A favourite on our radar since coming upclose to her designs at Nigeria’s Next Supermodel in 2011, Ayo Olaogun – the designer behind the beautifully brilliant brand Ayo Van Elmar – stops by to share with us some inside information on her brand, the beginnings of her career, plus thoughts behind her latest collection.
Read on to for Ayo Van Elmar through the word’s of Ayo herself…
“My name is Ayo Elizabeth Olaogun. I originate from Nigeria – Lagos to be precise – but I’ve lived in Vienna, Austria for 10 years now. I am currently studying fashion design at one of Europe’s most prestigious universities; the University of Applied Arts Vienna. I also hold a degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Vienna.
I started working as a designer in October 2010 and I made my first piece for my application to get admitted into the University of Applied Arts. It was a very tough process. My university is known for its high repute and standards, so getting an admission is such big deal that my heart pounded twice as fast throughout the entire experience! Only eight students were admitted that year and the year after also.
I’ve felt this creative desire since my early childhood days; I remember doing a lot of art-related projects in primary and secondary school, which I actually sold to my schoolmates – key holders, cards, frames… I spent a lot of my time sketching, drawing, painting. I’m happy that I made the best decision ever, giving up everything else to follow my dreams.
My brand was officially launched in May 2011. My design style is contemporary, chic and very afrocentric too; the details, the cut, the prints, the colours, the strength and the message it transmits – just like a piece of art – are signature to Ayo Van Elmar.
Africans are very caring and I care very much about my team – they mean a lot to me. This really affects my work positively. We have an amazing rapport, like close siblings. Above all, work with them can be so much fun.
My latest collection, Magic Shields, is a prayer for my beloved country – I am very moved and disturbed by the turmoil in Northern Nigeria. Each piece carries a magical shield and wishes supernatural fortress. I am very proud of the strength of the ask-oke fabrics I’ve included, and the collection overall is strong, daring, elegant, contemporary and unique. There is a story behind my collection and this story evolved from a region attacked by the Boko Haram terrorists. One could obviously not expect to see shoes worn under such conditions and there is always smoke involved, hence my showcase at the Ubuntu Project this LFW saw models walk bare foot and with incense sticks burning from their hats.
My most favourite piece of the collection lead my show at the Ubuntu Project at LFW. I love the complexity of the mixture of its two fabrics – it has turned out so beautifully, with its black and white pattern, African illustrations against dark blue with turquoise lines; a sort of checkered aso-oke.
I hadn’t showcased at the LFW previously, I was introduced to the Ubuntu Project by House of J’ola and I recognised it was great opportunity when it came. Feedback since the show has been fantastic, really fabulous; a good number of reports, emails and blogs. I am very pleased and happy, and I’m looking forward to greater heights, to even stronger collections. Showcasing at the Ubuntu Project of LFW A/W 2012 is definitely a career highlight.
I admire Tom Ford and Dries van Noten very much. Tom Ford is not just a great designer but a very successful business strategist. Dries van Noten is just amazing, I mean yes, he is perhaps not as famous as Gucci, D&G, or Chanel but I just adore this guy and I love his lifestyle. A very simple and humble man. Besides other artists, my professors, Bernhard Wilhelm and Hermann Fankhauser really inspire me – they praise and criticise my work. I appreciate their presence in my career.
My ideal client is a woman who has found herself, a woman who is liberal, open-minded – a free-thinker who doesn’t see borders in fashion. A working woman who believes that elegance knows no bounds. I would love to dress Sarah Jessica Parker, Katie Melua, Charlize Theron and of course the first lady, Michelle Obama. So far, Waris Dirie has worn my designs, during a board meeting with the PPR Foundation in Paris.
What makes me FABulous AFrican and black is the fact that I would probably never even consider taking my production elsewhere; I produce in Lagos, though I admit it’s tough and people are harder to work with there. Nonetheless, people need jobs in my country, women especially. I want to be a blessing to my society, to women and their children. I take my people to heart and this makes me FABulous African and black.
Also, as Fabulous as I am, my designs are unique and they stand out. I believe that fashion is art and I love the artistic values that my designs convey – they are as fabulous as FAB can be”.
(photography by Simon Deiner at SDR)by