Titilayo Halimotushadiat Shotile-Belo Is the young creative behind the helm of affairs at Nigerian fashion label TITI BELO. Self-driven and contemporary, the graduate of architecture and LFDW 2014 scholarship recipient’s unconventional creativity has placed her brand at the vanguard of African designers to watch for in 2018. She speaks with MILLICENT AREBUN ONUOHA
Birth of the brand
Fashion is something every young girl loves, however, I knew I really wanted to make fashion a profession in my first year at the University of Lagos. I had wanted to attend fashion school in the United Kingdom but my parents were unable to sponsor me so I decided to go for the best alternative which was Architecture. I studied architecture in the University of Lagos and graduated. During my NYSC service year, I was asked to work as an intern in a fashion house in Lagos and after that I decided to get serious with my fashion business and released my first collection Envy.
TITI BELO WUZ ERE SS18 collection
My new collection is titled “TITI BELO WUZ ERE!” it was inspired by my time in secondary school. I attended Queen’s college in Lagos, which is why most of the colours are white and blue. “Titi Belo Waz Ere” is basically like a slogan that anyone who attended high school uses as a signing out signature once you have leaving the school for good. Since the collection was inspired by high school I just decided to title it “Titi Belo waz ere. Most of the pieces in the collection were uniforms that we wore in school, the Sunday wears and all of that. I just modernize it to make it look stylish for today’s woman. The response and reception so far have been fantastic. The collection has also connected me to many Queens College ladies far and wide who sends me words of encouragement. It has really been beautiful
In the past five years what has been the most pressing challenges you have faced as a fashion designer in Nigeria?
Everybody knows it’s production; from power to labour, just getting things done is major challenge in our country. We can all have creative ideas but the problem is getting it done and done right. Even when we are ready to do it, you won’t have power and when there is the power, you won’t find the right hand to do it. I am sure that if production were made easier in Nigeria many fashion designers would not be where they are now. We are not doing badly but we can do so much more with stable production.
On Accessing BOI Fashion fund
I am definitely looking forward to accessing some of those funding this year, let just see how it goes.
What’s your opinion on design theft in Nigeria in line with the increasing social media wars by colleagues in the creatives world over it
That happens I won’t lie. Recently in the market when I went to buy fabrics from my customer, a lady walked up to me and told me she loved my cloth and I said thank you but I noticed she kept looking at the sleeves. I realised that she was a tailor when she kept questioning me on the cut, sew and materials I used for my bubble sleeves when I expressed my displeasure she dilvuged to me her predicament. Apparently one of her customers brought the design to her to sew but she didn’t know how to go about it. I told her it was my design and she said sorry. If we really want to be totally honest there is no way we can stop this because your pieces are going far and wide. There was a time a friend sent me a picture of a lady selling my designs with my personal picture on her Esty page. I contacted the madam and educated her on the dishonesty of what she was doing and she apologised and took it down. Apparently one of her customers sent her the picture from UK to sow for her. It’s obvious you can’t chase everyone down but really imitation is the best form of flattery. For people to imitate your work means you are doing fantastically well, though it might be annoying. It happens to almost everyone in the creative business globally. Sometimes they may not be imitations but coincidence as two different creatives in different locations can arrive at the same creative idea. We all draw inspiration from the same place which is this world and the eras past anyway. In the end it depends on who acts first. We live in the same world where we all see the same things; some people are inspired differently by the same things while some are inspired by somethings the same way.
How do you combat or keep abreast of it?
If you have an idea, just quickly work on it so that if anyone sees it, it will be credited to you first. I have some friends who when they see people wear anything that looks like my design, they be like that’s “Titi Belo” and some of them sometimes goes as far as going to meet the people wearing it to tell them. I think the only way is if you think about something, immediately work on it before it too late. Let’s be honest, the world is innovative, there is nothing you want to do that has not be done before. It is all about tweaking and looking for ways to make it more attractive.
You have been showcasing on the LFDW platform for the last four years, what has been the impact on your brand?
Heineken Lagos fashion and design week has really been an amazing platform for me. In 2014 I showcased on their platform and my brand which I started in 2013, became explosive. Lagos fashion and design week really helped my brand in terms of recognition, sales and all of that. One of the things I also benefited was a scholarship to study fashion business and that also helped me to know the right direction to take my brand.
Are you a member of the Fashion Designers’ Association of Nigeria?
I am not yet a member, but I actually plan to join this year. The reason I haven’t joined already was because I had a lot of things to do and I had to take it one at a time; as I am the only one. It is just a matter of time I will join.
What is fashion to you personally?
Fashion is everything to me. It is where I will feed my family from and where I will make my billions. Fashion is so important to me.
When I wake up I bath, use my kajah, apply my lip balm and go out. I don’t even apply cream or makeup.
Favourite fashion item at all time.
I like short that is big for me, mini, midi pencil skirts and finally leggings.
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