A Walk To Remember With Mariam Afolabi
The fashion and design industry in Nigeria has been on a steady rise for many years. And following the fashion season this year, many hope to see an increase and growth in our local fashion industry.
For Mariam Abiola Afolabi, her journey started with her interest in art. The designer who’s the mastermind behind Mazelle Studio initially studied law and moved back to Nigeria afterwards to focus on her fashion brand.
“I didn’t really have a fashion background but what I would always remember is the way my parents and grandmother dressed very stylishly; that was really what inspired me.”
The designer, who has dressed the likes of Omotala Jalade, Seyi Shay, Toke Makinwa and Eku Edewor, talks about her recent collection called A Walk To Remember, which was inspired by the different stages of love.
How did you initially become interested in fashion? Was this the career path you had planned?
Fashion has always been a part of me. Growing up, I spent more time designing what I wanted to wear with tailors and I also didn’t like the norm; I always wanted something different and stylish. I started sketching with friends at primary school, I never had Barbie dolls so that was the only really girly thing I did because I was a tomboy. It was when I started doing clothing and textiles at secondary school that I became interested in textiles and fashion but art was still the main thing for me. I never really thought I would go into fashion because when I started focusing on it I just did it as a form of art. I think it clicked when people started asking where they could get my pieces and at that moment I knew it was going to become a career.
How did you start building your brand and identity in the industry?
I started by thinking about the kind of woman I wanted to design clothes for, her personality, her style, where she would wear my designs to etc, and that really helped put things in perspective. Although I would say I am still building my identity, working with this notion helped keep me aligned.
Give us a slight break down of your creative process?
I find that my creative process usually starts off as chaos in my mind, then I try to align my thoughts by creating a mood board of colours, textiles, feelings and I slowly start to make sense of it. Sometimes, I listen to music and get inspired by the feeling; other times I get inspiration from my dreams.
Do your life experiences or background have anything to do with your work?
Absolutely! I feel that we are all influenced by the situations we go through. The people I meet, the places I go to, the things I’ve been through and social issues, all have a hand in my creative process, both positively and negatively.
Tell us about some challenges you have as a fashion designer in Nigeria?
I find that, in Nigeria, there is an aso-ebi/tailor culture that we are so accustomed to and there’s very little we can do the change how people perceive fashion designers. The industry is built on stilts so to speak, so everything is very fragile. From labour, to fabrics and textiles (our basic raw material), poor intellectual property laws that stop people from regurgitating your ideas, the list is endless.
Tell us what inspired your recent collection?
So our recent collection A Walk To Remember was inspired by the different stages of love. I thought about what we experience before we get married. It starts with being innocent and young and finding love and all its magical complexities, to getting your heart broken, then finding true love and finally getting married. These stages were depicted in the different colours so from white, to red, to black to pink and the white again with the wedding dresses.