| Ghana’s fashion and design world is an industry fraught with numerous challenges hindering the growth of this multi-million dollar industry. But one man, Gregory A. Kankoh, designer and Chief Executive Officer of Nallem Clothing, is the type whose hunger to change the face of the industry has made him spot opportunities even in the midst of all the glitches.
A professionally-trained marketer, currently pursuing an Executive MBA at the University of Ghana Business School, Gregory’s entry into the designing industry was, at best, by chance. Though he says that Nallem is “still in the learning curve,” the brand is already a household name in the African fashion industry. Thanks to his belief in persistence and commitment to his goals, he has succeeded in creating organizational structures that have propped up his brand for the past nine years.Springing up from Gregory’s love for African fashion, Nallem has become a well-known brand across the length and breadth of the African continent boasting of reseller shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leonne, South Africa, Uganda and even in the USA. Nallem, a word from the Builsa language which means ‘beauty,’ is a brand that exudes confidence and elegance. Nallem’s clothing line cuts across the haute couture, ready-to-wear and the mass market making it a brand for everyone
Building the Brand
When the love for African textile patterns and fashion led Gregory to create Nallem, his dream, like every young man’s, was to immediately build a franchise represented in all the fashion capitals in Africa. But things did not go the way he envisaged and that is when it occurred to him that the designing business has to be run like a well-established business with structures and institutions. So, revising his notes, Gregory discontinued the franchise concept and used resellers to distribute his clothes. Then, putting on his business hat, proper departments—namely: Creative, Specialized Production, IT, Administration/Human Resource, Sales and Marketing—were created to run Nallem as a business and to give it a real corporate identity. This proper division of labour seems to have ushered in Nallem’s success and Gregory consistently hammers home this point. “Building an institution means putting up structures to support the day-to-day running of that entity,” he declares. Nallem currently employs over eighty people with two in-house designers.
Challenges in the industry
Ghana may not be seen as one of the major fashion destinations in the world but Gregory Kankoh believes that the huge patronage Nallem’s products enjoy in the outside market shows clearly the love for Ghanaian fashion and designs. And he believes that the surest way for the industry to move beyond its current near-dormant state to attracting foreign interest is for “Ghana to be branded a fashion destination.” With this, designers will overcome their challenges vis-à-vis getting raw materials that are of quality and have desired styles, and raising capital to invest in their business. Having dealt with this, the industry can then tackle the deficiency in skilled labour by offering proper training to tailors and other auxiliary staff in the sector.
Nallem in the near future
A former employee of a travel and tour company, who had never harboured any ambition to be a designer but for an accidental entry through his love for African fashion, Gregory desires only to continue doing what he has grown to love— designing. In pursuit of this love, he has set plans to see Nallem opening five more branches in the major cities of Ghana by the end of 2011. In the long run, Gregory wants to see Nallem expand and grow into a global brand with outlets in the major fashion capitals in the world, garnering more international clout through the creation of a solid franchise, now that Nallem has the structures to run as a business entity.
Fashioning out a path for the industry
Though there appears to be a semblance of competition in the fashion industry in Ghana, this has not led to any tangible growth. This, Gregory says, is due to the fact that “we are competing wrongly.” To him, the real competitors are those in China and other developing countries. The way to the top, according to him, is to “groom a new crop of designers who are open-minded and ready to unite for a common goal,” and he stresses his readiness to lend support for this drive. “[Doing this], with a view to making Ghana a fashion destination in Africa, requires the formation of an umbrella body to oversee the activities of fashion designers,” Gregory adds.
Gregory’s rise to the top and Nallem’s growth have been all about perseverance and commitment mixed with the passion to be the best. While admitting that achieving one’s goals does not come easy, he believes that “dreams must be pursued realistically.” Though operating in very rough terrain, the brand he created has consistently been among the best, thanks largely to his philosophy in life: “The key to success is to wish others success.”