Lisa Folawiyo, the founder of a luxury womenswear and accessories label, Folawiyo narrates African stories through modern design and innovative prints
When Folawiyo wore the first skirt she’d ever designed 14 years ago, she knew that it marked the beginning of a new journey. Although she’d been practising law for a year, her true passion was fashion, so she decided to start her own label, Jewel by Lisa, inspired by her Nigerian roots.
‘My design aesthetic, which is contemporary and fashion-forward with global appeal, is a full embodiment of my culture and heritage,’ says the designer, who was born and raised in Lagos. ‘From my inspiration to my fabric, to my print design and the adoption of techniques by local artisans, all of these factors come together in every collection to tell a story about who I am and where I’m from.’
Folawiyo’s early work is characterised by her inclusion of traditional Ankara cloth, and she’s credited with having transformed the textile into a globally coveted print. Garnering attention both in Africa and abroad, her clothing earned her the AFI Best Designer of the Year Award in 2011, a career highlight that’s led to numerous appearances in fashion weeks worldwide, as well as celebrity clientele including Lupita Nyong’o, Lucy Liu, Thandie Newton and Solange Knowles.
‘Fashion design not only allows me the freedom to express myself, but also gives me the satisfaction of creating beautiful pieces worn by women the world over,’ says Folawiyo, who recently collaborated with GUILD on her own interpretation of the Isi Agu print, a lion’s head motif commonly found in Igbo menswear. ‘As a woman in my fi eld, the fact that I’m able to be who I choose to be, as well as inspire, infl uence and empower others, leaves me with an immense sense of responsibility, humility and gratitude.’
What’s an important part of your style?
For me, comfort is key. I believe that you’re only as confident as you’re comfortable in whatever you’re wearing.
What’s inspiring you right now?
Currently, I find myself taking inspiration from nature, particularly the flowers and trees I most remember as a child growing up in Lagos.
Which piece of furniture is your favourite?
My Benson coffee table by Rodolfo Dordoni for Minotti.
Which African designer should everyone have their eye on?
Bunmi Adeyemi. A Nigerian product designer and founder of Afrominima and The Da Brand, he explores both interior and jewellery design by taking inspiration from various native tribes in Africa. He’s able to seamlessly merge design and functionality.
Where’s your dream holiday destination?
St Lucia. I recently watched a show centred around the island in the Caribbean Ocean and thought: ‘OK, I’ve found my next port of call!’ It looked nothing short of breathtaking.
Is there an interior piece that changed your life?
My Ligne Roset armchairs haven’t changed my life, but they’ve definitely changed my relationship with TV! I watch much more of it because all I want to do is curl up in them.
Photographs: Gallo Images/Gettyimages.com/Alamy