Posted: February 15th, 2011
Wonuola Odunsi and Isoken Ogiemwonyi have created a platform for emerging designers, retailers and fashion entrepreneurs to gain access to their desired target market with Le Petit Marche - a monthly fashion market destination for fashion insiders in and around Lagos. What started out as an opportunity to promote their personal interest has grown beyond them into a mission to help grow the Nigerian fashion and lifestyle industry by providing the number one retail solution and creative platform for Nigerian fashion designers and entrepreneurs.
This month, Le Petit Marche partners with Freedom Foundation (“a non-profit organization committed to affecting society by empowering individuals who are affected by various categories of social and economic disadvantage (drug addicts & sex workers for example”) on their monthly fashion market event by donating large proceeds from stall rentals to Freedom foundation.
As they celebrate their 2nd year anniversary, the dynamic duo share their journey so far with us, the highlights and their mission to make a difference in the Nigerian fashion and lifestyle industry by giving MORE.
What inspired the launch of Le Petit Marche Nigeria (LPM)?
Isoken: Initially, it was really just Wonu and I brainstorming effective ways to gain exposure for our own interests (Obsidian and Lagos Look), but in what feels like the blink of an eye, we have evolved past that. Now, we aim to be the number one retail solution and creative platform for Nigerian fashion designers and entrepreneurs, mainly by support emerging talent, introducing and exposing them to the buying public, and very soon we will be expanding our format to include content that we hope will help to build and sustain the burgeoning fashion industry.
Tell us about the LPM Team?
Wonuola: the team started off with Isoken and I playing on each others strengths but of course the growth of LPM has lead to diversification of our service offerings and workload reacquiring a larger team. Now our team is larger than its payroll because we get a lot of help from friends, family and collaborators.
Isoken: For a long time it was just Wonu and I, but we have recently hired an assistant to help us with the more administrative tasks and have brought in a partner (Latifah Adams) for our public relations arm.
How do you maintain a healthy balance between your respective careers and LPM.
Wonuola: Well!!!!! Necessity is the mother of invention! If it means that much to you, you’ll find a way around it!
Isoken: Well, needs must. I don’t really think it’s a ‘how’. You do what you have to and you just learn to instinctively prioritise.
What role do you think Pop up stores like LPM play in a retail environment like Nigeria?
Isoken: I wouldn’t describe LPM as a pop-up store at all. Mainly because, pop-up stores are transient by their very nature and LPM plans to be very, very permanent. Lol.
Nevertheless, I think LPM (and all its various incarnations) is very important because it gives people a singular avenue to buy hard-to-find lifestyle products, and for hard-core fashion enthusiasts – there’s nothing like that new ‘find’. Additionally, it has shown that there is a ridiculous amount of talent and drive in Nigeria. There are so many people exploring their talents, whether it be in fashion and lifestyle or in retail merchandising (it takes a good eye to source things that consumers want to buy).
Wonuola: I will have to agree with Isoken on this!
What is the distinguishing factor between LPM and other retail events?
Wonuola: PASSION, LOVE for what we do and genuine desire to make a difference.
Isoken: LPM is the originator. Furthermore, we are building a brand and are committed to growing the Nigerian fashion and lifestyle industry. We have very clear long and medium term goals, and it isn’t a haphazard undertaking.
Can anyone request for a stall at LPM? What is the criteria?
Isoken: Well, technically anyone can request, but your goods have to pass a basic quality test, one that we are looking at making more stringent. If it wasn’t so unprofessional, I would’ve given you some funny stories (laughs).
One year on…. Describe your journey so far.
Wonuola: it’s been one big adventure with many ‘i give up’ moments but in the end we persevere. There is such a huge disparity from our humble beginnings till now…hard work and patience pays off and we’re very proud and grateful for getting thus far.
Isoken: One word. ROLLERCOASTER. Going from 8 stalls in TBS to 60+ in the space of about a year and a half alone is beyond amazing. It was hard at times, and doubt can be a big hindrance. Like, can we do this? Are we moving too fast? But no matter what, we have an amazing team and we try to execute within the limits of our ability, and that alone has made it all worth it.
Pls share your favourite LPM highlights and least favourite.
Wonuola: the highlights for me is when I speak with a satisfied vendor, it just make me feel all warm and fuzzy reminding me why we go through all the trouble.
My not so happy moments generally occur when I’m unable to deliver the quality service that I would like due to circumstances out of my control :’(
Isoken: A major highlight for me was definitely the 2010 Grande Marche. Everything came together perfectly. I really felt like we were favoured. Filming the LPM Documentary was also immense fun, Bolaji Kekere-Ekun is a joy to work with. Funnily enough, one of my lowlights is related to the 2009 Grand Marche – we had monumental venue issues, but I guess it’s one of those things! 2010 might not have been so great if we hadn’t had teething problems in 2009.
What inspired the LPM/ Freedom Foundation collaboration?
Wonuola: it was a fall out of a meeting with Mrs Bali, who always champions some fund raising events for the Freedom Foundation. Also as a member of This Present house I had followed a lot of amazing work done by the foundation and had always wanted to be a part of giving.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Freedom Foundation?
Wonuola: Freedom Foundation is a charity organisation that assists and rehabilitates socially challenged individuals by empowering them the tools and skills necessary to fit into society and make a good living. They have various shelters for men, women and children assisting them with education etc.
What does giving mean to you?
Wonuola: to me giving is being able to do away with something that is of great value to you. It could be monetary, time, love…whatever works for you. For me, my time is very valuable!!
Isoken: How does that saying go? A man with $5, 000 and one with $1million, but they both give $1000. Who’s the charitable giver in this story? Lol. Basically, give what you can, contribute positively and leave the rest to God.
What next for LPM?
Wonuola: aside from our plans to grow, we plan to make a positive impact on the Nigerian fashion and lifestyle industry.
Isoken: Big Big plans! It’s all top secret at the moment though. SHF will definitely be one of the first to know
What should we expect to see at the LPM Freedom Foundation ‘MORE’ event?
Wonuola: a completely different atmosphere with new and exhausting vendors and a new troop of shoppers!
Isoken: New format, New vendors, An amazing shopping experience as always.
Describe LPM in 3 words?
Wonuola: Fun, Network, and please, who are we fooling SALES!!!
Isoken: Versatile, Interactive, Unique.
Describe your individual styles in 3 words.
Wonuola: Dreamy, Colourful, Vintage
Isoken: Laidback, Deshabille, Comfortable.
How will you be spending Valentine’s day? With who?
Wonuola: errrr she will be watching dvd’s with the “he” lol
Isoken: Haha. That would be telling.
What is your definition of love?
Wonuola: freedom to be ones self.
Isoken: The Biblical version
LPM 2nd Anniversary Edition in association with the Freedom Foundation
Date: 27 February 2011
Venue: Harbor Point, Wilmot Point, off Ahmadu Bellow Way, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Time: 12 Noon to 6PM
For more information about participating, please email firstname.lastname@example.org