Innovative Flair: Adenike Ogunlesi’s Impact On Children’s Fashion
Fashion entrepreneurs in Nigeria are working hard to improve and grow children’s fashion, which is helping the entire fashion sector. The focus is on designing fashionable, colourful apparel for children that emphasises originality and sophistication.
Leading this movement is Adenike Ogunlesi, a fashion entrepreneur well-known for her significant contributions through her brand Ruff ‘n’ Tumble. From humble beginnings, she painstakingly developed Ruff ‘n’ Tumble into a prestigious brand in children’s fashion, exhibiting an extraordinary fusion of originality and quality.
In this interview with THEWILL DOWNTOWN’s Dorcas Akintoye, Adenike Ogunlesi talks about the nuances of children’s fashion in Nigeria, highlighting the development, difficulties, and inventive spirit that drive the sector ahead. Diving into her business path, Adenike recounts how Ruff ‘n’ Tumble began as a personal need for her kids and grew into a well-known brand renowned for its expertise in children’s fashion.
Ruff ’n’ Tumble is synonymous with children’s fashion in Nigeria. What inspired you to specifically focus on designing clothing for kids?
The story of Ruff ’n’ Tumble started when I realised I needed to travel outside Nigeria to find good quality, durable and stylish clothing for my three children. I started by making pyjamas, and it gradually grew to become what it is today. On the journey, I discovered there was a real need for global quality clothing for little children locally, so I became curious and started asking more questions, and to my surprise, I wasn’t the only mother with this need. There were lots of mothers who wanted good quality, trendy, durable clothing for their children. The fact that it was locally available, accessible and convenient to bring the children in-store to fit the clothing felt like I had invented sliced bread! With the realisation that there was an existing opportunity, my desire to create value and build a brand that catered to the needs of the customer (the parents) and the consumer (the children) came alive. This opportunity also lent itself to show the possibilities that could exist in the industry on a local level.
The name Ruff ‘n’ Tumble is unique and catchy. What inspired the choice of this name for your children’s clothing line?
A friend of mine – my neighbour at the time, said to me that she was going to do a teddy bear festival on the grounds of the National Museum Kitchen. She said she was looking for somebody to make clothing in ankara. I said you are looking at the person. I’m the person who’s going to do it for you. She said, under what label? I said I don’t know. I will find a label after, but I will make the clothes. She said, what will we write in front of your canopy? She asked because she had a degree in marketing and graphic arts or something like that. I said I wanted to make clothes that set children free. I’m tired of looking at children – wearing clothes they can’t breathe, move or play in. So I said, I just want clothes children can rough around in, you know? And she said, OK, I’ll draw a drum with children tumbling out of the drum.
Considering your initial challenges selling clothes from the trunk of your car, how did you strategically position Ruff ’n’ Tumble to become a prominent brand in the Nigerian children’s fashion industry?
The first step to the success of Ruff ’n’ Tumble was that the brand was solving the problem of many parents like me who had great taste and wanted quality clothing made available to their kids locally. The strategy still remains creating top-notch outfits that can stand head-to-head with global brands. We keep up with this quality and create awareness online and offline. That is how we’ve gotten to become the industry leader.
In the competitive world of fashion, especially for children, how do you approach staying ahead of trends and maintaining the brand’s relevance over the years?
In the kid’s fashion industry, we stay ahead of trends through research of global trends, local tastes, and nuances. It’s fashion. Being innovative and authentic to who we are in our purpose, our choice of colours, textures, fabrics, accessories, and finishing techniques creates a highly desirable product that makes us who we are.
The journey from a tiny shop to a national brand is impressive. What were the key marketing strategies that played a crucial role in establishing Ruff ’n’ Tumble as a household name?
Building a children’s shop into a national brand like Ruff ’n’ Tumble involved a combination of strategic planning, marketing efforts, and a deep understanding of the target audience.
We focused on building a brand identity and storytelling. We were very clear on communicating the values, mission, and vision of Ruff ’n’ Tumble, fostering a connection with customers. We emphasised high-quality products and unique, attractive designs to stand out in the market. In addition, we prioritised the customer experience; I stand on excellent customer service to build trust and loyalty.
We’ve been able to engage with the local community through events, sponsorships, and partnerships, and we have also utilised a mix of marketing channels, including social media, traditional advertising, and digital platforms, to reach a diverse audience. Implementing an effective e-commerce strategy to tap into the growing online market across all our locations
Children’s fashion trends can be dynamic. How does Ruff ’n’ Tumble stay attuned to the evolving preferences of young consumers, ensuring your designs remain appealing to both kids and their parents?
The fashion industry is generally fast-paced, but our products are more timeless, comfortable, and authentic, unlike the general fashion industry, which has fast-paced designs. We also stay informed on our customers’ preferences with the help of rich data that is reported, analysed and shared with cross-functional teams in real-time, enabling us to make data-driven decisions that solve the problems of the customer/consumer and ensures premium customer experience. We keep innovating and researching to understand global trends, local tastes, and nuances, as well as utilising data from customer surveys and focus groups to make business decisions that meet the needs of our customers.
Ruff ’n’ Tumble operates in major Nigerian cities. How do you tailor your designs to cater to the country’s diverse cultural and regional preferences?
We currently have 15 stores across Nigeria: Lagos(8) Ikeja GRA Store, Palms Mall Lekki, Circle Mall Lekki, Ikeja City Mall Alausa, Murtala Muhammed Airport 2, Ikeja, Novare Mall Lekki, Opebi Store, Adeniran Ogunsanya Mall – Surulere. Abuja (4) Novare Appo Mall, Jabi Lake Mall, Ceddi Plaza Abuja, Novare Gateway Mall. Port Harcourt(2), Port Harcourt Mall, Garden City Mall, Ibadan(1) Palms Mall Ibadan. With the brand called TIMOTI- WA (which means ‘Where I come from’) that fuses ankara, adire and other indigenous fabrics in a collection that is sold in the Ruff ’n’ Tumble stores, we are able to cater to the cultural needs of each region.
