Marco Martinez is arguably the biggest urban apparel fashion house in Nigeria, with the Boys Are Not Smiling (BANS) tees, Girls Are Not Smiling tees, DJ Jimmy Jatt (D3PLE J)snap backs, MADE ON THE STREET tees, the tennis designs and so many others. The CEO and creative designer of Marco Martinez, Paul Ade-Martins, a graduate of Engineering at the University of Lagos, took time out of his packed schedule for an interview with CONNECTNIGERIA and shared some of what makes Marco Martinez the power house it is.
How did you get into the designing industry?
I started when I was younger. I was always drawing comics. I started out copying DC comics and I got flogged for it, because I was drawing it in my school books. Thankfully that didn’t make me stop; I just bought my own books and drew. They became really popular o, because people would take it and pass it round from class to class….before I knew it, it was hard to get my book back. Until one guy came and proposed a business partnership to me. His name was Tope. He was like, “Guy, why don’t you just photocopy this thing?” And that’s how we started mass production. It was cheap- like N5 per copy, but it taught me how to make money from my passion.
So from here I entered into other things like designing cards- business cards, greeting cards and making money off it. It was good because in Year Two, my mother started having financial problems and couldn’t put me through school, so I used the money from my designing. From there we started designing door posts, and presentations for final year science students. I made a lot of money from that. I started out with my creativity that way.
What challenges did you face?
Well…it was how to channel my creativity into fashion. I didn’t start out with fashion; I didn’t even think of fashion as an option then. I knew that whatever business I put my hands in, money came from it. The problem was finding out what to do. The inspiration finally came when I saw someone wearing this t-shirt in school (university), that had a cartoon character on it. The cartoon character looked like one of my old drawings back then in school. I looked at this character and said to myself- “This character is on a t-shirt. My own character is on paper. How can I transfer this character from paper to t-shirt?” I didn’t know what to do; there was nothing like internet back then. So I talked to the students in art class and their professors, and we talked and brainstormed, made a lot of wack shirts and spent a lot more money, until we made our first t-shirt and put someone’s face on it. People were fascinated; how did your face get on this t-shirt?? It was hand-painted and we sold it for N200. That’s how I went into designing clothes.
Why ‘Marco Martinez’? Your name is Paul Ade- Martins. Is it derived from your name?
Yes! The Martinez side came from my last name Martins, and the Marco side was my friend who suggested it. We just wanted a name that could fly internationally.
When will your website be ready?
It is just undergoing a re-haul. We want to make it an online trading site, where you can order our products and browse the catalogue. It should be up by the end of June. In the meantime you can buy from online retailers, or pick up at stores at Gents at Abuja or Woolsworths at Ikeja.
The quality of your products is so good. Do you produce in Nigeria?
Yes, and in four other countries. Some have to be produced abroad- like the hats, but the items manufactured in Nigeria have just as good quality.
Why the brand ‘LasGidi’? Don’t you worry that it is not conspicuous enough?
The idea came to me a long time ago.
Was this before LasGidi became a popular name for Lagos?
Nooo! Ah, no o. The slang started thanks to a group of boys calling the area near Lekki, the one that had to be destroyed, Lasgidi. Jimmy Jatt can testify to that. Calling the hats (snapbacks) LasGidi was just honouring Lagos. Back then I used to clothe celebrities and I noticed they used to wear all these LA and NY hats. It made me mad, like, why rep another country? And then Nigerians had just start to accept fellow Nigerian hip-hop artistes, so I figured why not hats??
Where did you get your passion for Lagos from??
Lagos has blessed me please! I just love Lagos. I have been so blessed in Lagos- from the one naira and two naira that you make…I appreciate it. For you to be able to work and see something to eat from it from a place is a blessing. There are some places…(sigh). Lagos is just wonderful. Any small thing you do, someone would look at you and appreciate it. Except you’re not a serious person.
I hear there is a new collection coming up? Wanna talk about it?
Yeaaaah….our collection last year was Rebirth collection 1. That was early last year. Late last year was Rebirth collection 2, and now this is the final Rebirth collection. Basically, Rebirth is a way to show you the maturity that has gone into my brand, and it shows you that we’re ready to compete with global brands. Other collections were still struggling, you look at it and it’s shabby and you wonder how you perfect it…Rebirth collection is us bringing perfection into the designing world. It is going to consist of polos, linen shirt and linen shorts, because of the hot weather. You can wear the shirts here or take them on your summer vacation. Then there are shoes and sandals, slippers and of course, our hats.
Who do you consider your competition?
I have no local competition.
What perfume do you wear? Who is your favourite designer?
I like to mix perfume. Right now I’m wearing Hugo Boss and Lacoste.
What wouldn’t you be caught out with?
Mediocre stuff. I hate mediocre, average…
Who are your favourite Nigerian celebrities?
Please don’t force me to name names! Ah do you want them to fight me? I love Nigerian artistes- Nigerian artistes and my brand are like bread and butter. Mode 9, Terry D Rapman…I loved them before they loved me. They inspire me; they inspire my line….i love Nigerian music. Every week I do countdown in my car. I do my own kind of Rick Dee’s. I buy and listen to every body’s album. I listen to fuji, hip hop, akpala…and I love slow songs. My best is the one by EME allstars, slow songs in pidgin English! Ah I love those. People don’t even know what they’re missing!
What advice do you have for fresh designers starting out?
Well, to designers starting out, I would say- Understand why you are out and stay true to that reason. Be focused. If you don’t know why you’re out, you would fizzle out (laughs) Yeah that’s basically the best way to put it. You need to know your core. I know my core, I love urban apparel, and you can feel it. It is all that I am about- my website, my clothes, my style…when a customer can see your core, it makes it easy for them to seek you when they need something you can provide.
Also, you must not think that talent is everything. You think talent is everything, then it destroys you. Understand that the business side is about 95% of the whole gig; talent is just 5%.