Oluwatobi and her husband, Olutaller Akinwole are the brain behind Ara-Ewa Fashion Creations, a company that is into fashion design, branding, bespoke and ready to wear. She is the creative director while her husband oversees the business aspect of the company. In this interview with TAYO GESINDE, in her Lagos office, she speaks on her passion for fashion and what to look out for when buying clothes. Excerpts:
We are in a competitive world and creativity is needed in this kind of business if one wants to succeed. It has been challenging especially in the area of finance but my husband has been very supportive. We have been in the business for ten years. There were times when I got tired but he inspired me to move on. The fact that we have been running the company together has really helped the business. I am good at the creative and productive aspect, while my husband is very good at marketing, branding and promoting and running the business. This has really made the work easier.
Foray into a fashion
I have always been very creative. Even as a child, people around me used to say I would end up being a designer because I used to sketch a lot and I would always say never. I loved to sketch, you will find sketches of dresses on all my books. I love colours too and I had lots of fabrics in my wardrobe. I have been crafty from childhood. I love using my hands, knitting, keeping my fingers busy. I have flair for fashion; I used to have creative concepts. That was one of the reasons I studied Creative Arts at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos State and I majored in painting and textile. I also did some professional courses at Ibile Vogue. I decided to follow my passion and went into fashion because it gives one the opportunity to explore one’s imagination.
How have you been coping
It has been challenging but for me, I appreciate other designers as well because I know it is not easy to be creative, so it has not been a major challenge because my creativity stands me out from other designers and people do love what I do. Most of my works are sexy and fitted. Even if you don’t have the shape there is a way we make our dresses that will give your figure the desired shape while making you feel comfortable and elegant at the same time. Also, we do mix both African and contemporary fabrics together and the creativity differentiates it from others. I like working with African prints like Adire, Ankara, kente then spice it up with French lace, cord and sequence. We also accessorise it and put some bling bling on it and our clothes are very affordable.
Definition of style
My definition of style is being able to bring out the beauty in anything you do. The ability to create something out of nothing, like creating something beautiful from a plain fabric.
Assessment of the fashion industry
Well, the industry is getting better but we still have a lot of work to do especially as regards the fashion designers association, we are not well recognised. We don’t have the kind of recognition that other professionals have. For instance, if you want to engage the service of a musician to perform at your event, you pay them more money than the creative designers who created the dress that the musician wore to perform on stage. Nobody can leave his or her abode without putting on clothes, yet, fashion designers are not given the recognition they deserve for their contributions to the society. I think we need to work on that aspect in order to encourage and motivate the youth who are also interested in fashion designing to join the industry.
Participation at fashion shows
We have showcased our works in the Republic of Benin and we are working on a fashion show in Ghana and Togo. We collected an award in Lagos.
Cost of looking good
Hmmn! Nothing actually, because looking good starts from within. It depends on the situation you find yourself in life, you may be from a poor or rich family but what makes you look good is from the inside, it has nothing to do with whether you have money or you don’t. If you know that God created you in His image and that you are beautiful and you believe it, you are good to go. You can then use the money you have to enhance your beauty.
Nothing much. I just make sure I take care of myself.
Well, I go for vacation, relax, spend time with my family and have a quiet time to rejuvenate. Most times, when I sleep, my imagination is wide, my creativity comes alive when my brain is relaxed.
Within the country, Ibile Vogue, she is a wonderful woman and one of the experienced designers I have come across who made impact in my life as a young designer. Modela too is one designer who has contributed to the success and growth of the industry.
Things to consider when buying fashion ensembles
Durability. Light fabrics are easier to wear, compatible and comfortable. They last longer than heavy fabrics. If you have to go to market to pick fabrics, go for light fabrics, bright nice colours and make sure it doesn’t wash. You can test it to be sure it doesn’t wash so that it can last. For office wear, go for darker colours and for parties, brighter colours.
I get inspiration from within, my environment, nature as well as my clients’ taste; some like it sexy and revealing, some conservative, cool. The fabric too can give me inspiration on the design to opt for.
The name Ara-Ewa
Ara-Ewa means the wonders of beauty. I wanted something African as a symbol of my work. I love the creative aspect of this work, using one’s hand to create beauty pieces and that was why I chose the name. Wonders of beauty.
Anytime you see me, I always have on something African, either dress or accessory because I love to promote my culture. I wear mostly African prints because I am proud of who I am. I want people to see me and say so African print, can look so interesting.
What I won’t be caught dead wearing
I can wear anything because of my job
What I will like to change about myself
Nothing. I am grateful to God for what I have.
Opinion on toning and cosmetic surgery
Toning has to do with enhancing one’s beauty. I work with a lot of women and I will advice that people stick to what suit them. If you use something on your skin and it is damaging it then stop it. A product might suit one person but not for another. Some people should stick to products that suit them.
Advice to women on how to stay young and beautiful
Exercise, keep fit and maintain your figure. If you were slim before now, you can still do it again. If you are big, be bold. Be happy about yourself, be confident and don’t be lazy, if you are not lazy, you will be able to keep in shape.
Opinion on provocative dressing
There are dresses that suit different occasions. If you are at the beach you can wear bikini or short and nobody will raise an eyebrow but if you wear bikini or short to Tejuoso market, you will get a different reaction from people. So, it is not about dressing half nude, it is about wearing the right dress to the right place. If you are going to school, dress like a student, dress properly. If you are going to night club, wear clothes designed for such place. It only becomes a problem when you wear wrong dress to the wrong place.
Peach because it is cool, light, bright and soft.
Perfect line, it is not too expensive and the fragrance is nice.
Culled from: Nigerian Tribune