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cofoundHER Interviews: Farida Musa Halliru

by Tolu Agunbiade

Since her early teens, Farida Musa Halliru has been sketching designs, but her fashion design career really started in 2012 after she completed a course on fashion design and garment construction from The Fashion Academy, Abuja and started her own bespoke fashion design company, Farida’s Atelier.

Farida’s designs are mostly African inspired with Western aesthetics. She also sometimes gets her inspiration from objects, prints, colours, nature, and basically anything that grabs her attention. When designing Farida puts the African modern woman in mind and focuses on designs that are flattering to her body.

From Kano state in Northern Nigeria, Farida is an Alumnus of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria with a degree in Accounting. She loves watching movies and TV shows, listening to Nigerian music, especially The Mavins, Di’ja and Yemi Alade, and playing basketball, at least that was before her career took over her everything.


What is Farida’s Atelier?
Farida’s Atelier is a fashion brand that makes bespoke clothing for women with the aim of achieving the perfect flattering fit. We are also introducing high street ready to wear pieces to bridge the gap in Nigerian fashion retailing.

Why did you decide to start Farida’s Atelier?
My decision was mostly from tailors’ lack of craftsmanship and dedication; there was little or no professionalism and integrity in their work. This is something a lot of people and I personally have experienced. Also, flipping through African magazines and seeing the unflattering outfits some women wear that they label as the latest “fashion trend” makes me feel sad.

Tailoring should complement a woman’s body to accentuate her unique features. So, I went to a fashion school to acquire the necessary sewing skills I needed. Sketching wasn’t a problem for me because I’ve been sketching since my primary school days. My passion in fashion was something I was born with so the drive was there. I’ve always been a smart business woman, coupled with my training in customer care and better understanding of a client. That was it, Farida’s Atelier was born.

How did you get started? What was the first thing you put in place?
I first started by enrolling in a fashion design school. After completing the course, I registered my company business name. I really didn’t have enough money to set up the business so I tried looking at getting funding from the government and banks but all seemed to no avail. That’s when my family came in. My parents and siblings, everyone chipped in and I got the loan from them to start up a small workshop.

I needed to test the market and grow as the market expanded. So, knowing how expensive rent is in Abuja, I built a port-a-cabin at the back of my apartment, bought two straight sewing industrial machines, one embroidery machine, one serger machine, and a very good Belgium Iron. The other sewing necessities came after as the work proceeded.

Shortly after I started, I was able to pay back all my loans. We’ve been operating since 2013 and this year (2015) we’ve moved into a proper workshop. I’ve showcased in two runway shows, one in Abuja, Nigeria and the other in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In both shows, I’ve won awards of Best Designer 2014 and Emerging African Fashion Designer 2014. It hasn’t been easy but I thank Allah for everything He has done for me.

What was the most difficult part about applying for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme list and how did you feel when you heard you made the list?
For me, the most difficult part was filling the form and wondering if I was being myself and if it was good enough to get me in.

When I found out I made the list, I was quiet about it for hours. I didn’t tell anyone because I couldn’t believe it myself. I wasn’t sure if the video was sent to only the shortlisted applicants or everyone; it took me over two hours after the mail came before I opened it because I didn’t expect to be chosen.


Was there any time you felt like giving up? How did you overcome that feeling?
Sincerely, since I started, no matter how tough and difficult the situation gets in the business I have never for once felt like giving up on it. All I do when it gets hard is pray a lot, then talk to my sister or my significant other to offload. Sometimes, I just stay in my room and reflect on new strategies and remind myself how important this is to me and this is just a norm in any business, then I go out and buy myself something I really like but wouldn’t ordinarily spend money on because I’m trying to manage my funds. It usually gets better after that and I’m back in the game.

What is your ultimate vision for Farida’s Atelier?
I want Farida’s Atelier to be a household name and I want to showcase my designs on the biggest runways all over the world. I want Farida’s Atelier to go in history as one of the African fashion houses to take African fashion worldwide.

How can someone place orders and do you ever turn down clients?
Presently I only have one workshop/showroom in Abuja and so orders are made there either through a phone call,by email or walk-in.

I have actually turned down clients in the past and even now. Back then, because I was operating in a small space with only two machines, I always avoided situations where I collect an order and end up disappointing the client. I’d rather be honest than give myself a bad name. In today’s case, sometimes when we get late orders and we have so many other early orders we have to turn down the late orders to avoid problems and potential disappointment.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Look within and identify your true passion, stay true to yourself and stick to it, it will make you stronger and most of all believe in yourself, it would definitely not be easy but you will surely fall through.


Find out more about Farida’s Atelier on Instagram.

We are sharing the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

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