Category: Fashion interviews

Wanita Bardouille: Creative Services Director at Ralph Lauren on her BBB Award nomination


It’s Black History Months (BHM) and awards season, so I caught up with Black British Business Award finalist Wanita Bardouille, Creative Services (CS) Director at Ralph Lauren (RL). Nominated in the Leader Category, I wanted to know how she feels about it all!

How does it feel to be nominated for a BBB Award?
Really nice, but I’m quite reserved and don’t like the spotlight too much so it was a bit hard to accept.

Do you think it’s necessary to have the BBB Awards?
Of course, when I was nominated one of the founders said, black professionals in prominent positions have a responsibility to allow others to see them and hopefully feel inspired.  

What does it mean to be a leader?
I’m part of the Diversity and Inclusion Team at work and give talks in schools. It’s important to give back and encourage others to be authentic to themselves. Once a headteacher said to me, “I don’t know why you want to talk to these girls; they all just want to be hairdressers and nail technicians”. I reminded him that Vidal Sassoon was a hairdresser! For me, it’s not what you dream but how big you dream it; I encourage young people to believe in their own value.

Continue reading “Wanita Bardouille: Creative Services Director at Ralph Lauren on her BBB Award nomination”

Korlekie: Bringing craftsmanship to London’s fashion scene


The term ‘African designer’ can be ambiguous and reductive. Synonymous with tribal prints; the artistry and craftsmanship of traditional African techniques can often languish in the shadows of the fashion world. We caught up with London based luxury knitwear designer, Korlekie, to find out how she’s bringing these traditional techniques to the fashion forefront.

Why the name Korlekie?
I was born in the UK to Ghanaian parents. Korlekie comes from my father’s tribe, the Ga-Adangbe and means ‘Queen of Eagles’.

Is your African heritage expressed in your designs?
Being African is an intrinsic part of me, and I’m also inspired by other things. So, I wouldn’t say my designs are ‘African-inspired’ they just reflect who I am.

Is there an expectation to use prints in your designs?
Some people have a narrow view on what ‘African’ is and expect to see printed fabrics in my collections. When they don’t, they ask, ‘so what’s African about your collection?’ African textiles are more than just wax prints, which originally came from Asia and were exported by the Dutch who brought them to Africa.

A white designer born in the UK wouldn’t be asked, “so what’s British about your collection?”

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Korlekie luxury knitwear. Photo: Stoyanov & Jones.
Continue reading “Korlekie: Bringing craftsmanship to London’s fashion scene”

Yemzi’s sustainable street-luxe style fashion label hits the spotlight


This year fashion took centre stage at the Africa Utopia Festival. Directed by Agnes Cazin, the #AfricaSquad fashion show put the spotlight on amazing designers across the African diaspora and the Continent. We caught up with one of the UK’s fresh new talents, Elizabeth-Yemi Akingbade, founder of Yemzi, a sustainable street-luxe bohemian fashion label.

 

African fashion UK
Photo credit: Alia Thomas

 

…inspired by African and European art, culture and creativity; made with love in London for the active dreamer. Elizabeth-Yemi

We first heard of Yemzi through Africa Utopia 2016, how did you get involved with the festival?

I was invited to take part in the #AfricaSquad fashion show by the creative director Agnes Cazin. My SS16 collection showcased, was based on animal skin prints, in blue, orange and green. I’ve worked with Agnes before; she used some of my pieces for House for Koko.

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Model wears a Yemzi jumpsuit SS16, at the #AfricaSquad Fashion Show.                             Photo credit: Belinda Lawley

When did you want to be a fashion designer?

From a very young age. I’ve always been creative, I won various art competitions at school and when I was 14, attended Bournemouth Arts Institute on Saturdays.

When did Yemzi officially launch?

I like the idea of being a young business owner, so in 2013 during my final year at London College of Communication, in South London, I decided to open Yemzi.

Why ‘Yemzi’?

My Nigerian name is Yemi; Yemzi was a nickname people called me and was just a natural progression.

How did you start Yemzi?

My only 2 official collections, were SS16 and SS17. Before that I printed my designs on ready-made T-shirts sold in Soboye Boutique, giving me exposure to other markets like Paris. Now I source and cut fabrics myself.

Prints are the foundation of Yemzi…Because I like using timeless prints and textures that can be worn in any season. I create my own prints telling my story through drawing. Many African designers use Dutch wax prints, but I don’t. It’s boring to see the same prints everywhere.

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What fabrics do you use?

Any sustainable materials, like Bamboo and organic cotton. But when I created the high-end gold collection I used silk chiffon and silk satin.

Are you concerned about being pigeon-holed as an ‘African’ fashion designer?

I describe myself as a British-Nigerian designer. I’m not really concerned about categories and labels. If people want to call me a British designer or a Nigerian designer, both are fine with me!

What does sustainable /ethical fashion mean to you and why is it important?

Fast fashion can cause a lot of damage to the environment and for those at the bottom of the fashion food chain. It doesn’t have to be like that. All my collections are made in London, everyone is paid a fair wage and work in a safe environment.

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Are sustainable fashion businesses like Yemzi, becoming more common?

