Cool Jobs: Nigerian-American Designer Talks Turning Job Obstacles Into Opportunity

Odunayo Ade of Oyato Designs: Fashion industry is about show and prove

Odunayo Ade, lead designer, Oyato Designs

We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.

Odunayo Ade, 26, had dreams of being a designer since her teenaged years, but when fulfilling jobs seemed far and few, she knew she had to be innovative and really push to make those dreams reality. The Fashion Institute of Technology graduate debuted her first collection in 2008 and began producing pieces for family and friends, eventually starting her own fashion house, Oyato Designs.

With internship experiences at brands including Tracy Reese, Ade was able to use her education and on-the-job skills to develop a full-service firm, Oyato Designs and Artistry, adding makeup and styling to its offerings. Oyato has since grown to gain recognition from the U.S. to the Caribbean to Africa, boasting clients including award-winning Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh, and being part of New York Fashion Week.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Ade to talk breaking into the business and her advice for young professionals seeking to make a foothold in global fashion.

BlackEnterprise.com: What’s the most fulfilling part about being a fashion designer?

Ade: It has to be seeing a dress that I’ve labored over being worn by a client and they are genuinely happy with it. Nothing beats that.

What motivated you to start Oyato?
It was a combination of the lack of available jobs at the time and also the realization that people were willing to pay for custom-made apparel. My first order was for a friend who wanted an original gown for an event. One order became two, two became ten, and so on. Soon enough, I found myself being my own boss, employee and firm. It wasn’t as glamorous as I’d dreamed but it was a great learning experience. No doubt.

What are your biggest career challenges and how do you work to overcome them?

Time management is a challenge, honestly. You wear a lot of hats when it comes to owning your own business, and you’re constantly working even when you say you’re not. What I try to do is set plenty of reminders on my phone and use my planner and calendar. The most effective way to organize myself is writing up a daily to-do list and check things off as I go through my day.

What tips would you have for other young professionals who seek to be fashion designers in a market that is quite saturated and tough?
Find what makes you different and own it. Stay grounded and know what your end goal is. And be sure to network, network and network.

What are the biggest career mistakes you see millennials making when it comes to the industry?

That would be not researching and educating yourself about the industry. Honing your craft includes research. No one has the time to read a book anymore or sit in a classroom and learn. A good hustle is only successful when the groundwork has been done. Strong foundations hold up empires.

Who do you look up to for mentorship or sponsorship in your industry?
My mentors are many, but to hit a little closer to home, I look up to my team members at Oyato, Ada Emihe of Avaloni Studios, Yvonne Unubun of Mayven PR and Dunnie Onasanya of Miss Dunnie O. Productions. They may not know it, but I learn a lot from these women because they’re an amazing group of ladies. I’m blessed to know them.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t shout about how good your work is. Let your work do the talking.

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