Tuesday, 17 March 2009
BY OYINDAMOLA LAWAL
FOR many fashion designers, the road to the top comes by chance, but to a talented few, steadfastness and focus have been the tonic.
The United Kingdom-based Abiola Egbeyemi is one of the few designers, who have made great strides in the international fashion scene through steadfastness and determination.
For the proprietress of Jezreel Designs, her journey into the fashion industry came as a surprise. She says, “my foray into the industry is one that has taken many, including myself, by surprise. Growing up as the only girl in a family of four children; I was a real Tomboy. I spent many hours playing football and climbing trees like a boy. Most of the time, I wore my brothers’ clothes with my mum trying her best to make me dress as a girl. About four years ago, I fell in love with ankara and aso-oke and started thinking of versatile ways they can be worn. The idea for the accessories grew from there until I made my first item in my living room floor in 2007.”
The lady, who holds a degree in Law and Economics from the University of Hertfordshire and MSc in International Business Economics from City University, infuses contemporary designs into the traditional African fabrics thereby making a statement that lifts her above the crowd.
She says, “as a Christian, I am also inspired daily by my walk with God.”
APART from making unique outfits, Jezreel is also known for classy African and trendy accessories. She adds, “having made the first bag, and seeing how it was received by those who saw it, I started thinking of ways to make it into a viable business with a difference. I wanted to combine my love for our traditional fabrics with my passion for my country and culture while trying to give back to the society; with that idea I started Jezreel Designs. I wanted to show the rest of the world the richness of African fabrics as well as our craftsmanship. I wanted to combine these with great designs that can be worn at any occasion.”
She is not only a proud Nigerian, she also showcases this in her products, especially African gifts.
“Often times, we as a people are very quick to dismiss products made locally as inferior to those made abroad. I want people to see the quality of the products in terms of components and workmanship and say, ‘Wow! Was this really made in Nigeria?’ I also hope to help the craftsmen that work with me to realize that the only difference between products made in Nigeria and those in Europe and the rest of the world is purely the name on the label,” she says.
No detail is overlooked in Egbeyemi’s designs. She discloses, “each Jezreel Designs item is hand crafted by the very best craftsmen, we can find right here in Nigeria. We are fusing the ‘everyday’ fabric of ankara with leather to create pieces that are both beautiful and timeless. All our items are also produced in limited numbers, not more than 10 per design per fabric, to satisfy our clients.”
Egbeyemi sources all her fabrics and components including zips, button among others in Nigeria, most especially Lagos Island, Oshodi or Mushin. She says, “for me, that is probably the most exciting time in the development of a new collection as it allows me to meet and make friends with so many wonderful people.”
On what kind of fabrics she uses, the lady behind Jezreel says, “currently, we use only ankara and leather for the ready- to-wear items. Aso-Oke, being individualised and currently only used for bespoke items. However, as I get to know more about other cultures in Nigeria, we will start introducing different traditional fabrics with each new collection.”
Over the years, she has been able to combine beauty and fashion designing, “Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. In as much as this sounds cliché, I really do believe it to be true. I believe you don’t have to look or dress in a certain way to be considered beautiful because beauty comes from within,” she states.
For the designer, “fashion is whatever makes you feel good and represents your true self.
ON her 2009 Collection, she explains, “we will be going for strong and attractive colours, which will complement any woman’s wardrobe while still making a statement. The theme for 2009 is versatility; so, we will be producing clutch bags, which can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion as well as totes and shoppers for the everyday woman. Our belts can be worn on casual jeans, smart trousers or dresses; the point is for you to, create your own style. For me the importance will be given, as always, to the quality of the materials used in making the accessories; bags and belts need to be comfortable and practical but should also be made with high quality leather.”
The name Jezreel, Egbeyemi states, came to me by the inspiration of God from the book of Hosea 1 vs.11, which means God’s plants. The idea of the accessories label comes from the traditional handmade fabrics in Africa, whose concept is from God.
She adds, “the uniqueness of Jezreel Designs comes from the fact that it is pure and simply an African business, using African fabrics and craftsmen, creating pieces that can be worn by everyone the world over.”
For Egbeyemi, her role model is her mum. “ She has a ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’ philosophy which basically means, how do you know unless you try?”
In the nearest future, Egbeyemi projects, “Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, will begin to takes its rightful place on the world stage.”