Pan-african fashion Featuring designer Lisa Folawiyo
With an exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology, a nod from Vogue Japan and a spot on Business of Fashion’s BOF 500 list, Nigerian designer Lisa Folawiyo, 42, is shaping the world of fashion and thrusting the continent into the global spotlight.
How do you define African luxury?
African luxury is our essence; indigenous craft and tradition passed on from generations, artisanal manufacturing, the use of our skills in creating pure and long-lasting products.
What is your experience of being a female designer in Nigeria?
Our industry is dominated by females, so I haven’t found being a female designer much of a challenge. However, it has granted me an incredible sense of freedom and empowerment.
What are the challenges and highs of running a fashion brand in Africa?
Some of the challenges that many of us face is access to high-quality raw materials (zips, buttons, textiles), substandard infrastructure, production capacity and lack of access to financing. Despite all this, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your creations featured in international publications, or worn on celebrities or the everyday client, especially after all the hard work you put in to push out quality creations, season after season.
How are you contributing to the growth and longevity of African fashion?
Our brand is over 10 years old now, and I would want us to portray that it’s possible to have a successful, global brand that transcends borders, despite the many challenges our industry faces. We want upcoming designers to be inspired by this, but we also want the world to hear it loud and clear: African fashion is fashion, and it’s here to stay.
How is freedom evident in your designs?
When I design, comfort is essential. Women can only be ‘free’ in garments when they feel liberated, as restrictions affect their confidence.
How would you describe the woman you design for?
The Lisa Folawiyo woman is a global traveller, she has a confident approach to fashion, but is never swayed by trends. With an innate sense of style and a youthful exuberance that transcends time and age, she is never afraid to be bold and daring. These traits are synonymous with the clothes we create, too.
Do you think African fashion weeks are globally recognised?
Not all fashion weeks across Africa are globally recognised. Lagos Fashion Week is one of the few fashion weeks that is beginning to be seen as a premiere platform that showcases the best of African fashion. It’s the starting point for international press and buyers who want access to African brands.
Do international trends influence your designs?
I tend not to look at international trends when I design, as I don’t want my designs to be swayed by them. I prefer to design from the heart, and draw inspiration from any and everything. It could be nature, my childhood, friendships, the women I design for, the kinds of clothes I feel like wearing at the moment or what I believe is missing in fashion.
What is the most unexpected thing that’s inspiring you right now?
Anything or anyone that is bold enough to go against the grain.
What advice do you have for young fashion designers?
Be clear about what you want to achieve from the beginning and set goals – no matter how small you think they are. Being a designer today is much tougher than it was a decade ago. There is so much free and easy access to everything, so it’s important that you determine quite early on what makes your brand stand out from the rest. Surround yourself with a strong team, if you can’t afford a team, make sure you have at least one or two people that can complement you and bring something different to your brand.
What’s new, now and next for you?
I’m currently working on my spring/summer ’19 collection, which is extremely exciting! This development stage is always my favourite. I can’t wait for everything to finally fall into place.