His investment in luxury goods for the rich has earned him a place in the Guinness World Records book for creating the world most expensive suit. Earlier this year, he also created world most expensive champagne which went for N1.8m dollars. These are great feats for a Black British.
Obviously, Alexander Amosu, who is based in London, is driven by a force which can only be explained by him.
“I think it has to do with wanting to achieve more than I have done,” he began. At age 38, he is worth millions of dollars and makes his money by personalising bespoke suits and mobile phones with very expensive diamonds.
“With me, there is never a satisfaction to success and I am always thinking about how to make it better. As a matter of fact, I haven’t achieved 10 percent of my ability. It is my mind doing the work and I am driving myself the more.”
The first person to start urban ringtones in Europe at age 24, he says the idea cropped up as a result of playing around with the then new Nokia 3210. He composed a ringtone, sent to his brother and it became an instant hit with his brother’s classmates, 21 of whom came knocking at his door. By age 25, he made his first million. At 26, he published ICON, a magazine and at 28, he floated his first television show called the Rich & Famous.
According to Amosu, a childhood experience gingered him to hardwork and a thirst for huge success. Born of Nigerian parents, he admits having a humble background.
“My parents were not wealthy,” he reminisces. “I was born in London, taken to Nigeria when I was three years and returned to London when I was six years. We did not have the best start in life but I wanted to get the best for myself. We grew up in downtown London, slept on the floor and it was difficult. I started school and the atmosphere was not friendly either. To my peers, I was an African boy with thick African accent, I could not fit in and many things were not accessible to my brother and I. I wanted to fit in to that class and knew I needed to change my clothes, shoes and all that those famous kids were wearing.
“At 12 years, I became a newspaper boy and made 60 pounds from paper rounds. From this, I was able to buy for myself, a pair of Nike trainers. Amazingly, my peers, who never spoke to me in school, when they saw my shoes, admired it and started talking to me! I just realised what I had to do to be noticed and respected. It was a lesson to me and I never looked back since then.”
Did he make up his mind to be rich? His response was in the negative. “I made up my mind to work hard and get whatever ingredients I need to be successful. I have always believed that nobody should work to be rich but everyone should work for what gives them pride and enjoyment. When you do this, riches and fame will come,” he says.
Not denying parental influence in his life, he does not hesitate to talk about his parents: “My mother’s name is Nike Kamson-Amosu and my father is Laolu Amosu; they are from Ibadan, Oyo State. They live in England. They had had me and my younger brother in London when they came to study.
“Dad had a huge influence on me and both of them always drummed it into me that I should work hard. My great-grandfather was an entrepreneur and made singlet in Ikorodu, Lagos. Even my father had to do three jobs to keep a roof over our heads. That molded me and I was determined to work, so that they would not work again. My mother was a very hardworking woman and made an impact in my life too.”
A luxury designer, who is well known for his diamond encrusted cell phones, suit and champagne, not a few want to know how he delved into this unique business.
Punctuating his statements with hearty laughs, he says the idea of luxury goods sprang up during the era of financial crisis in Britain. “It came after I sold my ringtone business around 2004. I was thinking about what business I would do next and in my research, I discovered that despite the financial crunch, only luxury goods still kept the peak in terms of sales- Gucci, Louboutin, Louis Vuitton etc. The rich could afford to buy luxury goods while the poor got poorer. So, I decided to launch my luxury brand and I started with a mobile phone-a 2G iPhone, which I launched in Selfridges. It sold for 20,000 pounds. The launch was on Wednesday and by Friday, it was sold out!”
He didn’t stop at designing phones for the rich and famous, he forged ahead and embraced bespoke suits. The world most expensive suit, which he made, was priced at 70,000 pounds. It featured nine 18 carat gold and diamond buttons coupled with expensive fabrics from rare animals- vicuna and qiviuk.
According to him, the suit was ordered by an undisclosed buyer who wanted to attend a party in Central London. Denying being elitist in his approach, Amosu believes, “Luxury brands are not for everyone. My intention was not to mass produce. Why do I produce one product for one million customers when I can produce one product, sell to an individual and make the same amount of money that I would have made from a million customers? Every product I make is about creating something that nobody else can get because some people want the ultimate in luxury. They want it unique and they come to me and say, ‘make something special.”
Not done yet on that, Amosu says, “Money is not the issue because my clients don’t talk about money. All they want is something nobody else has in the world. Though I have made a one-off piece for an individual, there was a great demand for the suit and I made cheaper suits for others which sold for 20,000 pounds. On the champagne, we decided it will come in ranges. The one with the real diamond is 1.8m dollars but there was mass request for the cheaper champagne and it went for N65, oo0 (with faux diamond). We launched the champagne on the basis that we wanted to get some customers.”
If you think these are vanity, he disagrees. “I don’t think so. Everybody-whether poor or rich- at some point in life, wants to celebrate hardwork, achievements and all sorts. That you buy luxury goods does not mean you are necessarily pushing it in people’s faces; you are out to enjoy yourself once. That’s not vanity. You want the best for yourself and it is motivating you to work harder. In our day-to-day life, there is something that motivates you to achieve more, which could be a car, house, accessory etc,” he explains.
Admitting he has Nigerian clients, he plans to invest in the country’s economy very soon. “I want to create jobs by bringing luxury brands-champagne, shoes, jewellery etc to Nigeria and also encourage some youth and mentor them,” he says.
As a luxury good entrepreneur, does he wear his products? He chuckles and responds: “Yes, I do, from time to time and on special occasions. I enjoy what I do and it will be wrong for me not to wear or use my products.”
His definition of style is simple: “Style is when someone looks at you and says, ‘that person looks nice, elegant, sophisticated, mature. It is when you enter into a room and stand out. I am not into tackiness. I hate people looking tacky. You have to look stylish,” he says.
Married to Tayo, a Nigerian, they have two children. Is there time for leisure especially with hectic schedules like his? He replies, “Yes. My weekdays are busy but I try to make sure that Saturday and Sunday are meant for family fun and I focus on my wife and children. To be successful in business, you have to learn how to strike a balance.”
He concludes by advising youth. “Nothing free gets to anybody. You have to be mentally capable of knowing that even if the situation is contrary, nothing can stop you if you are determined,” he says.
BY KEMI ASHEFON