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Friday, 15 July 2016

There is no price for love says: Africa’s Fashion designer and music buff,

Mudiaga Enajemo (Mudi)

Delta state born top designer Mudiaga Clement Enajemo popularly known as Mudi, has in the last two and a half decades, blazed the trail in the fashion industry in Nigeria and across Africa. From a humble beginning Mudi has established in big cities in Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Ghana. 

When ex Ghanaian President, John Kufuor and ex Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga were in office, Mudi was their favourite clothier! A fashion style creator, Mudi's clientele in Nigeria, is a list of who is who.

Just as he has made fabulous wealth from his creative talent, Mudi lives on a fast lane, designer sport cars, classy parties and luxury at the fingertips. Among his other honours is the Kenyan Government High Commissioner Award for promotion of Nigerian Fashion in Kenya; The Ambassador Musiliu Obanikoro Distinguished Achievement Award for the promotion of Nigerian fashion in Ghana. Now Mudi has found love with music, he tells Paul Ukpabio this and more.

Your high society friends say you play the grand piano every morning. What is this about?

I wanted to do something different from the regular. I ordered my 'Grand Piano' from Italy. It is lemon green in colour. I decided to order for this particular color to spice up the environment because all I have here is black, grey and white. The lemon green is just to spice up the feel of my environment. I find it interesting anytime I run my hands on the buttons and reel out tunes. It is fun being at this corner of my home once in a while to feel the rhythm of the piano’s buttons.

Does that suggest that you are going to be a musician soon?

No, I am an artiste. It is just an impression of what I have inside. I am not a musician; I just bought this 'Grand Piano' just to spice up the look of the environment. 

How much did it cost you to get this?

It is not about the price, you can’t lay a price to things of sensation. Things that revive your emotion are priceless. I wouldn’t want to mention price. What is important is the fact that, it is adding value to the environment it finds itself.

What does music mean to you?

Music to me is a way of life; it wakes up the soul. Life without music is zero. It would have been boring if life had come into existence without music.

So, what does music has to do with fashion; is there any connection?

There is a lot; as an artiste, you must dress well. So it interconnects. On the other side of the divide you must also listen to music. As an artiste and designer, you must listen to music. I get inspired when I listen to music. So it is an inter-related aspect of art. In music you get inspiration, in dressing well you are equally inspired. So, we can say music is connected to fashion in so many ways because they compliment each other.

What brand of music thrills you?

I listen to only pure African music. Rooted music; traditional music. 

Your office, is adorned with pictures of music greats like Bob Marley, Salif Kaita, the legend of all times, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Yossou Ndou the Senegalese and Chief Osita Osadebey the Highlife maestro. What do these five music legends mean to you?

Yeah, Bob Marley was a great guy and I think he died a bit too early. Very short time he lived on earth but his impact on humanity was great. Salif Kaita is a great man and above all, a great friend of mine. He came to Nigeria to specially visit me two years ago and it was a private visit. So, we share a bond. Fela Anikulapo like we all know is the legend of all times, Yossou Ndour is a great guy and late Osadebey was a great man. Those are people I listen to their works and I get inspired. They have influenced my life so much. 

Who is your number one?

Oh, Salif Kaita from Mali. I’m usually thrilled by Salif Kaita’s music. It’s in his voice, his instrumentation and his philosophy. Above all, his music is harmonious his music is very spiritual. His music inspires. That is the bottom line, inspiration. 

Can you recollect your humble beginning? What were the values that characterized your growing up days?

We were taught that character is key. For instance, in those days when we were growing up, we woke up 6 am. And unlike now when there is borehole everywhere, we had to trek a mile to get water for the family to use. All parts of character were embedded in the sense that waking up very early to do the family chores makes you to become discipline. That will naturally build your hard work quotient. It makes you to have a hard work attitude and equally makes you to know that life is not easy.  In those days, if you fail exam, you are made to repeat. You keep pushing it until you succeed. But today, it has changed. Parents will even go to the length of paying to ensure their children sit at once and pass the exam, which negates the philosophy of hard work.

Trust too was essential then. In those days I can walk into your house and you won’t be there and I will pick a shirt from your wardrobe and wear. If your mom is home, I can have my meal and feel like a member of the family. But these days there is no trust. It is so sad there is no trust. And trust was just the way of life and that was one thing we keyed into for a good living. Today, everyone seems to see his or her neighbor as a suspect.

Can you remember your father and what he meant to you?

My dad is late; before his demise he was a true Christian. He tried his best in terms of discipline. He was able to ensure strict discipline across board. Ours was a polygamous home but we were united in trust, character and discipline. You were trained to be very happy with whatever you get and that helped us to grow into successful adults. We were about twenty-seven. I am in the middle (Laughter). 

Was your dad into fashion?

