Passion to fashion. That phrase best describes Lisa Folawiyo, a Nigerian law school graduate turn fashionpreneur who took Africa’s fashion industry by storm by turning a hobby into a global enterprise while revolutionizing the art of wearing Ankara (a traditional Indonesian batik formerly known as Dutch wax common in West Africa and widely used across the continent) in the process.
Inspired by fashion as a child, Lisa launched her signature jeweled Ankara wax print designs, Jewel by Lisa (JBL), into the fashion industry in 2005 without a formal training in fashion design and just two tailors. The first clothing she ever designed was a three-tiered Ankara skirt, hand decorated in March/April 2005.
“When I started Jewel by Lisa, I worked from home, by myself, and hired able-hands of one or two tailors, and it was very much a passion, just something I loved doing.”
Today, the trained lawyer turn fashion designer has about 30 employees with active showrooms in Lagos and New York.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular fashion designers in her home country and Africa, Lisa is critically acclaimed as one of the first Fashionista to popularize the art of embellishing African native Ankara fabric into a fashionable outfit on the global scene. Apart from this, she pioneered the use of Ankara on fashion runway and her designs have since been sold in Nigeria, South Africa, the UK and the US markets.
Her attention to detail has earned her an enviable position in the fashion world as each JBL garment is handcrafted, individual and unique. In achieving a phenomenal piece, she uses the highest quality Ankara from the Vlisco-hollandais brand laced with Swarovski crystals, sequins, beads and other accessories.
In turning the Ankara fabric into a youthful and fashion forward chic style that cuts across different age groups, Lisa has managed to carve a niche for herself in Africa’s fashion industry.
On how she has been able to successfully incorporate beadwork in her designs, Lisa once said: “We started with Ankara from Nigeria. For me, it is a fabric that has been worn and used forever. I needed to see it differently. I’ve always liked beading, so I thought why don’t we jewel this and make it special (by) re-texturiz(ing) the Ankara fabric. I do feel like I just wanted something extra special. Something detailed that takes it from A to wherever.”
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