Brick And Mortar or Online?
“Till you own your own, you can’t be free” — Jay Z | I Got The Keys
I had always wanted to own a physical streetwear store. Land of Plenty (LOP) in Victoria Island, Lagos, was one of my favorite places to visit as a teenager. It was akin to Wonderland to me, with the Timberland boots, Durags, Ski Goggles (yes, Ski Goggles) and other popular culture paraphernalia from the late 90s. You also had Talk 2Me and the other stores on Adeniran Ogunsanya moving weight. To put this in context, this was the late 90s and American hip hop culture was at its zenith. Sisqo had everyone wearing clothes with dragons and mandarin characters they didn’t understand. DMX had us wearing Ruff Ryders t-shirts and Timberland boots in the Lagos heat. You get the picture. We were all indoctrinated into the same trends and if you weren’t one of the privileged few who got to travel to the UK and the US for yearly summer holidays, your options were pretty much limited to the LOPs and the Talk 2Me’s.
My first shot at running my own store was in 2007 in a space I shared with my sister. It was called R.A.D.E (Ruff Around Da Edges) which sort of described my style at the time and the vibe of the store because you could find anything from locally made leather slippers to Polo by Ralph Lauren and Evisu jeans on the racks.
My next shot at fashion retail was Giddimint which was an online store in 2011. This was very uncharted territory at the time & I basically looked to Karmaloop for the blueprint. We looked at what they were doing and tried to fit it to our local market while employing the new media tools that were emerging at the time. Exciting times. Even with the online experience and relative success, I still romanticized creating an awesome space to retail streetwear in Lagos. I would look at stores like Cornerstore Concept, The Hundreds and Bodega and get very excited at the prospect of building something similar locally.
In 2017, the Universe budged and I got the chance to take a shot at it so I set up ThaLoot (I got the name off a Biggie track) in September.
I never really felt ready but I ignored my intuition and chalked it to the jitters that come with doing something new. Physical retail is a whole other ball game and we found out the hard way. We pulled the shutters by December (we ran for 4 months) with me retreating to lick my wounds. There is a whole mine of lessons and anecdotes from these adventures which I’ll share when I’m ready but will I be taking another shot at fashion retail again at some point? You bet! The game is the game.