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How I successfully positioned myself as a luxury brand

ENTERPRISE
By Eve Mosongo | March 17th 2021
Ogake Mosomi, owner of Ogake Bridal [Courtesy]

Building a luxury brand needs one to identify a niche market that needs the good or service, and that’s what Ogake Mosomi, owner of Ogake Bridal, did when she launched her authentic and bespoke line of bridal gowns. Breaking out in 2011, Mosomi has been on the up and up in the regional fashion industry. Since then, she’s been refining her brand, with the promise that no two gowns ever look the same. Here is how she established and positioned her luxury brand.

Crafting my luxury brand’s identity is a lifelong journey. I started my business in 2011, but I registered it officially in 2013. By that time, I’d already done a bit of legwork and experimenting. But, in 2015, that’s when I got to the point of saying, ‘This is what my brand is going to be about. We are going to specialise in making luxury bridal gowns’. After 2015, we have continued to refine what we do. I would say that even now I’m still crafting my identity. When we started out, we were trying to get clients willing to try out our method of doing things. But with time, we’ve continued to narrow our focus. There are so many bridal designers out there, but the more I look at what we do versus what other people do, I have a different sensibility, which defines my work and my bride is not going to go to anyone else because of the focus that we put on our clothing. So this is something that we are continuing to refine.

 I create the perception of exclusivity for my clients. For us, creating exclusivity is a result of a combination of many things. There’s the appointment system. Our office also creates the feeling of warmth and comfort and the experience that you imagine you’d have in a bridal atelier.  In terms of our materials and our fabrics, we source our own, and we don’t source big quantities. We’ll never buy 100 metres of anything. At the very most, if we must, we buy 20 or 30 yards. And that means that only maybe a maximum of five or six people can have a gown made from the same material. We are constantly looking for the next big idea. What we can do differently. In essence, bridal gowns tend to be very repetitive. In terms of the designs, it’ll be a mermaid gown, a ball gown, an A-line gown... the shapes don’t change very much. But we converse with our brides and understand their story; who they are, what their event will be like, their body type. No two dresses are ever going to look the same. So it’s an exclusive experience. We don’t skimp on how much time we spend on each of our clients. That also determines what we spend on your dress. If we need to do seven fittings to get that dress perfect, we’re going to do it. If we need to do and undo, and change it, and say that we’re going to do it for you, we will. We want everybody to feel like they walked a journey. It’s not just about rushing to finish a dress; it’s about creating perfection for them.

I have organisational and operational structures in place to ensure that I deliver on my brand’s promise. I don’t compromise on the way that I run my office because I want to give my client the best. We have an appointment system - I don’t see people every day, or walk-ins. We set a time aside so that I can see my clients undisturbed. We discuss things in detail. I am a stickler for time, even with my clients; they know that we value that aspect where people respect their appointments. Two, I don’t do everything for my studio. I don’t want to be the designer, the tailor, the cutter and the marketer. I’ve structured my business in a way that everybody on my team has a different role. We are still working on this aspect as we try to formalise it because the fashion industry tends to be very unstructured. At the moment I am working with five people. I have tailors and a lady whose job is to oversee production, I also have an assistant designer and an operations manager. We have dropped the ball at times, but in my lifetime, I’d like to make my business run like a well-oiled machine. That is the most important thing to me.

I take cues from other global luxury brands. From season to season, we’ll always see a designer whose work we love. Internationally, Monique Lhuillier’s style inspires me. There’s also Jenny Packham, a British designer I worked for when I graduated. That’s where most of my inspiration came from in the first place. There is Elie Saab, my original inspiration when I was starting out, Zuhair Murad, a Lebanese designer whose attention to detail is awe-inspiring. Then there is a German designer called Peter Langner. I try to follow a lot of these designers from season to season to see what they are doing. Regionally, Nigerian designers are at the top of the food chain. Nneka Alexander’s of Brides by Nona is one of the best. Her gowns’ construction is done so beautifully; the way she understands the African body is fantastic. Locally, there’s my friend Peggy Onyango who has been in the industry for a long time. She loves cutting, so I admire her a lot for that, and I learn a lot from her as well.

I choose my location with my client in mind. We’re currently located in Nairobi’s Kilimani. Earlier, we were in Kileleshwa. We chose the area because we needed a place which was convenient for our clients. We don’t want a place where they have to travel so far to see us. We also needed a place which had the upmarket look and feel that we were going for.

I am intentional about the channels I use to market my brand. Our clientele is between 25 and 45. They tend to be online a lot and this platform has worked really well for us. We are very active on social media, and particularly on Instagram, because that’s what we have found works best for us. So most of our campaigns, if ever we do them, will be on Instagram. At the beginning, we tried Facebook. I was on Twitter for a bit. But we found that the highest conversion always came from Instagram and by word of mouth.

I am aware of the daily challenges a luxury brand brings. Our business can be labour and capital intensive. So getting the money out of it sometimes is the difficult part for us. Yes, we have a good product, we know and love what we’re doing. But how do we actually make money and make this business a legacy? For me, that’s also very important. I’m not just doing business that is going to die with me. I want it to be our legacy, which will live on beyond me - not even necessarily through my children, but through whoever it is that’s going to take over this company. I think I’m in a good place now. And I believe that I just need to dig in my heels and find out how to make money... like good money, which can help me retire.

 

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