Seeing my name on Milan Fashion Week calendar made me emotional
Nigerian-born Joy Meribe last week shut down Milan Fashion Week with her debut runway collection. Armed with degrees from both Nigeria and Italy, Meribe boasts of a luxury fashion brand in Italy dedicated to alternative, versatile and original fashion. Her collections feature unique garments inspired by western fashion designs with clear references to African culture and style showing off amazing fantasies and patterns. Offering unique solutions ranging from the more classic looks to the more casual and youthful models to cater to women of different types, her passion for the eclectic and sophisticated shines through her work. Just back from Milan, Meribe speaks with TOBI AWODIPE on her experience at a major fashion week among others issues
What was the experience like for you at the Milan fashion week recently?
It was surreal. Just seeing my name on the official Milan Fashion Week calendar made me so emotional. During the fashion show when I came out to greet the audience, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I became emotional and broke down in tears.
This huge success comes barely a year after your maiden collection, which made headlines. How has the journey been so far?
It has been a year that seemed like so many years. In this one year, I have grown so much as a fashion designer through the mentorship of Michelle Ngonmo, President of Afro Fashion Association, of which I have been a member since its inception six years ago; Stella Jean, popular Italian designer of Italian and Haitian origin and founder of ‘Stella Jean’ fashion brand and Edward Buchanan, founder and owner of ‘Sansovino6’ fashion brand in Italy. These are the people who founded the project, ‘Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion – We Are Made in Italy (BLMIF – WAMI). It is a movement that questioned why black fashion designers in Italy were not given a chance up till now.
How would you describe your brand’s aesthetic? What styles do you favour?
I define my brand aesthetic as ‘Afropolitan chic’. It is a fusion of Afro and Western styles.
Where and how do you get your creative inspiration from?
From everything and anything around me. I could see a particular sleeve that I like and decide to create something similar but with other features. Nothing is new in fashion these days. I draw inspiration sometimes from existing styles, but I create something that is an improvement on what already exists.
How pivotal would you say the BLMIF movement was in the growth of your brand and yourself?
Before the BLMIF–WAMI movement, it was difficult for my brand to take off in the midst of all the big brands that Italy is known for. The movement gave me a lot of visibility and validation. It gave me the opportunity to be seen.
Would you be working with local Nigerian designers to showcase them on the global stage?
I would if I have the opportunity. I already have some particular ones in mind.
Did you experience much difficulty before you were able to break through last year?
Yes. I struggled with lack of adequate finance and lacked credibility with vendors and production companies because of this. Sometimes all you need is financial availability in the branding and positioning of your brand to give you that extra push.
What is your own personal style?
My personal style is casual chic. I like to be comfortable in whatever I wear. Uncomfortable dressing, no matter how beautiful, stresses me out.
What is your future plan for your brand?
Talking about the future makes me a bit uncomfortable. Only God knows what the future holds. However, I will continue to give it my all and continuously improve my art through constant learning and hard work.