Pan-african fash­ion Fea­tur­ing de­signer Lisa Fo­lawiyo

Glamour (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Words by ASANDA sizani

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 a‡ffect 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 aff‡ord a team, make sure you have at least one or two peo­ple that can com­ple­ment you and bring some­thing diff‡er­ent 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.

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Kosol on­wud­in­jor, LAKIN ogun­banwo

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