I love to be creative with my hands – Bisola Owokoniran
Bisola Owokoniran is a fashion designer and creative head, Abeje Lagos.
The lawyer-turned fashion designer is the author of a children’s book titled ‘Tolu And The Adventures of Lagos’, which is on Okada Books.
While growing up, the young lady had passion for the arts. Today she is doing what she knows how to do best and believes creativity will make her go far. In this interview, she talks about her work and other things.
What were your initial challenges while starting out?
I had the challenge of getting good tailors to work with. I interviewed a lot of tailors. I decided to try some of them.
For the first week, these tailors were punctual to work but later they started coming late and giving excuses. I couldn’t deal with that.
After months of dealing different tailors, I eventually got a good tailor in October 2018 and I was able to showcase my works at an exhibition and from there I started getting referrals. I also tried using the social media to market my work. Another thing that posed a challenge for me was sourcing the right fabric. I learnt how to differentiate the original from fake fabrics are found in different places. So, you have to know the right places to get different things because I believe in making quality outfits.
Where did Abeje Lagos originate from?
The name ‘Abeje’ was my late great grandmother’s name. She had a lot of grandchildren but chose to give me the name Abeje’ meaning (the child we waited for) and I embraced it with pride. That name stuck because apart from my name Bisola, my cousins knew me with that name. When my great grandmother passed on two years ago, I decided to change the name of my brand from Maryposang to Abeje and added Lagos to it. That name is special to me and I want it to live beyond me. As the second Abeje after my late great grandmother, I hope to pass it on to my children.
Who are your role models in the fashion industry?
Lanre Dasilva and Deola Sagoe. These two women are very good at what they do. I also admire the works of Tiffany Amber by Folarin Coker. These two women have done so well for themselves. I love Lanre Dasilva a lot because she is a nice person. I actually got to know her when my older sister wanted to wed nine years ago. My sister ordered wedding gown abroad, it came but didn’t fit. My sister got worried and was in a confused state. She took it to Lanre Dasilva who told her not to worry and assured her that she will do something about it. She worked on it and it came out nice. She didn’t collect any money from my sister and that got me attracted to her. Despite all she had achieved she was humble and treated my sister well. Lanre Dasilva is a phenomenal woman who is attentive to details.
How did your journey into the fashion world start?
While I was working at a legal firm in Lagos, I wasn’t finding fulfilment on the job because I usually get exhausted after the day’s work and sometimes you go to the court and there are no proceedings after waiting for so long. In fact, I was always coming back home complaining and that was really frustrating for me because you will go to court, stay for hours and not achieve anything. My elder sister suggested that I go into fashion designing because when I was younger I loved to mix and match outfits. She believed I would excel in that area. So, I decided to try it out I made my research well, started small but maintained my job as a lawyer but it wasn’t working because I couldn’t monitor the tailor and some other things. In 2018, I decided to resign and focus on this one fully. So, I started making outfits for family members. To groom and arm myself with the right skills, I went to the London School of Fashion Designing to learn how to create things. Though I no longer go to court, but I still create time to do some legal things and write on the side.
Where do you source the fabrics from?
I source Ankara from Daviva and other things from Tom Jones. I work with different fabrics like chiffon, organza, cotton, crepe, and ankara to mention a few. Everything depends on what I am trying to make.
What kind of outfits do you make and who are your clients?
I make outfits for work and for play. My clients are women. I make clothes for women from the ages of 35 and above.
How would you describe fashion in Nigeria before and now?
In Nigeria, fashion over the years has grown in leaps and bounds because our clothes are taking the global stage. Our designs are showcased abroad and sold there. Fashion has evolved but it’s only going to get bigger and better. People are now realising that they can dictate their own style. Fashion has gone outside the box. Everyday people are doing new things. I believe as a fashion designer, you have to keep upgrading yourself, come up with unique ideas and bring it to life.
Advice for anyone who want to go into fashion designing
Firstly, you have to be sure this is what you want to do, do thorough research, learn about fashion designing, be convincing, be focused, hard working and try to stand out. Also, you have to be determined. Don’t do things for instant gratification but for what you are going to get later.