By Yemisi Suleiman
Former beauty queen and Chief Executive of the EneMaya brand, Ene Lawani recently added another feather to her fashionable hat, with the launch of her ‘throw on’ jackets and abayas, at the Polo Avenue Victoria Island.
Like the turbans which she launched six years ago, Ene is poised to create awareness on the beauty of accessorizing an outfit with throw on jackets, for that lady who wants a sophisticated accessory to compliment her outfit .She spoke to Allure on her new direction,business life and dreams for the EneMaya brand.
What is the idea behind your recently launched line?
The idea steams from what has always been a plan to start trends and look for stylish ways women can accessorize,just like the turbans, a stylish jacket, throw on or robe can change an outfit from being drab to fab. Making jacket a staple in any lady’s wardrobe. As an accessory to an outfit,I want women to understand that throw ons or jackets are not only worn in cold climates but it can enhance and elevate an outfit.
What fabrics do you work with and how does your inspiration come?
I work with all kind of fabrics to create a jacket or robe, e.g. silk chiffon,velvet,lace,mesh,cotton,crepe,taffeta,raw silk etc..The fabric most times determines the overall design,to add life and structure to the piece. My inspiration comes mostly from my personal style experience, from travels and interactions I have had with people around the world.
What were the challenges you faced when you started your turban line and now jackets?
When I started the turban and headpiece line six years ago, people were a bit skeptical about turbans but I’m happy six years down the line,it has become a huge fashion trend and fashion milestone, especially the Velvet turbans. With the jackets,it’s been accepted as we now make bolder fashion statements and understand that jackets,throw ons and robes not only help cover up but also elevate an outfit,making the wearer look feminine,regal and elegant.This is also the same way a suit makes a man look smarter.
You have being in the business for a while now, and practically pioneered turban wearing amongst fashionistase. How would you describe your evolution from when you started and now?
I wouldn’t say I pioneered it only for the elite as my customers base includes women from various class of the society especially for the fashionably savvy woman who wishes to make a statement while still being stylish.Style evolves and the turban trend had evolved to be a fashion staple in most women’s wardrobes. We have evolved from the designs we started six years ago to introducing new collection to out turban line giving it an edge from the others. For example we introduced the feathered pieces,crystallized pieces,flower pieces,fabric rosette,silk turbans and loads of other designs which are unique to the brand.
Is the turban business lucrative, are you smiling to the bank?
Maybe. when I started,it was a bit difficult and challenging.I sold from my house, and car for a year,six years down the line,the EneMaya brand now has three stand alone stores in Lagos and Abuja and over five retailers round the country.
Talking about your jackets, how fashionable are they in Nigeria, considering our weather?
The beautiful thing about the EneMaya jackets,throw ons, robes and Abayas are our choice of fabrics. There are different kinds of Jackets which are light and easy and can be worn in this part of the world.
How do you incorporate them into your wardrobe, ie what can you wear them with ,and to where?
There are different designs to incorporate and suit the conservative lady, who wants to stay modest, but stylish. We also have the bold avante garde pieces.
They can be worn with long slips,skirts,dresses,trousers and can be worn for any occasion.
You named your turbans after some celebrities, why?
Not all of them are named after celebrities; they are mostly fashion forward women from all around the country. These women have dared to be bold and different, and have worn our turbans and hats; so we decided to honour them for their fashion choice, and staying with our brand.
You were former Miss Nigeria, what do you think about the quality of peagents these days?
I think there are more pageants, and more queens and over the time, it has helped the confidence of young ladies around the country. But, I think there should be a little more control, so young girls are not taken advantage of.
Would you say being Miss Nigeria was the best thing that happened to you in life?
Not particularly the best but, it gave me a platform to be able to impact on lives positively, through my pet project on ‘Prevention of Malaria’ in Nigeria;I led a national awareness campaign tour with emphasis on promoting healthy lifestyle.
How would you describe your personal style?
Eccentric chic,classic and elegant. I love adding a tinge of eccentricity to my outfit.
What do you think about the fashion industry in Nigeria?
It has grown in leaps and bounds from what it was ten years ago. Now ,we have more fashion shows, and more people buying Nigerian.We have evolved into fashion risk- takers and this means we have grown tremendously.
How do you stay relevant in the industry?
Being different and constantly being creative. We try to stay one step ahead of our last designs.
Which Nigerian designer makes your clothes and why?
I buy a lot from different Nigerian designers, but lately, I have been designing most of my outfits.
How do you relax?
I indulge in spa treatments, a lot. It helps me relax.
Best advice you have been given so far?
Be different and always carve a niche for yourself.
What is your dream for Ene Maya brand?
International recognition and to have franchise stores within and outside Nigeria.