Nigerian fashion designer Lisa Folawiyo is celebrated for her colourful collections that fuse traditional West African fabrics with modern tailoring and beaded embellishments. Since starting her label in 2005, Folawiyo has spearheaded the movement of Nigerian designers achieving international recognition for their work. She has a knack for elevating traditional African prints above the status quo, making them relevant for a global audience. She has showrooms in both Nigeria and New York and her collections are stocked in the UK, the US, South Africa and Nigeria itself.
In 2012, Folawiyo won the African Fashion Awards, nominated alongside Maki Oh and Kofi Ansah, two more prolific designers from the Nigerian fashion scene. Championed by Vogue Italia, Folawiyo has also partnered with L’Oréal and done a trunk show on Moda Operandi. Her line is stocked in Selfridges.
The Lisa Folawiyo brand has shown collections on international platforms in Lagos, Johannesburg, London, Paris, Milan and New York, as well as been featured in publications such as international editions of Vogue, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. The brand counts with various diffusion lines including The J Label and Pretty Precious.
Having originally trained as a lawyer, Folawiyo came to fashion with no formal training. She founded her own line, Lisa Folawiyo — previously known as Jewel by Lisa — in 2005. Her collections are exclusively crafted from Ankara textiles; vibrant wax-resistant dyed fabrics characteristic of West Africa. “Our mothers, grandmothers and probably great-grandmothers have worn this fabric,” Folawiyo told the BBC. Her garments are embellished with beads, sequins and crystals all sewn by hand in local workshops in Nigeria. She attributes her success to finding and sticking to this unusual aesthetic.