When Lanre da Silva Ajayi launched her eponymous label in 2005, it was immediately understood that the designer’s directions for her line included couture, ready-to-wear, jewellery and exceptional hairpieces. Each collection she released often embodied metallic fabrics, lace and African patterns, referencing a time long ago when luxury reigned supreme. Over the years, she has evolved and stayed consistent with the re-interpretation and modernization of traditional styles by simply creating breathtaking designs that are a visible mash of the old and new.
We can’t get enough of every “artistic imagery” that she releases, hence the reason why we are speaking with her on the release of her latest Renaissance collection, delving into all the important details regarding the designs.
Interview by Charles Didee Eta
What inspired the Renaissance collection?
The SS23 “Renaissance collection” is a vibrant celebration of timeless femininity. Inspired by the 15th century, I wanted to juxtapose history with recent times through the context of clothes. I have always been drawn to bold fashion, striking colourways, masterpiece structures and how women can be empowered by the clothes they choose to wear. There are no limitations, and nothing is out of bounds as the collection journeys through time and sheds light on the precarious boundary between history and the present day bringing to the forefront what beauty, power, and femininity in this age truly means.
What was the creative process like?
It was a fun process, actually. I wanted fun, refreshing and versatile. I also wanted it to be that collection that had a piece for everyone in the Be it flowing dresses, corsets, shorts, you name it. Brainstorming with my team on new creative ideas and how to execute and bring the idea to fruition was how I set the ball rolling. I relish my creative thinking process. At other times, I got to sit quietly, sketching out designs and then deciding on details like fabrics, colours, styles, textures, and distinctive silhouettes.
How long did it take to complete the designs?
I can’t exactly put a time frame on this collection. I never do for any of my collections, actually. It’s always an ongoing process for me when I am designing. Sometimes, it might be an inspiration from a while ago. I keep going until I am completely satisfied.
Any challenges while producing?
From an expert professional standpoint, as the Creative Director, I have learnt to manage my expectation when I give new direction on a style, pattern, sketch, and how I want it executed. Training my staff is a continuous and relentless determination for me to get the best out of them. I believe in teamwork, and with this collection, it was no exception.
As usual, there was a lot of back and forth before the staff fully grasped my vision to bring it to life. To help minimize this issue, I engage the workers continuously during regular working hours and with further tutelage after- hours. Trial and error are inevitable; continuous training and corrections were made, and with further guidance, they eventually got on the same page as me. And the work moved swiftly from there.
What’s your process for fabric selection like?
You know, fabrics are another way of expressing yourself as a designer. As you can see from my designs, I love fabrics. The richer, the better. I pick my fabrics based on the designs I want to execute at any given time: texture and colour, both extremely important. However, I love Chantilly lace. Colourful, bold prints are also exquisite and beautiful.
What’s your greatest strength as a fashion designer?
I am a people person with excellent communication skills. This goes a long way with the business side of fashion. This has helped me build more relationships that have been converted to a wide range of clients over time. I tell you it is true when they say business is all about relationships. It makes a huge difference.
How do you stay up to date on the latest fashion trends?
I am constantly engaging with the younger generation. You would be surprised by the things I learn about fashion from my daughter Keji. I also keep my ear to the ground by being aware of trends via social media and fashion magazines. And then, I follow up with global fashion weeks to learn about upcoming trends and runway collections.
What ethics are important for fashion designers to thrive?
That’s simple. Always ensure that the working environment for the staff is conducive and that fair wages are payable to them. It’s already really hard out there—no need to make it worse for people in your space.
Tell me about your greatest achievement as a fashion designer?
In my humble opinion, my greatest achievement to date is that I am still a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. Trust me, building these relationships within and outside the industry hasn’t been easy. I believe this is partly what has gotten me to where I am today. This is my 17th year in the fashion industry, and it has been quite the journey. I am thankful to God for the many accomplishments and accolades I have received through the years and to my loyal customers for their continuous patronage.