Lisa Folawiyo; The Jewel in “Jewel By Lisa”.
In 2005 Lisa Folawiyo and her team of expert craftsmen stormed onto the Nigerian fashion scene with Jewel by Lisa (JBL). In less than four years Lisa has perfected the art of wearing Ankara, being the first to embellish the fabric with sequins, swarovski crystals, beads and the like, and turning Jewel by Lisa into a coveted luxury label. JBL started out making Ankara skirts, but has now expanded into ranges of dresses, skirts, tops, jewelled necklaces, and cushion covers. Jewel by Lisa uses the highest quality Ankara from the Vlisco- Hollandais brand and is frequently mixed with fabrics as wide ranging as taffeta, linen, cotton, chiffon, chantilly lace, and silk. Each Jewel by Lisa garment is handcrafted, individual and unique. With each embellishment hand sewn carefully onto the fabric, a fully embellished JBL garment on average will take about 120 hours to make. The ease with which the garments can be worn and the intricate workmanship visible in each piece has pioneered and sparked a new revolution in Ankara couture.
Jewel by Lisa has grown with a strong clientele, and the beginning of an international interest. The label has begun to have a say in global fashion and continues to make a solid mark in the industry, developing a cult following, creatively promoting Ankara – turning it into pieces of desire. JBL’s goal is to cater to the Nigerian market, creating one-of-a kind luxury pieces while establishing itself as an international label.
‘International Chic’ best describes the woman Lisa Folawiyo is inspired by. She’s stylish, confident, and city chic, with a wardrobe filled with desirable eclectic pieces picked up from her travels; her youthful exuberance speaks effortless and unrehearsed style. She UNDERSTANDS fashion.
Fashion Africa took a few minutes to catch up with the Nigerian designer Lisa of Jewel by Lisa, post fashion weeks…..
FA: Tell us a bit about the background of Jewel by Lisa, how you got started and how long you have been going.
JBL: JewelbyLisa was started in 2005. The very first item I made was a beaded tiered skirt. It took me about 3 weeks to complete it, as I hand beaded it by myself. It was a trial skirt to see how people would respond to the idea of our beaded Ankara cloth, and to say the least, people were extremely excited and interested in what we had started – they had never seen anything like it before! JewelbyLisa remains the first fashion label in Nigeria to create the beaded/embellished Ankara. We have since then continued to do all our embellishment by hand which allows for such intricate and fine detail. The past couple of years have without doubt seen the label diversify! We have worked with various fabrics such as silk, chiffon, linen, and brocade and have gone ahead to create pieces solely with these fabrics or mix them with the Ankara cloth. Most recently, we started creating our own Ankara inspired prints which is certainly a new development for the label.
FA: Did you have any formal training in Fashion?
JBL: No, not at all. I suppose my love for fashion and all things beautiful led me to design! As a young girl growing up, I always loved clothes! I would constantly read fashion magazines (I even made my own little cut out magazines). I loved to draw and paint! Even though I eventually went and studied to be a lawyer, I always knew I would definitely feed my insatiable appetite for fashion one way or the other. After working as a lawyer but completely unfulfilled, the opportunity came when I had my first child. Not only did I have a beautiful daughter, my label JewelbyLisa was birthed. So I would like to think I have a natural flare/passion for fashion and design, but in a way I’ve also had to nurture that passion and turn it into something tangible, something special.
FA: You recently showed at the Arise Fashion shows. both in Cape Town and New York, how did that go? Did you feel more pressure in the New York show or the Cape Town show?
JBL: The Johannesburg and NY shows were amazing. They were such a great platform for JBL, because we got to show the world, what we can really bring to the fashion table! We were able to experiment with different shapes, fabrics, types of embellishment… they were both really successful shows! I think NY was much more nerve racking than SA! We went to NY designing for the NY girl! So ofcourse, we were scared, because she had to love it and desire and want to be seen in it! NY is also one of the major fashion capitals of the world, and if you succeed there, then you pretty much succeed everywhere else.
FA: What sort of work went into creating your latest collections?
JBL: To be honest, we didn’t have much time to work on the NY collection! We literally had about 3 weeks! Since we had just come out of a successful SA collection, we decided to build upon the pieces that we absolutely loved, and the pieces that were raved. Still keeping in mind the NY girl, we re-created the pieces using new fabrics (our very own custom made silk batik fabrics), edgy Ankara patterns, and experimented with new bead work. We also worked with one of the best stylists in the industry to create looks that would appeal to the NY market and inevitably the rest of the world!
FA: What are the challenges you face as a designer?
JBL: I think there is always an urge to be at the top of the design game! At JBL we are constantly pushing ourselves to create pieces that are new and innovative and say something! At the studio, after every new piece we ask ourselves, “What does it say?” It has to mean something so we pay very close attention to detail. Our aim is to create amazing pieces that people will want to wear! We definitely want to be leaders in the industry.
FA: What are your aspirations for the Jewel by Lisa Brand?
JBL: By God’s grace we would love to be stocked at the biggest department stores like Selfridges, Browns, Barney’s, Bergdoff Goodman and the like! I would also like to see JBL featured in great editorials like Vogue, Elle, and Harpers Bazaar!
FA: What is it about African design that seems to be taking over the mainstream catwalks?
JBL: For so many years, designers all over the world have looked to Africa for inspiration. Everyone from YSL to Junya Watanbe have been influenced by Africa and have forged collections based on different aspects of the continent! There is just something about our use of colour, our vibrant prints, and even our way of life! I think it’s great that we are acknowledged at the global fashion forefront – but I also hope there can come a time when African fashion is not typically labelled as ‘African’; a time when regardless of where you’re from on the continent, your pieces are respected for their quality and design and not just for its heritage . I’ve always been interested in blurring the lines of fashion. I do work mainly with African textiles, African inspired prints, silks, chiffons, and do have my African heritage seeping through my collections but my pieces are extremely modern and I think that women all over the world can wear them. African Fashion is Fashion! As fashion designers, our number one goal should be to create beautiful pieces.
FA: Myasho.com is unique in that it is providing a platform for designers to reach a wider market; do you feel that there is generally a gap between designer and buyer where African labels are concerned?
JBL: Yes, I think that’s the case when it comes to selling your pieces outside of your home base. In Nigeria, we have a great customer base, people who want a JBL piece can always come in directly to our studio. But we’ve received inquiries about buying our pieces outside of Nigeria and up until now, we had not been able to offer this service. So myasho.com is definitely a great tool and a plus for the industry – it really is ‘local fashion made global’!
FA: Any words of wisdom for aspiring designers?
JBL: The key thing is to always remain focused! Have a game plan and stick to it! Try and ALWAYS be creative. Most importantly, trust in God and let you confidence always remain in Him.
FA: Checkout Jewel by Lisa’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection preview at ARiSE Africa Fashion Week in the Designers section of hautefashionafrica.com:
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