Fear of being a liability or being pitied led me into Fashion Design” – Nigerian Designer opens up on his challenges being deaf
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Agbata Aloysius. I am from Mmiata Anam in Anambra State. I grew up in Enugu. I am the first of six children born to the family of Mr. Edwin Agbata And Mrs. Theresa Agbata.
What led you into Fashion Design and how long ago did you start sewing?
Sincerely, learning fashion design from my hearing boss was not easy and most times, I was left confused; but the determination to be different and to stand out in the deaf community kept me going. All other members of my family are hearing people and I didn't want to be the liability or the person to be pitied. I thought of things I was passionate about and that was how my Fashion Design profession began. The name of my Company is ‘Smartcare Fashion Designer Unisex’.
What were your challenges or worries about going into Fashion Design as a profession?
My greatest fear was how to get a fashion designer (unisex) that will accept to teach a deaf/ hard-of-hearing person because he or she will have to repeat himself/herself over and over again. I also feared I may not be treated right by other apprentices.
How were you able to handle that and also overcome the barriers or stereotypes that go with being deaf and working as a fashion designer?
In the fashion business, I have learnt to be more understanding, patient and have learnt to tolerate people's excesses. I see every barrier as a stepping stone to greatness and I face my challenges with courage. Sometimes, I have to let go of who is right or wrong for the sake of peace. Above all, I always trust God to see me through.
How have you been able to communicate with your clients?
I have had clients that left after they discovered I am deaf, but I do not let that discourage me. So many still stayed and are willing to communicate in writing on paper with me. A few who are long-time clients have picked up a few words in sign language and this makes communication easy between us.
In 5 to 10 years time, where do you see yourself in the fashion industry?
In the near future, I see myself organizing the biggest fashion runway showcasing my designs to the world. I will also own a fashion school for other deaf people like me to give them a better opportunity than I had. I also see myself as a big supplier of fashion materials and fabrics within and outside Nigeria.
Do you think the government of your country is doing well to support the deaf community? What advice do you have for them?
Gradually, the deaf and sign language is gaining relevance in Nigeria but the government needs to do more by funding talented deaf person in their skills. The government also needs to include deaf persons in different areas like politics, business and decision making in the country. More deaf-friendly schools and skill acquisition centers should be provided too.
What advice do you have for other young persons like you who want to go into fashion or any skilled industry at all?
If you love fashion, I advise you go for it. Do not let anything or any one discourage you. It gets easier along the way and you will be happy you did. Deafness is not a disease and does not make you incapacitated. Once you put your mind into it, you can achieve anything. If they say you can't, prove to them that you can.
What is your favourite life lesson quote?
" Never say never. If you know you can do what you love, don't give up" by Justin Bieber.
Any final words?
I want to say a big thank you for this opportunity to tell the world about my challenges and dreams. May God bless you richly.