Q&A:Nigerian-Born Designer Carves A Slice Off Africa’s Luxury Fashion
Colorful. Ethnic. Elegant.
That’s the look behind fashion brand Honey Malaolu, named for its Nigerian-born, London-based founder and designer.
Malaolu has positioned her company at the forefront of a new fashion trend–luxury African designs blending ethnic fabrics with international, high-end style. The brand has sold globally from London to Barcelona and Dubai to Johannesburg.
The success of Honey Malaolu is proof that African fashion can no longer be overlooked. Within the next five years, it is estimated that African fashion could be a $15.5 billion industry as personal incomes increase and the continent’s economies continue to grow, reports Ventures Africa.
Honey Malaolu knew she was on the right track when she first entered the fashion world. After earning a bachelor’s degree in fashion and textiles, Malaolu wanted to venture into her own brand rather than work for another designer. Besides the unique designers, Malaolu’s clothes stand out because they are made using eco friendly practices. The entire collection is created in London with an aim of keeping its carbon footprint to a minimum.
Honey Malaolu talked to AFKInsider about her recently debuted her new Berlin collection and more.
AFKInsider: How have you positioned the Honey Malaolu brand to re-write the ethnic-inspired fashion narrative?
Honey Malaolu: I have aligned the brand with the current trends of the 21st century that has seen the world becoming a real global village (in the words of philosopher Marshall McLuhan).
Globalization has brought together different cultures in an accessible way. Thus, as a brand we have been inspired by this, not forgetting to add flavors of culture. So doing, we have been able to cater to the new jetsetters from developing countries such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and Nigeria.
Listening to our clientele, we have realized that these new power players with vast purchasing power are interested in luxury distinguished by culture peculiarities and individuality. We always like to emphasize that culture is a concept that can be included in luxury. These new new markets such as the African continent represent the new frontier of luxury, where the industry can tell tales about the prolific African culture to a wider audience.
AFKInsider: How do you combine elegance with individual quirkiness and promoting culture and the best of both of worlds?
Honey Malaolu: The perfect marriage between the two is achieved by carefully listening to the client’s needs. Once, a customer was in need of a gown for the GUBA Awards (an annual event for Ghanaian companies in the U.K. to recognize and celebrate their achievements). Her brief was clear and concise, creating a unique piece that had Ghanaian character and displayed its character, with the chance to move around comfortably. We indeed delivered, creating a showstopper that comprised all these three requirements.
AFKInsider: Tell us more about the inspiration behind the new Berlin collection.
Honey Malaolu: The Berlin collection was created with a romantic idea of the modern Berlin melting pot of cultures and diversity. The collection explores the idea of flexible identity, where the wearer can pride herself in discovering new cultures, fabrics with hem lines and contours inspired by apparent simplicity, inspired by German romanticism.
AFKInsider: What are some of your goals for the company in 2016?
Honey Malaolu: Expanding in Southern African markets; creating a forum for diaspora and African insiders, graduates and school leavers to explore and understand, entrepreneurship, the power of change through brand, the socioeconomic impact of luxury and fashion in countries and employment opportunities that can be carved out; and collaborating with wearable technology and nascent department stores in Africa and beyond to create a capsule collection representing the rich diversity of the African culture.
AFKInsider: What is the key to marketing to a global market?
Honey Malaolu: It might sound cliché, but many forget to do their homework and research the market they would like to access and the demographics they would like to target. This is a key component, because you can only market yourself when you understand their language, likes and dislikes.
AFKInsider: You are based in London, but how much influence does Africa have on your designs?
Honey Malaolu: London is known for its multifaceted ethnic composition. It makes me proud because this allows me to keep growing by placing my feet in two worlds. Moreover, the Afro-Caribbean community plays vital role in the city with its vibrant activities. Africa has a major influence as it does permit me to show the world my proud Nigerian roots, with its flamboyant, superbly eclectic and one-of-a-kind textiles.
AFKInsider: What advice would you give up-and-coming African designers?
Honey Malaolu: I will advise them to study. Research the markets they wants to reach. It is also vital to know that there will be many setbacks, nonetheless one’s resilience must take preeminence, never forgetting the main vision. Additionally, one should be inspired and driven by passion, looking at how their brand can carve a niche and find a solution to a gap in the market.