African Dream: Nigeria's Lisa Folawiyo

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Lisa Folawiyo trained to be a lawyer

Nigeria’s fashion designer Lisa Folawiyo’s shiny clothes have captivated people from Lagos to Cape Town, London, Paris, New York and Hollywood.She is the founder and creative director of Jewel by Lisa, a brand that specialises in Ankara textiles, the vibrant wax-resist dyed fabrics characteristic of West Africa and widely used across the continent.These clothes, originally based on traditional Indonesian batik and formerly known as Dutch wax, have been popular in Nigeria for generations.“Our mothers, grandmothers and probably great-grandmothers have worn this fabric,” Ms Folawiyo told the BBC series African Dream.But, as though they were not already bright enough, she decided to embellish them with beads, sequins and crystals, all sewn by hand, and the chic combination became an instant success.“I can confidently say that Jewel by Lisa was the originator of the embellished Ankara which we see today everywhere,” the designer said.“I have a huge clientele and I have been able to hire a showroom in New York, for instance, and from that showroom we have been able to be stocked in about two stores in New York. Also, I am stocked in a store in South Africa,” she added.


Lisa Folawiyo (@lisafolawiyo) is one of the best-loved designers in the African Fashion industry, a pioneer in the popularity of beaded ankara and internationally known for her fashion labels under the Jewel by Lisa umbrella, namely Jewel by Lisa, the J label and Pretty Precious kids collection. Although her work has been featured worldwide, from Lagos Fashion and Design week to New York Fashion Week, Folawiyo emphasises the notion of looking more inward rather than internationally for recognition.

Guardian life caught up with Folawiyo for a chat to celebrate International Women’s Month and find out more about her progression as a fashion designer in the Nigerian high society.

Creative Direction: @themadamezeta
Photography: @niyiokeowostudio
Makeup: @eyesome_beauty
Assisted Syling: @mruduku
Words: @beatriceporbeni


E News correspondent Catt Sadler (@iamcattsadler) was seen in two style pieces from Jewel By Lisa Autumn/Winter 2011 collection.

Catt wore a bandage-like mini-skirt which she followed up in a pink and white butterfly print wrap dress.

Gotta love that JBL is getting US TV shine!

Shout-out to Lisa Folawiyo, Creative Director and Founder of JBL!

Zara Okpara/Twitter/Jewel by Lisa


I had such a great time interning for Lisa Folawiyo as she and Zara Okpara revealed their first standalone collection at New York Fashion Week. The show took place at Laduree in Soho and the audience was in awe of Lisa and Zara’s lovely designs and presentation.

Photos by Chika Okoli


IOFAFRICA: In this episode, host Aina Fadina interviews Lisa Folawiyo, the creative director Jewel by Lisa, and Zara Okpara, head of PR at their showroom in Ikoyi, Lagos