Nigerian businesswoman Reni Folawiyo is the founder of Alara, a concept store in the heart of Victoria Island, Lagos that seeks to redefine luxury fashion for Nigerians. Meaning "wondrous performer" in Yoruba, Alara is rapidly becoming a fashion destination for Nigerians and westerners alike. It offers a mix of fashion, art and design in a similar style to famous concept stores like Paris’ Colette, London’s Dover Street Market and Milan’s 10 Corso Como. It stocks a range of western designers including Stella McCartney , Dries Van Noten , Marni and Valentino. Alongside this, Folawiyo looks to champion Nigerian design, stocking the work of Maki Oh, Lanre de Silva Ajayi and Tiffany Amber. Alara has the potential to be a beacon for other fashion retailers and a centre for gravity for global luxury brands already beginning to cluster around a nascent fashion district in Lagos.
Prior to the store opening Nigerians had tended to shop abroad for luxury purchases, “I felt that we needed something iconic that would change our city, change the way we see ourselves and also change the way the world sees us.” Folawiyo told the Wall Street Journal. Folawiyo sees the ‘Alara Woman’ as someone who is a high-powered global citizen. With the store, she aims to establish a contemporary visual language for African luxury.
The store was designed and built by the internationally renowned Ghanian-British architect David Adjaye, whose design for the National Museum of African American History broke ground in 2012. Folawiyo was Born in London, and raised in Western Nigeria, she initially studied law, returning to Lagos to work for her father’s law firm. Alongside this, she opened an interior design business producing custom furniture.