Mai Atafo and Betty Irabor
Mai Atafo, one of the most sought after fashion designers from Africa, shared indispensable business and life nuggets on Life Lessons with Betty Irabor.
The bespoke fashion tailor behind the Atafo brand addressed a range of topics. He spoke about leaving his elevated position in a high-paying job to take a job that paid him far less as he ventured into the fashion industry. He addressed being featured on Beyonce’s website after Black is King release and the effect it has had on his brand. He also spoke about staying afloat during a pandemic and the benefits of the pandemic.
The fashion designer further addressed his personal life and the crazy rumours about his sexuality.
Speaking about leaving his job in a bank to apply for a job at Genevieve Magazine, a company where the host, Betty Irabor, is the CEO, Mai explained that he knew what he wanted so he made a decision to do what it takes to get it, even if it meant being uncomfortable for a bit.
He recalled applying at Genevieve Magazine as a fashion editor with no experience whatsoever in the fashion or editing business. He also recalled the question Betty Irabor asked when he applied for the position.
Mai, who interestingly still refers to Betty Irabor as “MD” though he hasn’t worked for her in years, explained that he made a decision to humble himself and serve and he did just that, even when he had to deal with difficult subjects while shooting covers for Genevieve Magazine.
Mai acknowledged that leaving the comfort and security of a well-paying job was not easy. He admitted that he was afraid and unsure. He said he still feels fear and uncertain yet he does what he has to do in spite of the fear.
He recalled being scared and second-guessing himself when he did his first assignment with Genevieve Magazine. He admitted that he was scared of not delivering.
He said: “It’s your fear and doubt that fuels you to what you want to do.”
He added: “At every point in time, I always still doubt my decisions on everything I do so I wait for feedback.”
Mai advised people not to let the fear of failure stop them. He urged people to be open to failure, as long as they learn something from it.
He said: “Take your first step to failure. Go and fail and you will learn one thing from it.”
Mai added that before he left his job to pursue his passion, he planned for it. He said he saved up his salary for two years and didn’t touch it.
He said he was also accountable to his wife, since his decisions would affect her and their daughter, so he had a talk with her and they planned his move together and how they will survive on less than the usual.
He said they reached the decision that he will go for it and if he realizes it isn’t working out and his savings are depleting, he would go back and get a job.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case and he thrived to the point where his brand was featured on Beyonce’s website.
Talking about being featured on Bey’s website. Mai explained how it had people from all over the world trooping to his website to make orders. He said it was at that point that he realized the difference between Nigerian clients and foreign clients. The difference, he said, is like night and day.
With the foreign clients, he said they were asking pertinent questions and were eager to purchase and make payments immediately. He explained that in just a few days, he was “getting orders in Dollars” and they were paying into the PayPal account.
He spoke about the pandemic and how it brought fashion businesses to their knees. But he also managed to thrive during this period and he explained how he did it.
He explained that for 12 weeks, he had no single orders as there were no weddings. However, thanks to a job he did with a client some months back, he continued getting paid even though businesses were suffering.
He also explained that the pandemic turned out to be the best thing for technological advancement as the world had to adjust and learn to use technology to get things done. This, he said, he had to learn as it wasn’t his style.
When the feature on Beyonce’s website increased his visibility, he said he decided then to get his website up and running and, even though all the features weren’t ready, he was forced to adjust to meet clients’ needs.
When Betty Irabor asked Mai the craziest rumour he has heard about himself, he mentioned that it has to be the rumour that he is gay.
“I don’t think being gay is bad,” he began, adding that as long as people do not get to the point where they start getting involved in things that are evil, he has no business judging what anyone does privately.
However, he said it’s the craziest thing he has heard about himself because there’s no truth to it.
This rumour might have thrived because very little is known about Mai’s private life. Mai Atafo is married with a daughter but he keeps his family private.
When Betty Irabor asked him about this, he explained that there is real life and there’s social media. He said he shows them off in real life but keeps them off social media because they are private people and he doesn’t have their permission to post them.
Mai also spoke about “instaglamourization”, where people are spending money they barely have to portray a certain lifestyle on Instagram just to impress people.
He went on to advise business owners whose businesses have been affected by the pandemic and also people with ideas who are too afraid to go for it.
Life Lessons with Betty Irabor is brought to you by Linda Ikeji TV and sponsored by Nescafé and Maggi.
Watch episode 8 featuring Mai Atafo below.