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Of business, heart, and ethics: It’s Terence Sambo vs the ladies of L’Espace

by Lekan Olanrewaju

We’ve all seen the movies and heard the stories about how the international fashion industry is a ruthless den of lions only the brave dare venture into, and apparently the case is no different in this part of the world, if recent events are anything to go by, that is.

First of all we had Emmy Collins and his ceaseless rants against Arise Magazine Fashion Week, and in the latest case of what some have aptly described as a “fashion fury”, it’s blogger Terence Sambo aka One Nigerian Boy versus the ladies of fashion store L’Espace.

It began on Wednesday night with a couple of tweets by Terence pointing out what he described as “ridiculous demands” by the owners of the store. The issue? The store was charging a 20% weekly commission in addition to the monthly rent and service charges from clients. Sambo expressed disappointment because the store owners are designers themselves and should be running their business “with a heart”.

The ladies wasted no time in releasing a statement and effectively dragging Wana Sambo of Wana Sambo Clothing (who happens to be Terence’s sister) into the “spat” saying they were “simultaneously shocked and saddened to hear that anyone feels this way and we assume this is based on a recent miscommunication with his designer sister of WSClothing”.

Co-owner of the store, designer Isoken Ogiemwonyi, and the team through their official twitter account also engaged in a back and forth with the blogger.

There was lots of talk about “zero risk”, minimum number of pieces, “exclusive collections” and things of the sort, but the main issue was still this: L’Espace was, in addition to charging monthly rent and service charges, charging a 20% weekly commission as well. Terence viewed this as “totally against the retail format” and the ladies fired back defending their actions more or less as “just business”.

Wana Sambo Clothing two days later released a statement revealing that it simply wasn’t a case of being unable to meet terms “against the retail format”, but a situation where the store owners were charging a commission which had not been previously agreed to. The statement read in part:

“By the 28th of March, Wana Sambo Clothing received a 2nd sales report ending the 24th of march and it stated the amount of sales made that week with a new term added to it: a 20% commission being taken off sales.  Also attached to that e-mail was an amended version of the first invoice WSC received which now had the total sales plus a 20% commission taken off it.  This meant that a 20% commission would be deducted weekly. Once this e-mail was received, Wana Sambo contacted L’espace to query this new term/development as this had never been stated in any of our written or verbal agreements and L’espace replied saying (a quote from the e-mail) “…the 20% commission was not included in the agreement because we are still testing the new revenue model…

The statement also claimed that the store owners had abruptly terminated their contract with the designer, noting their assumptions that she had enlisted the services of Terence Sambo to launch what they described as a “guerilla attack” against them on Twitter.

The Nigerian blogoshpere and twitteratti (or at least the section of it that is paying attention) have pretty much been divided into either team l’Espace or those that are team “ONB”.

However, it’s interesting to note that the L’Espace brand seems determined to sidestep all the allegations made, focusing instead on the nature of “the fashion business”. Whether they have truly handled this in a business-like manner is however a matter for debate.

Their defence has pretty much been that it’s a “business” and he only cares because she’s his sister. Can they truly make conclusions about his intentions?
So there are two questions:

1. If it is the truly the case as Wana Sambo has said, is it professional to terminate a contract with a client based on what is admittedly an assumption?

2. Following Monsieur Sambo’s talk about them needing to run their business “with a heart” – is “heart” even necessary to be able to treat people fairly in business?

Over to you, fashion heads.

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One comment

  1. please can someone tell the L'espace people that in law, a written contract supercedes any oral agreement on the same subject. Therefore previous oral terms that may have been agreed to by the parties can not be incorporated into a subsequent written agreement without mutual consent by all parties concerned.

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