10 minutes with Isi Omiyi
By Jemi Ekunkunbor
Isi Omiyi is the Creative Head of two indigenous footwear and bag labels; Shoetique and ISI OMIYI by Shoetique.
After attending a shoemaking school at the Gracesprings Vocational Center run by the Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, she fell in love with the process and realized there is nothing more she would like to do Thank to go into production.
In 2016, she took a bold step and started her company. The rest they say, is history.
Why did you choose shoe production?
It happened quite by accident. When I learnt the basics, I decided to try creating my own designs and it worked so well. By then I had fallen in love with the process and there was no going back for me.
Does having big feet limit your shoe style?
It used to, but now that I produce my own shoes. I have the luxury of being able to create and make what I like no matter the size. That is why my designs are popular with stylish women who have big feet.
What challenges do you face with your brand?
It is funny you ask this. Our biggest challenge has been coming up against the perception of “Made in Nigeria” being synonymous with bad quality. People still question us because they are surprised at how flawless our finishing is. Getting that finish is another challenge because artisans are used to cutting corners. But, would rather waste leather than compromise on the finish.
Where and how do you source for materials?
I have had to be creative in sourcing genuine animal skin here in Nigeria – We use crocodile and leather from the north, and Snake skin from Delta area. Accessories and other bits like zips, I mostly bring in from abroad. Not forgetting good old Mushin market which can be a treasure trove if you are willing to search and have a good eye for quality.
Is there a celebrity you would like to wear your brand?
I have had a few celebrities wear my brand; but if I was to choose, it would be Megan markle, Michelle Obama and here at home, it would be Funke Akindele, Ibukun Awosika and Tiwa Savage. I love women who are generous with sharing their gifts with the world.
How has your life in fashion been?
It has been a myriad of emotions – ranging from excitement to pure horror. Like anything else it has its ups and downs, but all in I am loving the journey.
What won’t you do in the name of fashion?
I will not blindly follow any trend that doesn’t make sense to me. I will not wear those tight body shapers that won’t allow you to breathe or move properly. Count me out. Also, I won’t wear shoes I can’t walk in. I love fashion but it must work for me and rather than me work for it.
What are your favourite fashion items?
I know you have heard it before but a good handbag can do wonders to lift your look – no matter what you are wearing. My next favourite would be my rings – especially after a good manicure. They just have a way of adding a touch of elegance.
What brands do you like to wear?
I don’t particularly choose my clothes by the brand. I dress based on what suits my shape and skin tone and the weather. It may be African print from Simply ethnic Collection, or from London high street shops. I always try to look unique in whatever I wear.
On a special occasion describe your style?
I go for simple, chic every time with some stand out statement jewellery.
What do you wear on an ordinary day?
At home or at work, I’m almost always in a t-shirt with shorts or simple shift dresses – especially on hot days!
How has your style changed over the years?
I have evolved from tomboy in jeans to finding simple elegant outfits that truly express my style while being comfortable. To be honest, I expect my style will continue to evolve as time goes on.
Do you have any pieces in your wardrobe you like wearing no matter how old you are?
Yes I do have a couple of shirt and wrap around dresses. These are Classics and always in style .
What are some favourite pieces in your closet right now?
My bespoke kaftans. They are made with chiffon, stones and beading and they are very versatile and eclectic. I can wear them to church, weddings as well as business meetings.
Who inspires you in terms of how they dress?
That is hard to say because Nigerian women as a rule are very savvy, fashion-forward creative dressers. So I would say Nigerian women inspire me with their creative combination of traditional and modern.
What is the best part about being your age?
The freedom to be myself. I don’t stress about what people will say or do. I am more able to express myself without fear of who is going to judge me. I also love the fact that my children are grown and independent so I have more time to focus on developing myself and following my dreams
What are your favourite beauty items?
My daughter is a makeup artist and she has taught me a lot about skincare. My favourite products are
Makeup: Ashton Lipstick by Anastasia Beverly Hills and Mac Mineral Gold deposit highlighter
Perfume: YSL Cinema, Corsx oil free moisturiser, and of course, sunscreen. I can’t do without sunscreen.
Which designer outfit do you covet to wear?
I would like a red-carpet worthy outfit, custom made by Valentino and shoes from Stuart Weitzman.