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Fashion and family go hand in hand with this design trio

A WHOLE NEW WORLD: The Alakija sisters are taking running their own business in their stride

FOLLOWING THE death of their father, Tope Alakija, Tola Alakija and Tayo Alakija decided to pursue their dream of launching a fashion brand. After presenting their first runway collection in September, we spoke to the triplets about family dynamics, style and family.

Q: How did you get into the fashion industry?

Tope: For my sisters and I, we’ve always enjoyed dressing up and had a passion for fashion. It really started in school when we used to sell a few snacks and we made profit from that. So every weekend, we would go to Oxford Circus and that was literally our hobby.

As we got older, we started making garments for ourselves, and in 2013 we decided to create a brand. So we made garments but at that time we did it more for fun than a serious business venture. So then we rebranded ourselves this year and now we design our own prints, which are African inspired and we officially launched this year.

Q: Tell me more about your dynamics working alongside each other?

Tola: My sister Tayo, is more responsible for design and the creative side of things, however we all have input in every single aspect. I deal with more of logistic side of things; organising, emails and Tope deals with logistics as well as the practical side of things - liaising with our manufacturer, picking up garments and she manages social media.

Q: What made you decide to design both menswear and womenswear?

Tayo: We were actually going to start off with just womenswear because that’s what we know best. However, when we first started, we got a lot of requests for menswear and to style men, so we decide to start small and design menswear too

Q: What are some of the highlights and challenges of running your own fashion brand?

Tola: As we’re creating our own fabric, its pretty expensive so that’s a challenge. However, it’s a blessing because there are three of us and we’re able to split responsibilities among us.


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Q: Fast fashion and online retailers (Boohoo, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing etc) are so popular right now. What made you decide to steer away from that and focus on a more refined customer?

Tope: We really want to focus on our identity and embrace who we are, so not necessarily following the trends and just trying to be different. Also people like bespoke clothing so we want to build that on a bigger platform.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the collection you presented last month?

Tola: The collection is called ‘Jenesisi’ which is ‘genesis’ in the Yoruba dialect. For us, we see this brand as the beginning of greater things to come, so we feel this brand is the start of something new. We’ve been through a lot, especially with our father passing away last year, and our mother struggling throughout. We’re based in south London, we come from a council flat – it wasn’t the best surroundings, but we’re focused on a new start and a hopeful future, which this brand represents.

Q: As designers of African origin, what are your thoughts on western designers being 'inspired' by different cultures in their collections? Do you see it as cultural appropriation?

Tayo: I would say it’s good that they’re trying to embrace new styles. Some people are open to exploring different cultures and I think it’s good and encouraging to us as well.

Q: Who are the top three people you would love to dress?

Tola: Solange, Lupita N’yongo and Emma Willis. I would like to see garments on not just black people, but people of different backgrounds embracing our culture.

Q: What advice would you give to other women looking to start a business?

Tola: Just do it – that’s been our slogan throughout the year. The younger generation tend to pressure themselves if they’re not exactly where they want to be but I think its important to just focus on yourself and go for what you want.

Follow their Facebook: @TALAKIJA

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