Yes, people are becoming conscious about what they consume and are aware of alternatives. If mindsets change and people buy quality clothes they can buy less and have something that lasts longer.

What inspires you?

Life. I like to express my struggles, joys and culture, through my collections.  I was fostered by an English family but still have a connection with my Nigerian culture, so everything I do is a fusion of that. Being fostered made me more determined to stay connected to by Nigerian heritage and part of the reason I studied African studies rather than a fashion course.

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After learning some Yoruba I went to Nigeria and met my Grandmother, before she passed away in January this year, and learnt important aspects about Nigerian culture.

This is the mood board for SS17 – I combine my inspirations and then draw my prints, which are digitally printed onto fabric.

 

yemzi-ss17-collage-mood-board
Photo credit: @adsdiaspora

 

Your SS17 Collection launched on 19th September tell us about that.

Continuing with the theme of combing my British and Nigerian culture, I used Yoruba symbols / tribal marks and imagery I found though researching, as the main source of inspiration. I went for a darker theme, as my collections reflect how I feel. I was invited to show some of the new collection at a fashion show, on Nigerian Independence Day, but didn’t have an official launch.

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I’m based in a converted shipping container and the SS17 collection was shot in a World War II bunker underneath my office. The styling is London inspired but I have some silhouettes which are very much African. I take traditional African shapes and make them commonplace in the London environment.

Fela Kuti’s wives inspired the bold unblended eyelids and dotting make-up framing the eyebrows.

Why was the theme dark?

Working a second job 6 days a week, completing my MA in African Studies and trying to grow Yemzi has been challenging. The fashion industry can look very glamorous but there is an ugly side to it. The collection reflects this contrast between the different faces of fashion and the personal challenges I face.

What’s the Yemzi ethos?

I have a ‘green and clean’ ethos, using fabrics which are not toxic to the environment.

You recently did another shoot for your SS17 collection?

Yes, again outside my shipping container with 2 models. I only use models with natural hair (it’s part of my green and natural ethos). One is white with ginger hair and the other is of mixed African and Asian heritage.

 

yemzi-ss17-2nd-shoot
Photo credit: Alia Thomas

 

I am a huge advocate of natural hair since doing the big chop in July 2010. Textured hair should be embraced.

The most challenging aspect of running your business?

It’s a lot more expensive running a sustainable fashion business, the fabrics I use have an impact on the cost of my collection.

The biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting Yemzi?

Ask for help. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Whether it’s an MUA or photographer, you should be willing to ask for help when you’re on tight budget. The worst anyone can say to you is ‘no’.

The main highlight of running your business?

When people appreciate the clothes!

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Any exciting developments on the horizon?

My unisex Capsule Collection launching in February, will be my first AW collection. Very excited about that!

Any advice for other aspiring fashion designers?

Make use of what you have when starting out on a tight budget, I’ve connected with people who’ve helped along the way and for shoots used the space outside my office, rather than using studios all the time. You must be financially creative as well as artistically creative.

Want more of Yemzi?! Check out her Instagram and Twitter, along with the #YemziGirl crew.

 

Ad+s Diaspora Blog:

Snippets of an African legacy

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Twitter: @adsdiaspora

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All photos (unless stated): Lepa Georgievska

MUA: Chantelle Phillips

Hair: Zateesha Barbour

 

 

 

My Liebster Award – I accept!


Liebster-Award-Badge

Big shout out to Life of Afua of Friday Born Designs who nominated me for a Liebster Award! I know what you’re thinking….”What’s a Liebster Award?”….

It’s the Grammy awards for new bloggers, who are nominated by their fellow bloggers to show some love and appreciation for all the hard work we put into our blogging craft!

The rules:

1. Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them

2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator

3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 400 followers

4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer

5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them

My Nominees:

SNAP

BEGINNERS MIND

 kryticalmind

Aurella Yussuf

The Commentator: Observations Of A Modern Life

Cerriann Taylor

African Art in London

sugarythings

TaDaa Nails

Questions for my nominees:

1. The inner city or the leafy suburbs?    2. What is your favourite quote and who said it?

3. Which actor would you choose to play yourself in a biopic film?    4. What’s your favourite colour?
5. What is the main theme of your blog and why?    6.One of the best books you’ve ever read?
7. If money was not an issue, what would be your dream job?    8.Cocktails or wine?
9. If you could make one thing in your country free, what would it be?  10. Is school the best place to learn. Why?

My answers to Life of Afua’s questions:

1. Favourite city you’ve ever visited? Having lived there for a bit would have to say NYC

2. Favourite song? I’m taking it waaaay back – Erykah Badu, Next Lifetime

3. What person inspires you the most? This is tough as there are quite a few but would say, Nelson Mandela

4. What made you start your blog? Encouragement from a friend and a chance to get my thoughts out to the world! lol

5. Favourite pizza toppings? Spicy beef

6. If you could do a degree in something new/different, what would it be? Geography

7. Apple or Samsung? Apple

8. Favourite childhood movie? Home Alone

9. Spring or Autumn? Spring

10. One piece of advice for the person reading this? Never convince yourself that you’re not good enough!

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