With the rise of e-commerce, how has Ruff ’n’ Tumble adapted to the changing landscape of online shopping, especially in the context of children’s fashion?
Ruff ’n’ Tumble is fully plugged into exploring tech solutions that can optimise its business operations and create opportunities for better service delivery. We are already currently exploring the use of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to predict our customer behaviour, trends and curate personalised customer experiences. We also have an e-commerce link to shop from anywhere in Nigeria by just clicking the link on the @ruffntumblekids Instagram page.
As a fashion entrepreneur, how do you balance the artistic and creative aspects of designing children’s clothing with the practicalities of running a successful business?
We are a customer-focused brand. We make our products with our customers- children in mind, so it’s easy for us to balance our creative expressions and the practicalities of making clothes for children. I ensure our designs are visually appealing and practical for the dynamic needs of both children and parents. It involves integrating vibrant colours, comfortable fabrics, and playful styles to resonate with children’s preferences. Simultaneously, I prioritise durability and ease for parents, creating a harmonious blend where creativity meets practicality, resulting in clothing that looks good and stands up to the energetic nature of kids while catering to the convenience of parents.
Ruff ’n’ Tumble has a factory and warehouse. How do you maintain quality control and ensure that the production processes align with the brand’s commitment to excellence?
Ruff ’n’ Tumble upholds uncompromising quality control through a meticulous fabric selection process, continuous training sessions for our production team to ensure alignment with the brand’s standards, rigorous evaluation of prototypes and samples, and a commitment to continuous improvement driven by customer feedback. This approach is integral to sustaining the high standards synonymous with Ruff’ n’ Tumble.
Being a judge on Lions’ Den, you have insights into budding entrepreneurs. What advice would you give someone looking to start a career in the Nigerian children’s fashion industry?
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to explore Nigeria’s fashion and clothing industry is to be clear on your values and principles. The good book says whatever your hands find to do, to do it well. Do not compromise on quality and excellence. As William Foster says, “Quality is never an accident, it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives”. I believe that there are seasons and phases. Everything happened as it did, and when it did, to help me to become my truest, most authentic and highest expression of myself.
The Nigerian fashion industry has seen notable growth. In your opinion, what role does children’s fashion play in shaping the overall narrative of Nigerian fashion globally?
Children’s fashion reflects the diversity and creativity inherent in Nigerian culture. It serves as a dynamic expression of the country’s unique aesthetic and prints, contributing to the global recognition of Nigerian fashion as bold, versatile, and culturally rich. At Ruff ’n’ Tumble, we have collections dedicated to celebrating Nigerians’ vibrant prints like ankara and adire. The nation gains international attention as children wear these clothes for holidays outside Nigeria. It elevates Nigeria’s fashion profile and contributes to the global conversation about inclusivity, cultural representation, and creativity in the fashion world.
How does Ruff ’n’ Tumble contribute to the empowerment and skill development of local talent, especially in the context of the children’s fashion industry in Nigeria?
Ruff ’n’ Tumble is dedicated to empowering and developing local talent in the Nigerian children’s fashion industry, boasting a workforce of over 100 employees. Through consistent training programs, the brand continuously enhances the skills of its team members.
With the Christmas season here, can you provide insights into any special collections or initiatives Ruff ’n’ Tumble has planned to celebrate the festive season for kids?
Our Christmas collection is always the highlight of the year. The message is clear: our desire is to make children happy all over the world. To this end, our collective energy goes to designing a collection that is unique, colourful, comfortable, vibrant, global in trend and locally available and accessible. This Christmas collection is driven by our desire to encourage families to share joyful experiences, a reminder to keep a positive outlook as we focus on finding solutions.
In a rapidly changing fashion landscape, how do you see the future of children’s fashion in Nigeria, and what role does Ruff ’n’ Tumble aim to play in shaping that future?
The future of children’s fashion in Nigeria appears promising, marked by a blend of cultural richness and innovation. As the industry evolves, Ruff ’n’ Tumble aims to play a leading role in shaping this future. By continuing to prioritise quality, unique designs, and cultural representation, Ruff ’n’ Tumble contributes to establishing a distinctive identity for Nigerian children’s fashion globally. Through initiatives that support emerging designers and celebrate Nigeria’s cultural heritage, Ruff ’n’ Tumble envisions being at the forefront of a dynamic and inclusive future for children’s fashion in Nigeria, fostering creativity and influencing trends on a global scale.
As a fashion entrepreneur with a successful children’s clothing brand, what legacy do you hope Ruff ’n’ Tumble leaves in the Nigerian fashion industry, particularly in the realm of children’s fashion?
We are all about quality and durability at Ruff ’n’ Tumble: we provide high-quality, durable clothing for busy kids. This not only reflects positively on our brand but also promotes sustainability. We’ve always strived to be innovative and creative through unique designs, sustainable materials, and cutting-edge manufacturing processes. We have ethical and sustainable practices; as such, the Ruff ’n’ Tumble brand’s legacy involves a commitment to responsible business practices, which include eco-friendly materials, fair labour practices, and transparent supply chains.
Dorcas Akintoye is a versatile writer with a passion for beauty, fashion, relationships, and culinary delight. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, she adds a touch of elegance to every topic she explores. She is a writer at THEWILL DOWNTOWN.