Getting to do a follow up with Maison Loulabelle after their participation in the London kids fashion show was intriguing. Because Afrocentric kids fashion is not a regular brand in fashion, you find only a few in such brand. Cynthia Oguntoye is the creative director and Founder of Maison Loulabelle, a luxury Afrocentric children’s multi-brand store that designs award winning clothes for kids. In this encounter, she takes Stellamaries Amuwa through the London experience.
How was your experience at the London kids fashion week
Maison Loulabelle was invited to participate in the London kids fashion week, which runs concurrently with the London fashion week. The international fashion week runs in two cycles which is in February and September, Maison Loulabelle attended the fashion show for February. It was a two days event, with the first day starting with a fashion show for the industry. A lot of major department buyers and influencers were in attendance. The fashion show on the first day was to show the industry who you are as a brand, what your brand is about. Being on the runway was a very interesting time. Maison Loulabelle showcased side by side with some of the great brands like karl Lagerfeld kids who was the lead designer for Chanel and the London kids fashion week was the last show for karl Lagerfeld kids before he died. It was a great honour to showcase alongside some of the renowned brands. The second day of the show was a consumer show and this was just showing the general public what you have on ground- pretty much your ready to wear looks.
What was the motive behind London Kids fashion show?
The entire point of the London kids fashion show is to create a community within the kids fashion sector and create a community within the kids sector because the kids fashion sector is a fast growing sector globally and not just to showcase the designers but the kids too. And we count ourselves lucky and blessed to be chosen to participate at such a laudable event.
Did you have any difficulties at the fashion week and of what benefit was it to Maison Loulabelle?
Going there exposed me to movers and shakers in the kids industry. One of the major takeaways I had is that it’s very easy for people in the western world to see African fashion as dress up and that was the major thing that appealed to them about our brand. In regards to the feedback we got from photographers, stylist, influencers, the major thing we got was how refreshing it was too see an African brand with African designs that could cut across the western sphere and African sphere. I was really happy that I found a Nigerian mom who lived in Europe and her kids were participating in modeling. She was very helpful because there were hundreds of people at the fashion show and I was the only brand coming from Nigeria and she kept telling me about the designers and the people I should meet. We were able to give some of our pieces to top stylists and celebrity children, and also international magazines got our pieces to style kids for photoshoot. We also had loads of international collaborations and one of the major take-homes I got is what they call global takeover where brands like us get to collaborate with other key influencers to sell our brand to some part of the western world who don’t patronise African fashion. We have some of our looks with big luxury magazines and we also have big international collaboration that I’m really happy about that because it is putting Maison Loulabelle kids fashion, Nigerian fashion and African fashion on a global stage, and I’m so blessed and thankful to be a pioneer spearheading this change and awareness for the industry on the continent.
What is your projection based on the exposure at fashion week?
I’m really looking forward to images from this collaboration. I look forward to breaking that glass that seems none of us can break through. My hope and prayer is that as we go into this collaboration we would begin to catch the eyes of international buyers because I have my eyes on a few specialist kids’ stores and luxury kids wear retailers if they could carry my brand in their stores. That is one of thing I’m hoping that this exposure brings and I hope our uniqueness puts us ahead of the curve of other brands. I’m hoping to work into one of these big brands in Europe and see Maison Loulabelle fashion on their racks.
What was the strong point you proved to be able to infiltrate the Western kids fashion?
The ability to bridge the gap between Afrocentric kids fashion and normal kids fashion as well as infuse luxury into African kids fashion was quite instructive. Getting to London was very exciting for us because it is something that, as a brand, we have never been used to. Of course, there are fashion shows that happen here in Nigeria, but this one was on another level. First of all, there are four different fashion shows in the world namely: the London fashion week, Milan, New york and Paris. To be part of one of the major fashion shows is something I can’t put into words.
Afrocentric kids fashion is not a regular brand when it comes to fashion. What inspired this brand?
Prior to establishing this brand, I worked as a consultant for various World Bank and DFID programmes. I have Masters Degree in Human Resource Management from Robert Golden University Aberdeen. Basically as a consultant, I could manage my own time, so my hours were flexible and I earned a good amount of money for my time. I started business when I became a new mom. That left me with more time on my hands and so I figured I could choose my work hours and my delivery goals and focus on my passion at the time, which is fashion.
I love African fashion, I love all things African. Sometimes we don’t realise how special we are, but if you have lived or grow up outside the country, you will understand how unique and special our culture is. However, knowing that I’ve always loved things Afrocentric, I wanted to be able to dress my daughter in Afrocentric fashion, but there was none to offer me the kind of style that I liked- luxurious, modern, contemporary and all of that. So, when I enrolled at the fashion academy, we had homework to make women’s stuff but I would go home and find myself making stuff for my daughter instead. Then I realised that my passion was not necessarily in women’s fashion but there was a gap in children’s fashion that I needed to fill.
What influenced your personal fashion and style?
Once again, for me, style is something that is very personal. Fashion is a reflection of oneself, your creativity, your mood and your personality.
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