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Industrie Africa is an all-access pass into the world of emerging and high-end African fashion. Discover the regional voices that are redefining the global landscape.

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by Innocent Ndlovu

Jul 15, 2020

Photo: Instagram, via @lisafolawiyo

Born to a West Indian mother and Nigerian father, fashion designer Lisa Folawiyo left a career in law to pursue fashion in 2005. Fifteen years later, she stands as one of the pioneering designers from Nigeria who has enjoyed resounding international success with showrooms in New York and her native Nigeria. Folawiyo, who is known for turning Ankara (the Dutch wax print fabric synonymous with West African tradition) into contemporary fashion, continues to shape the world’s view with her own Ankara-inspired textiles, reimagining the fabric with handcrafted, luxe embellishments. Her unique spin on textile and her use of it in her designs have gained her a global fanbase of tastemakers ranging from Lupita Nyong’o to Solange Knowles, from director Melina Matsoukas to actresses Danai Gurira and Thandie Newton.

Folawiyo has also gained recognition for her eclectic personal style. “It’s instinctive”, she reveals. “I like so many brands [for different things].” Hers is a playful, daring, and fashion-forward take on dressing, often mixing and matching pieces from her brand with her favorite luxury labels. You’ll find her, for instance, in Margiela jeans paired with a billowy-sleeve blouse of her own making, or accessorizing with a Chanel bag, Prada flat sandals, or a fresh pair of Nike x Sacai sneakers. Industrie Africa talked to Folawiyo about her creative process, personal style, and the one person who strongly and forever influences her love for fashion. Here’s what Lisa had to say:


CREATIVE IMPULSES


“[My creative process is influenced by many things]. It could be colors that I’ve seen used in interesting ways for example...I start to visualize a collection centered on those colors. Sometimes I will revisit what is familiar to me: so it could be tradition, my past, my childhood: Things that bring back fond memories. It could be what’s happening around me in terms of societal changes. Sometimes I go back to very old collections (and) just think of ways that l could reinvent or reinterpret them. I’m inspired by a great many things.” 

MOTHER AS MUSE


“Style-wise, and business-wise, there are so many incredibly stylish and successful ladies and men out there, all of whom inspire me. But, the one person that I have forever looked up to, the one who, though not with us anymore, has carved out the person I am today and continues to inspire me to be better, is my late mum. She loved to look good and always made sure my siblings and I were also well turned out. She is definitely and will always be my number one fashion influencer. As a young girl, I spent a lot of time at her seamstress workshop. Believe it or not, that same seamstress made my first few patterns for me when I started out as a designer”. 

Photo: Instagram, via @lisafolawiyo

Photo: Instagram, via @lisafolawiyo

Photo: Instagram, via @lisafolawiyo

DESIGNING WITH MEANING


“I’m designing what l believe in. I can only design with honesty, and to do that I have to design things that I’m attracted to, what l want to wear, what l want to see other women wear. It has to mean something to me. It has to be authentic.” 


Photo: Lisa Folawiyo

DRESSING WITH INTENTION


“I don’t think I spend so much time putting looks together or planning. I am, [however], very intentional about what I [purchase]. I buy pieces that I love, so, when I walk into a store I’m always looking for that connection with something. As much as I look for interesting things, I also buy basic, classic stuff because I try to be sensible. I’m also someone who's not afraid of color—colors and prints make me smile. So, I guess I mix up regular classics with more special interesting pieces. I also like comfort. I wear sneakers a lot because I like to be comfortable.

Ruched Organza Shirt
Ruched Organza Shirt
Ruched Organza Shirt

Lisa Folawiyo

Ruched Organza Shirt

$329
Wide Leg Pants
Wide Leg Pants
Wide Leg Pants

Lisa Folawiyo

Wide Leg Pants

$420
Cropped Jacket
Cropped Jacket
Cropped Jacket
Cropped Jacket

Lisa Folawiyo

Cropped Jacket

$390
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress

Lisa Folawiyo

Pleated Coat Dress

$1,080
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top

Lisa Folawiyo

Antique Baroque High-Neck Top

$418
Antique Baroque Leggings
Antique Baroque Leggings
Antique Baroque Leggings

Lisa Folawiyo

Antique Baroque Leggings

$398

THE HIGHLIGHTS


“I can’t say which moment [in my career] was better than another. Every time we, as a brand, successfully put something out there that people gravitate towards, there’s nothing as rewarding [as that]. That for me is always a highlight.” 

Photo: Instagram, via @lisafolawiyo

ON MOTIVATION


I’m one of those people that never feels like I’ve done enough. Once I, for example, release a collection, I’m over it. When l see the collection come to life, I’ve already pointed out the things I could have done better and so in that moment I’m already set to do what l think is better than my last effort so that just keeps me grinding.

I’m constantly trying to reinvent so that the needs of those who bring everything to life are met. It’s so important to me to look after the people who make it happen. My children motivate me and I feel like with whatever I do in life and who l am as a person should set an example for them.”