Juliet “Love from Julez” Olanipekun: The Modern African Woman
When one comes across the username, @lovefromjulez, on Instagram, the curated ultra-personal style of a woman is the first thing you notice. The colours are bold, the choices are daring and the taste is impeccable. So much so that more than one hundred thousand people follow the page just to keep up to date with her. The first assumption one might make is, she’s yet another Instagram influencer. Juliet Olanipekun does influence fashion but she’s way more than another social media influencer.
A real-life princess, Olanipekun comes originally from Arigidi in Ondo State where her father is king. Before her father assumed the throne, she lived in Jos with her parents and three siblings. When she was six years old, her father moved her and her siblings to London where she spent a better part of her life. While in school, Olanipekun’s interest in fashion peaked and, for a while, had dreams of becoming a model. A dream that came to fruition when she walked the Lagos Fashion Week runway in 2018 for the designer, Mai Atafo.
Olanipekun’s collaboration with Mai Atafo was a surprise even to herself. “He reached out to me telling me he had a fashion crush on me – he wanted to get inside my head to see how I did things – and it’d be amazing if we could work together.” That collaboration birthed The Urban Jungle collection. A collection heavily influenced by Olanipekun’s style – including layering and bold colours.
Roughly one year after that collaboration, Olanipekun launched LFJ. A fashion label, inspired and influenced by her style, for the “modern African woman”. The launch was announced with a private viewing of her collection. A smart route to take for someone of her influence. Being taken seriously as a creative designer is important to Olanipekun, “Everyone knew me as the layering queen, the fashion girl but they couldn’t see what I could produce.” With her latest launch, Olanipekun makes it hard for the fashion industry to dismiss her.
To get the inspiration for her collection, Olanipekun didn’t need to look beyond herself. The pieces represent her style. The collection included individual pieces that could be layered or worn separately, traces of sheer fabrics and a decent amount of feathers. Olanipekun had a moment of self-discovery after designing the collection – she realised how Asian-inspired her style was. Beyond the aesthetic, expert craftsmanship was important to realise the collection, and everything was done in-house — which was also a measure to curtail rip-offs. Something designers still battle within Nigeria.
Another measure to curtail rip-offs is having everything, especially the fabrics, custom made. Something the brand is proud of. This, also, differentiates her from other designers. Do these – in-house designs, custom fabrics, and expert craftsmanship – make her brand luxurious? Olanipekun refutes it: “I wouldn’t say my brand is luxurious. Luxury means, to me, comfort; luxury means, to me, being able to feel good. Rich is a feeling. I want you to wear my outfit and feel rich. Rich in the colour. Rich in the fabric. Rich in the actual style of the garment. So, to me luxury is rich but not in a monetized way.”
Making people feel good is what she hopes to achieve with her clothes. “My designs have a voice. I want you to be your true version. So, I just want people to look at my pieces and play around with it to achieve what they want to look like.”
On what it takes to start a brand and her advice to young designers: “Be consistent and persistent. Developing your look and feel. Stay true to your lane and your tribe will find you. Intern as much as you can. Gain as much experience as possible. Find a mentor – someone you embody. Have a vision and a goal. Have a time frame and a timeline. And put God first.”