leather reached larger export values in Asian countries.
Nigeria’s leather comes from free-roaming animals rather than from large scale farming-practices. Thus, ensuring fair treatment of cattle and home to the unique Red Sokoto goat skin leather and Acknowledged for superior quality and high premium in the world market.
In view of this, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, LegendFitz, Precious Aleaji in this interview with The parakeet show speaks on his journey into becoming an innovative entrepreneur and his major motivation for the birth of his shoe making and design brand. Happiness Irabor presents the excerpts:
Can we meet the brain behind Legendfitz?
Legendfitz was founded in 2018 by Aleaji Precious.
Precious is a young innovative entrepreneur with a degree in of business administration.
He also holds a certification in entrepreneurship from Microsoft and the future project.As a fashion creative, Precious has built his experience in the Nigerian creative industry through multiple industry programs including the British Council’s Nigerian creative enterprise program delivered by fashion foundry Scotland and the Assembly Nigeria, the Orange Corners Nigeria program facilitated by Fate foundation and the Netherlands enterprise agency. With internships at prestigious organisations like AFA sports, Nigeria’s leading sports apparel company and sponsors of the National basketball team and Ruff’n’tumble, Nigeria’s leading children dressmaking company.Precious is passionate about the progress of humanity and sees business not just as a means for making money but as a necessary tool to make the world a better place.He subscribes to Michael Porter’s concept of creating shared value, which states that “businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues society faces.”
What made you go into leather shoe making and design?
When I was younger, before the age of 10, I used to watch my dad polish our shoes. We always had polish and brushes and touchers at home. Soon enough, I assumed the task of polishing everyone’s shoes on Saturdays while we were preparing to go to church. At about the age of 12 to 14 thereabout, I visited a friend and he was mending a footwear with a stitching awl and a thread, and I asked him if he could teach me and he obliged. On getting home, I told my mother about it, the next day while coming back from work, she got me an awl and some thread. That was the start of it all.In no time, I was making money mending shoes in our neighborhood. Once I was done from secondary school I went on to learn the skill properly and soon enough, I started out as a business.
What will you say is unique about Legendfitz?
What sets Legendfitz apart is that it’s not just a business, it’s a tool for social change. We go broader and deeper to solve social challenges than most businesses even bother to give thought to.For example, in the first quarter of 2019, we eliminated the use of single-use plastics from our packaging in line with the global climate action.In the 3rd quarter of the same year, we shifted from a linear production model to a circular production model which is in tune with the United Nations sustainable development goal of responsible production and consumption.This allows us to offer better products and services to our customers, increase customer retention and repeat purchase while contributing to the society.Presently, we’re helping solve inequalities and promoting entrepreneurship by pioneering the earn-as-you-learn business model in the creative sector. This allows us solve the problem of access to education for the economically disadvantaged especially, by providing them the skillsets and resources they need to become employers of labour thereby transforming them into economic contributors.
How do you get quality materials you use to make your shoes and how easily accessible and affordable are they?
Nigeria is a blessed nation. We are the source of some of the very best leather used by the top brands in the world. Ironically, the supply chain for the leather industry is broken. There’s a gap between the manufacturers or tanners as we call them and the end users which are the businesses that need them for day to day operations due to lack of proper structure in the leather market. While this can be a cause for concern, and should be addressed, it also offers those who look an opportunity. Most of the leathers and accessories used in our footwear are imported. Sometimes what the importers bring in are the leftovers from big brands. The downside of this is that there’s no consistency in the type of leather that comes in per time, the upside is that as a conscious brand, we can insist on getting leathers that meet the gold standard of the LWG (leather working group).That said, it will only be beneficial to our local economy if the leather industry is integrated and there’s a flow of materials from manufacturers to fashion houses.
Considering the outbreak of the Covid-19 incidence, how does your brand intend to come back stronger, thereby harnessing the upside to the global economic stand still?
Well, these are times when we reflect and close up all loose ends. Legendfitz was born digital and we plan to use these times to consolidate and expand our brand digitally. There’s presently a slowdown in the progress of the world economy, but it will pick up again, and it maybe sooner than we expect. And so these are times for planting (using the biblical analogy), very soon, it’ll be harvest season.
What has been your major motivation to keep the brand going?
The fact that it’s more than a business to me has been the reason why I keep pushing it forward every day. There’s a work that needs to be done in the world and this business is the vehicle through which I can get it done.Thinking about that helps me do all it takes to move the brand forward, to help it gather momentum and build critical mass. Very soon, it’ll take off and soar high and the impact will reach the ends of the earth.
What advice can you give to the younger generation of entrepreneurs who have interest in leather shoe making?
This is a very amazing industry, especially in Nigeria. The market is untapped and there is so much potential. It doesn’t come without it’s fair share of hard work though, but you’ll be better for it at the end of the day.
How has your journey as an entrepreneur been so far?
It’s been a lot like the typical entrepreneurial journey with its highs and lows.You’ll think it’s all great today until tomorrow brings its sets of challenges and forces you to think and act on your feet.But then, that’s what makes the story interesting, helping us become well rounded out entrepreneurs.