Lisa Folawiyo always felt a need to have a say in what women wore.
However, the former barrister who studied law at the University of Nigeria didn’t pursue her passion for fashion until one day, a skirt she designed garnered a flurry of compliments.
She set up her own fashion house, Jewel by Lisa, and today her bold, colorful and intricately embroidered designs are seen on celebrities like Thandie Newton and Lucy Liu, and admired in London, Paris and New York.
“I get thrills and chills and lots of adrenaline pumping when I design pieces,” says Folawiyo.
“From an idea in my head I can sketch something, and I can see it being made and see it on the runway. And then not only that, to see women wearing it every day — it’s amazing, there’s nothing that can compare to that. It’s just a dream,” she adds.
The designer, who started her company with no formal training in 2005 in Lagos, says that her job as a barrister left her feeling unfulfilled and unexcited, which eventually prompted her to take the plunge and follow her true passion.
“I think that somewhere inside of me there’s this creative energy waiting to come out. And I think this is how I was able to express that creativity within me,” she adds.
Folawiyo’s luxuriously embroidered designs adapt the traditional fabric called Ankara, famous for its bold patterns. Each piece is hand-made by expert craftsmen in a process that takes on average 240 hours.
“As a younger person I had always viewed the fabric as the fabric that only my mother and her friends wore in traditional styles. And my drive was to make something new and fresh. So I guess I took something old and made it new.”
Folawiyo says that she would encourage others to follow their dreams, but also to keep a healthy dose of realism.
“You ought to be brave, tenacious,” she says, “because success doesn’t come overnight.