By Linda Orajekwe
Purpose is one thing that pulls you even without your will and giving in to it is step every human who seeks happiness in purpose must take.
This was the step Elizabeth Amina Suinner took when she began her journey to creating Grandaughter. She went to study fashion in West London College (WLC) after obtaining an Associate of arts degree from Southwark College, where she studied Cinematography, and a Bachelor of Arts Middlesex Academy of Business management in London, where she studied Tourism.
Elizabeth Amina Suinner returned to Nigeria to contribute her unique style in the Nigerian fashion Industry that seems to be growing rather rapidly, during which she also attended a fashion Academy in Abuja to have a local understanding coupled with her international fashion knowledge.
Since 2015 of the brand’s official inception, there have been so many learning curves for this young creative entrepreneur and in this chat with Allure, the CEO of Grandaughter, Elizabeth Amina Suinner opens up about running a fashion business and the integral role social media is playing in the growth of her brand.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as a designer?
I would say it started from quite an early age, maybe around age 4 or so. I have always wanted to try on different combinations of fabrics and makeup. But by my time I left secondary school, I became that friend that you go to ask about what to wear or how to wear stuff.
I had a good eye for it and I guess as time went by, I thought to myself, I should start to charge (Laughs). Just joking, After I moved back from London, I started the process of looking for a job but I always hated the job descriptions I saw but I still applied for these administrative/operational roles.
There was an event, I don’t remember which now which changed everything. I had friends who needed styling. I volunteered, they loved it. I loved it and after should searching and tailor searching, Grandaughter was born.
Tell us about Grandaughter, what inspired the brand name?
It’s simple, I love my family and I always loved the idea of being the first grandchild. My grandmother and I became very close after my mum passed as she more or less raised me. It’s a symbol of our closeness and my dedication to believing in all her encouraging words to me growing up and believing in myself. I am the Grandaughter.
What’s your creative process like?
I really can’t explain it. I just listen to music, have a coffee or some tea. Sometimes I just lay down in bed quiet. It’s just a way of clearing my thoughts to enable me to focus on a design. Its a very lovely process which works but sometimes I just jumble everything together and I let the fabrics do the talking by directing me with where to put them on a dress.
By the way, I have this software I use to draw different types of dresses, shirts and also design fabrics, so yes, you can say technology has helped me a lot as well (Laughs).
Coming into the Nigerian fashion industry, what were your expectations and how has that helped your journey so far?
My expectations were I was going to fail at first. You hear of so many top designers out there and you wonder how you are going to compete or make your name as well. This really dragged me down and spoilt my creativity. But from what I have learned over the years, My breakthrough actually came when I began to really believe in myself and not just say it. I began to believe in my hands and people also took notice. I think your creations ooze the confidence coming from their creator, so Grandaughter designs always stand out.
Who’s an ideal Grandaughter woman or man?
Confident, strong unpredictable man or woman.
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
Not planning properly, not having the right team in place. Listening to people who told me it wasn’t possible, I can’t do this, will be too expensive or will be this or that.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a designer?
You want things done perfectly, do it yourself, it has taught me a lot about patience, I also learnt to play with colors and never be afraid to throw a little bit umph. (Laughs)
Who was your first celebrity client and how did it happen?
I would call all my clients celebrities, to be honest, because in their individual lives everyone is and should be celebrated but if I’m going by what you’re asking about, I’ve styled personalities like Ikechukwu, Bigbrother Naija Bambam and other influencers in different industries.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today with your brand as an example…
Social Media has been a revelation. The cost of marketing business nowadays has significantly reduced. I didn’t even understand how much power it had before because all my initial clients were family and friends and their referrals.
I began to understand what social media could do when a friend I made a dress for tagged me on her Instagram and within a day or so, I got messages from a stranger regarding making a dress. Trust your girl, sharp-sharp I opened a Grandaughter Instagram page and the rest is history. So yes, social media is helping a lot of brands by exposing their works to a larger market, larger than you can imagine!
What’s your personal style and how does it reflect in your brand?
I’d say I am stylishly simple and also like to say personally I’m charming so I try not to overdo it with the dressing (Laughs) reason for the motto “beauty in simplicity”.
How do you balance your personal life with running a fashion business?
I must say It has been quite hectic. To put it quite simply, my personal life is running my business. As I run most facets of my business by myself, I always ensure I get a lot of sleep at night nowadays. You need to be very alert to cope with the demands that come with running your own business. I am also a huge dog lover so I keep my pets close all the time.
They are well trained now thank God, so I don’t have to be chasing them all over the house anymore (Laughs). I guess to put it in other words, I have to plan my days very well or else I end up forgetting about tasks I should have completed the day before and the next day becomes harder.
If you have to do it all over again, what are you going to change?
I would have started using social media much sooner than I did.
What’s your favorite thing about being a designer?
Fact that I get to make anything I want and seeing people you don’t know wearing your brand somehow makes you feel more connected to your purpose.
Tell us one special thing about you?
One special thing about me is that I am very different from the average person. A lot of times, I am judged by my looks, but once you get to know me, you will see that I am nothing like what you expected.
Who are some of the people that inspire you and why?
Tina Knowles, Beyonce’s mother, she makes most of her daughter, Beyonce’s clothes; that’s a woman’s prayer to have successful children doing what they love. That’s the type of success I want. I admire Oprah Winfrey’s success, M.rs Alakija, of course, she reminds me of where faith can lead you.
What’s your philosophy in life and how does that help you run your fashion business?
You can have anything you want so long as you think it, believe it and work towards it no matter how slow the process may seem you will see that you keep moving.
What’s the grand plan for Grandaughter?
Have more retail stores in many countries far and wide, have a fashion school where I can teach the less privileged some type of craft. who knows…? it might just take them places they never could imagine.
But right now, we’re taking it one step at a time, for example, I have an exhibition at the Glam shop and Network Event on the 24th of March in Maitama, Abuja, where i’ll also be styling mulitple award-winning humanitarian, lifestyle entrepreneur and girl-child advocate, Munira Suleiman Tanimu. These are some of the little steps we are takling to achieve the big dreams we have.