Starting New…10 yrs in the game

As I sat watching the doe-eyed 26-year old on CNN Africa Marketplace, it dawned on me that I’d started this idea some 10 years ago. In my entire journey, I’d never realised that this business was a decade old and had shaped much of my adult life and yet again, here I am planning to start afresh.

Allow me to take you back down memory lane…Agnes and Lola started as a dream to bring African fashion designers to the world. I’d wanted to purchase a dress from a Tanzanian fashion designer after a fashion show and found that I could not so online…I thought there must be many others like me. Without much delay, I used my savings to buy clothing stock, created a website and started promoting the website. I emailed anyone and everyone, got a PR manager and looked to bring African fashion to the world.

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Success came with features on CNN, Cosmopolitan, National Newspapers, Grazia amongst others. Disappointment soon followed with a website that barely functioned, stock that was overpriced and slow to sell out and the realisation that I could not depend on others to provide me with the styles at the prices I wanted to sell at. Years of frustration led me to stop and start a new brand. I thought, I would leave everything to do with Agnes and Lola and so I moved on to Ife’s Closet.

Ife’s Closet was named after the forename I wanted to give my future daughter, except that I now have two sons and couldn’t wish for anything more. With Ife’s Closet, I created the styles I wanted and presented the items in the way I wanted. Successful sales and features meant that I could possibly dream to turn this from a side hustle to my main gig but things promptly came to a halt when one of my stockists failed to pay me for thousands worth of sales. A deeper sense of disillusionment developed and I honestly could not see the point of what I was doing. The styles I’d designed no longer reflected my somewhat geeky relaxed style and at the back of my head I knew I’d lost the essence of what I wanted to start in the first place, providing an African aesthetic to the world in my own unique way. I’d designed to the crowd and when my stockist let me down, I was left in a mire of self-reflection.

So, here I am starting afresh with my sister Annalisa in tow. She is also known as the Madam Editor and a damn fine writer, no bias whatsoever. It’s become a family affair. No longer the 25 year old who called Paris home, but a 36 year old mother of 2 who now lives in the countryside. With our brand, we are daring to dream back the dreams as they first came to me.

My grandmother Agnes with my dad, Kolu

My grandmother Agnes with my dad, Kolu

The name ‘Agnes and Lola’ always meant a lot to me as it is formed of my grandmother’s name and mine. We did not understand her when she was alive as we thought her to be cold. With age, we better understand the challenges a young woman would have faced in early 20th century Nigeria when she is left widowed with a young son. She wrote children’s books, collected art, played piano, ran her businesses and enjoyed a tipple or two. We began to see how she influenced us to be creative and aim to live life on our terms.

So as we move to the present, we welcome you along on this old yet new journey, it is about us going back to basics of what this brand means. It has always been about doing something positive for our homeland and creating an independent life for us. We plan to start producing some styles in Nigeria by 2020 and will also be partnering with local charities. The ultimate plan is to take this baby from a side-hustle to a main gig and we welcome you on this journey. It’s a two-way conversation, so if you have any questions or comments, don’t be afraid to hit us up on hello@agnesandlola.com

Lola and Annalisa at DUMBO, Brooklyn

Lola and Annalisa at DUMBO, Brooklyn