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Lagos based Nigerian designer, Lanre Dasilva Ajayi talks to ELLE about what it means to be a woman in her industry, the challenges she faces and more. 

Do you have a quote you live by?

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style”. - Maya Angelou

What excites you most about your job?

I relish my creative thinking process, sitting quietly and sketching out designs I want to execute. The icing on the cake for me is when I see my designs on runways and being worn by my beautiful clients.

What’s your view on feminism?

I believe in equality of the sexes. Everyone should be given equal rights and opportunities to thrive.

Who are some of the women who inspire you and why?

Whilst growing up, my mum had a huge influence on me. She was extremely hardworking, and instilled good morals in me, which I uphold today. I also have great admiration and respect for Oprah. I grew up watching her talk show and it impacted me positively.

What’s currently on your playlist?

Dare - More

Timi Dakolo - Iyawo mi

Waje - Left for Good

Major – Why I Love You

Tekno - Yawa

Tiwa Savage - All over

David O – IF

P Square - Nobody Ugly

Flavour – Obianuju

What was the last book you read?

Barack Obama – The Audacity of Hope

What would you say separates you as a designer?

My passion for the fashion industry is evident in the quality of my work.  It drives my creativity, to be innovative, different, and unique. Through the years, the brand has maintained its brand image as a go-to fashion house for distinctive, beautiful and timeless pieces. Right from inception, it has been distinguished from others by our Victorian era-inspired and edgy styles, use of bold colourful prints, and lace that are beautiful and exquisite.

What are some of the most difficult challenges you face as a business and creative woman based in Lagos?

There were definitely challenges as a beginner in the fashion industry in Nigeria. For instance today, there are haberdashery stores all around importing good zips and trimmings. At the time I started, I had to pray nothing happened to the client’s zip. Zips are so important to a finished garment, I am very happy to see changes today.

Another challenge is training the tailors, which is crucial to me as a designer, pattern makers are hard to come by, a lot of the tailors around were machinists that needed so much training and supervision and patience. All these experiences made me wise up quickly and learn faster as I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.

Another challenge is the lack of power and infrastructure.  This makes working conditions unbearable sometimes, with overhead costs quite high. However, the Nigerian fashion industry is growing rapidly, hence, investments from the government and corporate bodies will boost growth and development significantly.

What does it mean to be a woman in this industry?

The women in the Nigerian fashion industry are a force to be reckoned with, hence, making the industry competitive and lucrative. It feels good to be one of the women shaping the fashion industry for the future. The fashion industry in Nigeria is booming. I believe there is room for everyone both men and women to showcase their creativity.

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Believe you can achieve anything you set your mind to, just be determined and work hard.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Nigerian woman?

I find it absurd when I hear the misconception that a woman is after a man purely for his money. I believe the reverse can be the case too.

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