Modupe Idowu is the creative genius at the helm of affairs at MODU; a brand that is centred on exhibiting and celebrating African art and fashion that are both classic and modern with a strong ethnic sensibility. In this exclusive chat with MILLICENT AREBUN ONUOHA, she discusses the assumptions that pledge and undervalue works of arts in Nigeria, her edge in combating design theft and her brands core vision
Journey so far
My name is Modupe Idowu. I own a t-shirt design line called Modustar Art. We offer hand printed afro-centric t-shirts embellished with crystals, art work, school wears, customised clothing and more. The brand just tries to promote everything Nigerian and African we travel aboard and see people wearing. I want Africans to also have a sense of pride in their fashion.
What inspires your designs?
My tee shirts are inspired by modern and historic trends, for instance, how women used to go to market with basket on their heads. I just try to make it look as catchy and contemporary as possible on my tee, while been proudly Nigerian. Thus, our clothing is proudly Nigerian and truly African. I am inspired by paintings and people going about their daily activities. There is a particular painting I have that was inspired by a client who told me she was from somewhere in Jos, and that in the past, the women used to carry heavy loads on their shoulder with plank and she showed me a picture of it and boom I was inspired. I adapted it and designed a tee with it.
Why did you decide to restrict your designs to Nigerian modern/historic art forms?
When I started, my first painting on a tee shirt wasn’t anything Africa, but I thought to myself, “this is something I haven’t seen before”. I wanted to be different/unique and I was aware with the current boom in the Nigerian fashion industry, there still weren’t any hand printed afro-centric or agro-graffiti t-shirts, though I have seen African t-shirts, where pieces of Ankara are used for embellishment.
How has the reception been so far?
The reception has been quite favourable; I actually have a few best-sellers, because people relate to some of these drawings. For instance, the one I am wearing now, is called “Owanbe party” and for some time now, it has become fashionably trendy in Nigeria to wear the vintage short version of the “Iro and Buba”. Thus the embellished crystal painting on my t-shirt right now is of three ladies going for a party, all decked up in their trendy “Oleku” outfits. Also I have some designs, that go back to the Nigerian 70s art, for instance, the Festac 77 masks. I have a couple of designs inspired by that era. There are some designs called “market day” , portraying those days past, where there were specific times assigned when, everyone would gather and sell/batter their wares.
Most pressing challenges you have faced as a designer and artist in Nigeria.
My greatest challenge as a designer and artist in Nigeria has to do with funding and awareness. It’s tough to keep doing business when the value of the currency fluctuates and the economy is in a state of crisis. It’s been a challenge, especially in the last two years. I have had to be creative with regards to bringing down costs while retaining and maintaining quality. Prices have increased from what we fixed in the past. I have also had to branch out into other creative ventures. For instance customizing T.shirts, souvenirs, school wears and more, with regards to my brand and also offer services.
How has the rave of MadeInNigeria goods affected your business
The demand for MadeInNigeria goods has been really favourable to my brand in recent times. I must admit that referrals have been my major forum of new business and clientele. People are surprised that my staples are actually done in Nigeria. I source my fabric. Art, materials and tailors are in Nigeria, hence I don’t import anything. It’s a growing trend and I hope it’s a trend that will grow, stand the test of time and become something we as Nigerians grow to appreciate more. Even in the world art, people tend to look down on artists that are upcoming or struggling to hold it down business-wise. Though I really can’t blame for that assumption because that’s our reality. I don’t think you will find any place in Lagos where you won’t find a super talented artist displaying his work in one corner or the other. It cheapens the value of the art when you look down on an artist’s work on the assumption that it’s just drawing. Right now, social media has made it possible for people to show off their talent on an even platform. So as far as the MadeInNigeria trend impacting on local artist and locally made or sourced products, it’s been great and I hope the trend never dies.
What is the place of social media on your marketing/design scheme?
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. I find that in the Nigerian market especially with creatives that when you create something and before you know it, different versions of it floods the market, until no one knows or admits who the original creator is. So yes it’s a problem that creatives have been facing and I think it’s not limited to Nigeria, as it’s a worldwide phenomenon. So many big brands have even been accused of stealing the creative content or designs of less recognised brands. Personally, so far with my artwork, I haven’t had that problem because I make it a point of duty to sign every piece in such a way it can’t be copied or reproduced because of my consent or stamp on it. It’s sort of a watermark. I hope I never have to encounter this problem with my art or designs because I don’t know what kind of protection we have in place for creatives in the country over design theft.
Advice to emerging designers and artists.
Personally, loving what I do is what has kept me going. I love to draw and create regardless of the circumstances. When things get tough, it’s the love of what you do that keeps you going. If you are in it solely for the money, I don’t think you can go far or withstand the challenges of the game. Everyone is waiting for their big break so you have to keep at it, keep improving, researching, evolving and finding a way to push your product out there. Stick with it if it’s truly what you love, it will be worth it in the end.
What is fashion to you?
To me, fashion is expression. It is freedom to express how you feel, connect, put things together. Basically , fashion is freedom! Freedom to be and be comfortable in who you are.
Personal fashion signature
My style is comfort first. To me comfort is supreme when navigating the trends minefield. Comfort to me is T-shirt and jeans or slacks, if I could live in them for the rest of my life without consequences, I would. I have a couple of skirts and dresses but my go-to is always jeans and Tees.
My favourite fragrance is one by DG. I have a bottle of it I have refused to discard because I have a few squeezes in it. Believe it or not, it’s about eight years old thereabout.
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