HellurrGuys, It’s another episode of the Designer Spotlight series, and today, we’ll be featuring the Creative Director of Fawenzo Designs. Fawenzo Designs showcased its ready to wear ‘Showkoto’ collection at GTBank Fashion Weekend 2018. What strikes me about this collection/brand is that it is already so conceptualised at only 10 months. From the intentionally themed Aso Oke fabrics, featuring lines in different colours to the beautifully packaged snacks the brand offered to its customers at Fashion Weekend, it is very clear that its Creative Director, Sola Fawehinmi, has indeed made full use of his degree in architecture, to come up with this brand. In this interview, Sola explains how his passion for fashion came from his love for design, his vision for the Showkoto collection, his plans for the next 10 years and so many other juicy details.
I ask the brains behind ‘Showkoto’ by Fawenzo how he started his fashion brand and he says, “My name is Sola Fawehinmi. I’m an architect and project manager. I have a design studio, and under the design studio, I have interior and exterior design, and fashion design. So this is the pioneer line for fashion design, and it is called ‘Showkoto’ by Fawenzo. This practice is using hand woven fabrics known as ‘Aso-Oke‘ to make shorts and pants for both male and female. And I was so happy when I registered for GTBank Fashion Weekend and I got in. Oh my God! I have only been in business for about 10 months, so I am really happy, and I hope it projects me as far as possible.”
I ask him how he came about the vision for the Aso-Oke inspired collection and where he gets his Aso-Oke from, because they all have a distinct look, and he explains, “I design my fabrics and weavers make them for me on the outskirts of town. They also make them for me abroad: Cote D’ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, so there’s quite a bit of variety. One of my focus is lines. I like lines and colours” I tell him that a couple of friends and I noticed at Lagos Fashion Week 2017 how much Omoyemi Akerele loves lines because all her shirts had lines that year, so I joke that it means he has a fashion sense akin to one of the pillars of the Nigerian Fashion Industry, and he says, “We will get there. Lol. I am still crawling.”
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On his passion for fashion he explains as follows, “My passion for fashion came from my passion for design. I have a natural intuition for design. I studied architecture, so it was just there waiting for one day to come out. So I started making Aso-Oke clothing and wearing it whenever I went abroad. Sometimes, I would get flight upgrades and sometimes my friends abroad would obtain my pieces even though I’ve worn them for two months. They’d buy them off me, and I’d be like, okay, I enjoy this and could make a living out of it, so why not? “
I tell Sola that his architecture shows strongly in his design, with everything being so branded, lined, and structured. It is almost as though architecture gave him the structure for his fashion. So, assuming he did not study architecture, his fashion would have a completely different turn. I then ask him to say a word to encourage people might feel like disregarding education in a bid to become their truly creative selves. He says, “Architecture tailored my passion for fashion. Education is power, just like knowledge is power. Nelson Mandela said that. Work experience is also good, so whatever you want to do in life, be educated and be aware. I work with tailors, and the way I supervise them is different from the way a non educated person would supervise them. They know things like deadlines and sanctions when they do not deliver my clothes on time. I learnt that from my work experience. One of my former bosses came in a few minutes ago and this is because I was well trained and I still keep a good relationship with them. And for some people, when they go through training, they feel it’s a bad time. It’s not a bad time. It’s a good time, and one day, you’ll get there.”
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With regard to the expansion of business, I explain that one that could prevent designers from upscaling is the inability to delegate and an unwillingness to pass on knowledge, possibly for fear of being run out of business. I ask for his comment in this regard and he says, “It is all part of giving back. When you take from the society, you should also give back. So, it’s always good to teach people and learn from them. I learn a lot from my tailors, because I did not go to a fashion school. I went to a design school. There are some of the things that they now do that optimise their sewing processes to save time, which they learnt from me and allow for the possibility of a smooth expansion of business.” With Nigerians tailors owing an irksome reputation with regard to meeting deadlines and getting tailored pieces to their customers, I ask Sola Fawehinmi what he takes into consideration when recruiting his tailors and he says, “I utilise my instincts when recruiting and I also produce a ready-to-wear line. So sometimes, I am not explicitly taking an order, and even when I am taking an order, I follow through with it and I guide my tailors. I also do not over promise clients. I under promise and over deliver. Online, my delivery time is 10 working days. Sometimes, I finish in 5 working days and my customers get their clothes before time, which makes them happy. If I say one week, and I can’t deliver until 2 weeks, I become a liar, so it’s just better to under promise and over deliver. And we know the situation of things in the country. When we don’t have a good work ethic and discipline, we can only hope it gets better for our generation.”
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STYLE ICONS I ask the Creative behind Fawenzo his style icons and he had this to say, “I see what is being done in the fashion industry and I appreciate it. It intrigues me, but I would not say there’s a particular person I look up to. I look up to people around me and the way they put things together. It’s just about composure and etiquette. That’s what fashion is about. It’s how you present yourself. My mum usually says ‘Dress the way you want to be addressed’. That’s my own fashion mantra“
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SERIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP I ask Mr Fawenzo where he sees his brand in 10 years time and he muses, “I wish to have started other subsidiaries. I already have plans to be a serial entrepreneur, which will be all related to design. It could even be a fashion or design school to train people.” I comment on the constraining effect of the older generation trying to put millennials in a box with regard to focusing one just one talent, while this latter generation is looking into serial entrepreneurship and I ask his opinion on staying true to one’s plans for serial entrepreneurship. He says, “I think the brain can do more than one thing. People underestimate themselves. There’s no harm in pushing yourself. Sometimes you fail, but go on and pick up yourself again and continue. People who are successful today may actually have failed yesterday. So there’s always an opportunity to bounce back.” On his last words, he says, “Follow your dreams and just start. If you have an idea, put it out there. Don’t be afraid that someone would steal your idea. If someone steals your idea, it means it is good enough. Just start.”
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