My dad Johnson Enajemo, was a contractor to Local Government areas in Ugheli  (Delta state) in those days. He was a man of high character and discipline. And my mum was just a hard worker. She used to run a cafeteria. In those days, Shell workers used to patronize her cafeteria and she was very good in her work as well. She was a very down to earth person but very strict and sincere. She used to sing into my head that hard work pays. Like I said initially, she was a hard worker. My mum will wake up at 4 am to start cooking her meals for her numerous customers. It was something that was strange to us in those days, but today we understand. She was an epitome of hard work and beauty. While dad insisted on contentment; cherish whatever you have! 

Your billboards had famous people endorsing your designs at strategic areas of Lagos. That was new to many other fashion designers back then. How were you able to maintain such a culture?

It was beyond the money. It was much about the sacrifice and value it was adding to my brand. It was not about the money spent to get such endorsement. It could have been two naira or more but to me, it was more about the value it gave my brand. The value it is adding to me is key; it is not about the money. You might spend one billion and you won’t get the desired value, you might spend one naira and your purpose is justified.  It is not about the money it is how you used the money.

So, how were you able to manage success when it came? What is your stay power?  

Passion first, drive is second and discipline is the third. You must have the passion for what you do; the passion will keep you going even in the face of adversity. Drive is what will make you take your brand to another level, keep pushing it until you push it to an enviable level. Changing and upping the game is due to drive. Passion will keep your leg on the ball, drive will give you the energy to dribble the ball and the last one is discipline. Discipline will enable you to keep working, to remain focused. I get to the office 7 am everyday. That is discipline. And when I close depends on the level of the volume of work at our disposal.

How about leisure? Do you have time that you rest? 

I didn’t go home yesterday. I slept in the office because we didn’t finish work until about 1:30a.m this morning. Each time my boys are working, I stay with them; apart from motivating them, it is a two-way thing, you monitor them while they are working and your presence alone motivates them. It boosts their morale and drives their adrenaline to be more creative. 

What is the secret of MUDI is it in the cutting, the styling or the personification of the concept of what the customer wants?

It is all encompassing; it is a summary of all. I think it is a combination of all. You must have taste, you must be creative, you must have good finishing and above all you must have a good carriage and good reputation. All these work for MUDI.

How did you achieve trust from high profile clients?

It is your job, you must keep working, and you must keep coming out with new ideas. It all falls under the concept of focus. Once there is good concept and new ideas keeps coming out everyday, they will stick to you! They will stick to your brand. So long you are not stagnant, you keep thinking, you keep moving because this work requires a lot of thinking.

For one of Africa’s busiest fashion designer, tell us what an average day looks like for you.

I wake as early as 5:30a.m, I do my prayer with my family, do a little bit of aerobics; it is either I jug or I use the gym inside the house, shower and off to work. I leave home as early as ten minutes to 7 a.m. and by 7 a.m. I must be at work. 

Let’s talk about your family; somehow you don’t have your family in public glare.

I enjoy it, apart from not putting my wife in public glare, most people don’t even know the face behind MUDI and I enjoy it. I put MUDI as a brand. I push the brand and not the face behind the brand. It is the brand I am selling not my family, not even my face. By the time I walk into eateries or other public environments, people don’t even know who is standing and I enjoy it. It makes me to have a sense of privacy and to equally enjoy my own life.

Is your wife also into fashion?

No, she is not. She does her own thing; she is not into fashion at all. Her name is Daisy Oyindamola Enajemo. She is half Yoruba, half Ghanaian. She hails from Ikenne in Ogun state. Her father is from Ogun state and her mother from Ghana.

What attracted you to her?

Her humility; it pays to be humble. Everything is not about beauty, but you must be humble and what attracted me to her is her humility and that has helped our relationship in so many ways. We met in Nigeria here. I met her through this my work; I went to see a friend of mine who is like an elderly brother and I met her there. And that was how it started. We married 2004 and we met in 1999. We dated for five years before we got married. The marriage is blessed with a boy and a girl.

Who among them is showing the MUDI thing?
My son by the grace of God...

How do you feel with such a huge collection of awards? One describes you as “Most Influential Fashion Icon of the Century” 

It goes beyond the conferment. One must ask, ‘what value am I adding to humanity?’ Lets just say ‘okay, you got an award today; you must ask what warranted the award, what value are you adding to the society.  It is key; take for instance there are people who wear my clothes outside Nigeria and whenever they want to have a ceremony or an event to attend, they want to wear MUDI. That alone is more than the billions of money notes stocked in the Central Bank of any nation.  At least, it shows that I am touching lives across border. To me, that is the greatest achievement. It is beyond money and that is the reason for the couple of awards I hang at my office. It goes beyond money it is a result of passion and choice. My passion is to be a designer and my choice is to use my brand to touch as many people as possible across humanity. 

The Bible talks about enlargement of one’s coast and in the Nigerian fashion sector, it is only Mudiaga Enajemo that has took the bull by the horn to expand and enlarge his coast into Nairobi, Jo’Bourg, Dakar and Accra. That is my joy. African Magic did a study and unique fashion designers were mentioned. It was made public to the knowledge of everyone. I think after Oswald Boateng of Ghana, the next man was a Nigerian called MUDI. It was a study done in South Africa not by me. So, I can say God has given me the grace to achieve that extra-ordinary mile. I am the first Nigerian designer to design for a foreign president, not one but two. So, I have achieved in all ramification to the glory of God and benefit of humanity. I designed for ex President John Kufour of Ghana and still design for the ex Prime Minister of Kenya Raila Odinga. So they are statesmen who have taken time to invest in my creativity.

