ALLURE COVER: BOLA YAHAYA – THE CREATIVE KID
Every year, over 20 Nigerian youths get the opportunity to birth their dreams.
In 2018, three participants emerged winners at the 5th edition of ”Dare2Dream” grand finale, they are Olawaiye Olamide Chiedoziem, Emmanuella Alile and Bola Yahay, in three different categories: Modeling, Performing Artiste and Designer.
The ‘Dreamers’ in a chat with Allure express excitement that their dreams came true.
BOLA YAHAYA-THE CREATIVE KID
Self-taught Nigerian fashion designer, Yahaya Taofiq Abolarinwa started his fashion brand, ‘Yahaya Bolarinwa NG’ in April 2018 to create a range of Prêt-a-couture for Nigerian women, who are influenced by his clash of culture.
An alumnus of the ‘Dare 2 Dream’ initiative, who was opportune to be professionally trained, the designer has indeed dared his imagination and winning.
A post-graduate Diploma student of Mass Communication at University of Lagos, 24-year-old Bolarinwa is a curious creature, and his love for extracurricular activities has given him the opportunity to express his many talents, which include but not limited to arts, crafts and DIY projects.
In this interview, the winner of the Designer Category, at the 5th season of ”Dare2Dream” opens up about his encounter with Dare2Dream initiative, the journey as a ‘dreamer’ and what he is bringing to the Nigerian fashion industry.
For how long have you loved fashion designing?
Fashion design has been a life long passion for me. I was the creative kid who designed custom birthday cards for everyone. Also, I would drape dolls in scrap fabrics I sourced from the tailor’s dustbin.
I started considering Fashion as a career path when I gained admission into the University of Ilorin for my first degree. I joined an organisation called Junior Chambers International, where I was encouraged to make a living out of my hobbies. Fashion, of course, was the go-to hobby for me.
I consider myself a self-taught designer because a lot of the things I currently know about fashion are things I learned online. I, however, had to brush up my skills at some point because many of the fashion houses I was applying to intern wanted a certification, to show that I knew fashion.
In a country where parents believe going to school and studying courses that they think are more dignifying. How was it like telling your parents that fashion is what you want?
Initially, I faced a little resistance from my parents, especially my dad. But they are open-minded people, and as such, I was able to convince them through my persistence. They saw that I loved making things, and they supported me in my fashion. So far, my family and friends have been my backbone. My sister got me my first sewing machine, as a birthday gift, and they all keep encouraging me to go on. I am grateful!
How did you discover Dare2Dream?
I discovered Dare2Dream while it was in its third season, but then, it was just the model category available. Fast forward two years, an Instagram advert popped up on my timeline about Dare2Dream, with a designer category. I quickly registered for the competition.
How was it like being among other youths like yourself in the camp, people you didn’t know at first?
I wouldn’t say they were people I did not know because we had started to familiarise with ourselves , via social media, even before we got to the Boot Camp. That made our first physical meeting seem like a reunion of some sort, rather than a first-time meet.
What were some of the things you learned during this competition and how has that formed you?
One major thing would be the importance of social media. Another would be the marketing masterclass. They have in a way made me a better entrepreneur. The future of fashion is online and with the classes, I feel I am ready to harness the opportunities of social media presence.
Who were some of the people you considered role models, and who are your role models right now and why?
Alexander McQueen, may his soul rest in peace, still influence me till date. He was an avant-garde designer and a great storyteller too.
Tell us about your internship with Mai Atafo?
How was it like, and what are some of the things you’ve learned with him?
Interning with Mai Atafo is a dream come true. I just started, and I cannot yet share with you my experience.
If you’ve made some exclusive pieces, what were the inspiration behind them, what’s your creative process like when you want to make an outfit?
I consider myself a storyteller, and to that effect, I want my dresses to reflect the stories I tell. My creative process starts basically with an idea. From that idea, I craft a story. Every garment in my collection interweaves in a way. For instance, the group I presented at the ”Dare2Dream” 2015 grand finale was in honour of the Yoruba sea goddess, Yemoja. But, because anyone can also explore the concept of Yemoja, I introduced her relationship with Olokun, the Yoruba, sea god.
For this cover, I wanted to explore the celebration of the three major Nigerian tribes, Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa; the layers of the Yoruba man’s garment, the drapes of an Igbo woman’s wrapper and the volumes of the traditional Hausa outfit.
What does winning ”Dare2Dream” mean to and for you?
Before my ”Dare2Dream” win, I had serious doubts as regards my future in fashion design. The industry is getting saturated, and you’d find a designer in every nook and cranny of the nation. Winning gave me the validation I needed, and the zeal to go on.
How would you describe yourself before and after?
Before, I would describe myself as scared.
After ”Dare2Dream”, it would be “Grown, better and ready.”
How available were the resources for your skills in the ”Dare2Dream” Camp?
We did little of what we put in for during the Bootcamp. The ”Dare2Dream” Bootcamp was an entrepreneurship course on its own, and I feel every young person should pass through it.
What do you think about the Nigerian fashion industry and how different do you think your pieces would be from the next designer?
As I said earlier, the industry is getting saturated, and everybody wants to be a “Designer”. I honestly wish there was more structure in the industry generally. More importantly, I want to see a fashion brand listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, maybe mine. (Laughs) I want to look at fashion brands existing long after their owners have passed. I want to see more Nigerian schools offering fashion, as a course. I want a lot of things.
Also in my years of studying way online, I have developed a unique design style. You can look at my piece anywhere and distinguish it from another person’s work.
Also, as a brand that tells stories, indigenous or otherwise, I want to be known for my creative draping and refined tailoring.
As a young designer, who do you make clothes for and why?
I make clothes for women who want to express themselves through their garments, who cherish freedom and the thrill that comes with it. The Bola Yahaya woman is a lover of luxury and originality. She doesn’t want to fit into cultures that limit her. She is the definition of “take me as I am”.
The brand was born in April 2018, due to a desire to make women feel beautiful, sophisticated and powerful. Another influence on my design is’ timeless garments’ and my mum’s style, which she wore when she was younger. The ultimate goal, however, is to build a financially sustainable fashion brand.
You have the opportunity to talk to young people like you, what wrong step would you advise them not to take and what single right step would you recommend they take?
First, I would advise that they dream that dream and work towards it. If you can dare to dream, you can achieve it. However, It is essential to put in the work.
You need to listen to feedback on your work and add value. Try as much as possible to collaborate, rather than compete. And share your knowledge with others.
On the other hand, do not be carried away by distractions.