The Business of Hat Making by ITAM

According to an article about hat-making on Wikipedia, millinery was historically a woman’s occupation, with the milliner not only creating hats and bonnets, but also choosing lace, trimmings and accessories to complete an outfit. This week’s entrepreneur is a male milliner who is pushing the boundaries in the Nigerian fashion industry, through his unique couture hats. Below is the interview 234Finance had with Kingsley Asim-Ita of ITAM Hats.

Describe ITAM Hats in a few sentences.
ITAM headpieces are CLASSY. ELEGANT. DRAMATIC. Our pieces turn heads when our clients walk in the crowd at any function.

What inspired you to venture into millinery?
Millinery has been in the family and it started from my grandmother, who passed it to my aunt, and then my mum. Back then, they sold hats from UK top designers like Mitzi Lorenz for many years. I finally took over and pulled it to the next level by launching my own couture label.

What is the creative process involved in coming up with your different unique designs?
First step is to imagine, then conceptualize. I always draw out my sketches. Most times in the process of finishing a piece, some other idea comes in. The stages involved in hat-making are blocking, trimming and finally decoration the piece which is the final stage.

What formal or informal training have you done to improve your skills overtime?
I have done some formal and informal training which I will not mention. Lol – I also study other milliners works and pick the areas I think interests me. I have also learnt from an Australian designer I met at an International Millinery Exhibition who loves to work with vintage materials from the 1920’s – 70’s. I enjoy working with these vintage materials, only that they are expensive and difficult to source.

Can you comment on the Nigerian and indeed African fashion scene?
Nigerians are FASHIONISTAS! That’s just the word. Other African countries are trying but trust me, they look up to Nigerians both in the Continent of Africa and beyond when it comes to Fashion. We are definitely at the fore-front of fashion.

What makes ITAM Hats stand out
Basically what makes ITAM pieces stand out are the designs and materials used in making them. We always source high quality materials to give our pieces that unique finish.

Who are your target market and how do you access them?
We cater to both local and international clients and our pieces are affordable to meet their needs. They range from formal everyday pieces, to the exclusive couture pieces. For now, ITAM appeals to the female gender, however the male line does well at international exhibitions.

What are the operational challenges you face in running your venture and how do you manage them?
There is no access to loans from financial institutions. This limits rapid growth, as finance is required to purchase materials, pay staff wages, office rent and other miscellaneous expenses. We basically deprive ourselves lots of luxury to stock up on materials, and ensure that we meet up with clients demands and deadlines.

Would you say your business is contributing to the “Made-In-Nigeria” cause and how?
Yes, because all our pieces are hand-made and are finished in Nigeria. Although, we source our raw materials and feathers from outside the country.

What advice can you give aspiring entrepreneurs to create a career from their hobbies?
Put God first in all that you do. Be passionate about your hobby and stay focused. Avoid being distracted by events around you or other competitors, definitely the sky will be your limit.

Below are images of some ITAM pieces.