Apart from dressing them, I think most times they see me as their son. They advise me and put me through on knotty issues. So it is beyond just making clothes for them. They give me quality advice because they know I have done well by opening shops in their countries and giving employment to citizens of their countries. I think I took a risk actually to have entered another man’s country; no contact, no godfather, nobody there and I got a lawyer, got an auditor and registered a business. Get a shop and start business. So, it wasn’t a joke and those two men appreciate my courage and I think they are good men. Their patronage for MUDI was as a mark of appreciation for investing in their countries.

I took a risk to open a shop abroad. I withdrew all the money I had in my account; I changed it into dollars and moved into the country. When I came back I was broke. The same thing in Kenya, when I opened Kenya outlet I was broke. Each time I open any outlet outside Nigeria, I go broke because I have to take all I have in my account to open a shop across the boarder; so, no godfather, no capital, no structure except God the father.

What is the worst thing you have ever heard people say about you and you fell like jumping out of your skin?

You see, people say things. They look at my office and say all sorts of things. But I have paid my dues. Decades of doing one thing and people say I do it well and I enjoy doing it, if I am not successful after these years that mean something is wrong. If after all these years I don’t have my own structure like this, then it’s wrong. To start with, people should be creative. Some are not even innovative. They just dub designs from magazines, they copy and yet they expect the same results with MUDI. They are not even inventive and they see you who put so much time and efforts and they starts saying different things. And most times because they are not doing well, to comfort themselves, they say ‘oh, that guy is doing something else, that guy is using something’ just to comfort themselves. It is as simple as that. They say all sorts of things my ears are full because I have heard a lot of things about myself. I have heard quite a lot of things about my self but I will always remember what John Fashanu told me, he said, “MUDI, your eyes should be on the ball.” My eyes are on the ball. So, all these things are normal things in a society where there is so much backbiting, envy and double standard. 

What is the worst thing they have ever said about MUDI that you won’t forget? 

No, but that is. They said I am into money laundering, that I launder money for politicians. It is so sad! (Mood changes), some said I am into nineteen (419) some said I am into drugs, just to comfort themselves. It is painful, very, very painful but you must remain focused. Because certainly there is so much envy and beef. Your eyes must be constantly on the ball, it is what you put in you will get. I have spent decades and you have just spent only five years, you can’t be on the same level with me. It is not possible. And most of them attach so much to glamour, to hype, no structure and no scruple.  They believe that hype will sell them; I don’t believe in hype. Hype is good but first of all, good job first. Good job sells you, it is what you put in you get. The former Ghanaian president John Kufuor told me something. He said, “Mudi, what you have done is great, you have done well. You came into this country as a Nigerian and you opened an outlet here, it takes high level of risk.” He said we all have twenty-four hours but it is how you manage your twenty-four hours that matters. Hard work is key; discipline is next and above all the favor of God. God must come in and manifest his favor in your life. When I wanted to buy this property, I was not prepared to buy a house. Not that I asked an agent to go and get a land for me. I wasn’t prepared to buy a land talk less of building a house, it is just God.  It is God because I didn’t even know I was going to buy a house it is just God’s blessing.

As a famous designer with success at your beck and call, how do you handle the attention you get from ladies?

Normal people admire you, even men admire men women admire women. It is a normal thing once you are doing what will attract people to you. That is why I said discipline is key. Discipline is an all-inclusive thing, your way of life, how you treat people and even your food regime. I don’t eat after 6 ‘o clock. It is all part of discipline to keep shape.  So, discipline is a broad thing and it is the only thing that can keep you off the tag of controversy. I am married: I am not a saint. I won’t tell you I am a perfect human being. People get attracted to you. It is normal to have friends but you must be disciplined. You must know when the handshake is going beyond the elbow. If the handshake goes beyond the elbow and didn’t stop at the wrist, then discipline is missing. I am happily married and I handle my female admirers with great respect.  

What is your message to the youth?

My first message is to preach value system; our value system has collapsed and we need to remold our value system. At the end of the day you discover that a youth without good value system is a lost youth. If you don’t have it, it will be difficult to become famous and successful in whatever you do. A good value system is the currency of life. The parental system is the first layer of the disciplinary circle. What you become unto the society starts from the lowest rung of the ladder, which is the parental ladder. You can’t take away the parental layer out of the bigger society. You are a total reflection of what you saw your parents do. A wayward foundation will lead to a wayward line of action. In a family where it is common for the woman to always abandon one man for another, you will discover that the children are likely to follow the same pattern. But in a family where it is a culture to read book, there is probability that majority of the offspring will become intellectuals. You can’t produce what you don’t have. You are a summary of your humble beginning. 

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