Executive Director at one of Nigeria's leading luxury groups, Polo Limited, Lagos-based Jennifer Obayuwana is no stranger to fashion, especially when it comes to her personal style. She chats to ELLE SA's Dimeji Alara on her style inspirations, and the best places to hang out in Lagos!
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I like to call myself 'The Underboss' because I am under the tutelage of my father, the founder of Polo Limited, the foremost luxury goods company in Nigeria. Our brand portfolio includes high-end Swiss watchmaking and jewellery brands including Rolex, Cartier, Breguet, Omega, Chopard, Roger Dubuis, Messika Longines, and Montblanc. In the fashion space, we house brands like Gucci, Valentino, Alexandre McQueen, Jimmy Choo, and Tory Burch. Having studied Business Administration at the American University of Paris, France, and International Relations at Franklin University, Switzerland, and undergone several management courses at the Gemological Institute of America, INSEAD, Columbia University, I was prepared for my role in the business. I started as a Sales Executive on the shop floor and rose through the ranks. Using the Polo Foundation as a vehicle I am involved in several initiatives focused on the empowerment of women and the socioeconomic issues affecting women in Nigeria.
What's a typical day like for you?
I start each day reciting my mantras and my daily affirmations. I read a lecture from the Grail Message. I call my boss and give him a report of the previous day and then either take a swim to power up before work or hit the gym. Then its departmental meetings for the first part of the morning and client visits or sales pitches. I enjoy cold calling, it gives me the thrill to be able to visit potential clients and start an encounter. I close at about 8 pm and then meet with a mentor or a friend or just go home read a book and sleep.
What determines what you wear each day?
The uniform in the watch and jewellery industry is a business suit so this guides my workwear. In addition, we have a strict dress code at Polo, which promotes decency and professionalism and we are big proponents of “you are addressed the way you dress".
Who is your style inspiration?
My mother. She is the quintessentially elegant woman. Growing up, I watched her wear gloves and dress up during tea time. She would mix stripes with polka dots. I am also inspired by her matchy-matchy suits with shoulder pads and bold patterns.
How would you describe your style?
My style cannot be phrased in one word. It is ever evolving, and I am always willing to experiment. It is sometimes Avant Garde but always very feminine. In every case, I do not follow trends.
If you were you were to raid someone's wardrobe, who would it be and why?
It would be Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar. First of all, she is one of my mentors because of her extensive work in education and social reforms in her region. She epitomises the very essence of nobility. Her sense of style is glamorous and sophisticated. She combines local tailoring from flowing robes to abayas and turbans promoting her culture with high-end international brands.
What are you currently listening to at the moment?
I wake up to Vivaldi - Four Seasons or any Baroque classical music.
What’s currently on your playlist?
Dile Al Amor - Aventura
I Put a Spell on You - Nina Simone
Halsey - Without me
Girl Like You - Maroon 5
Let me Down Slowly -Alec Benjamin
Davido - Nwa Baby
Popcorn - Silence
Where are the best places to shop for local brands in Lagos?
Temple Muse and Grey Velvet have a great selection of African local fashion designers. Balogun Market located in the centre of the financial district is a treasure trove but be sure to haggle.
The best restaurants and places to hang out in Lagos?
The Harvest is a new spot in Lekki and is great for millennials and a hip clientele, the Wakanda pizza is delicious and so is the seafood pasta. Browns cafe in Victoria Island and 100 hours in Ikoyi serves authentic African cuisine. Miliki is an exclusive lounge in the heart of Victoria Island supporting contemporary creativity through curated events introducing poets, writers, and musicians to its audience.