temi Elite Living AfricaTemi Otedola, founder of JTO fashion. Temi Otedola, founder of JTO fashion and our new style columnist, speaks to Elite Living Africa about Nigeria's flourishing fashion industry

Although I live in London, as a fashion blogger who is also proudly Nigerian, I get asked about the state of the fashion industry back home. If I am being completely honest, I didn’t really know anything about Nigerian fashion, let alone designers in other parts of Africa when I launched my website 18 months ago. Despite living in Lagos for the first eight years of my life and incessantly travelling back ever since, I never went to shops in Nigeria or bought anything whilst visiting.

Fortunately for me, the voyage into blogging opened my eyes to the vast Nigerian fashion industry that was growing right before me. As I was approached by African designers and attended events in Lagos, it was astonishing to find out how much novel creation was going on. But it’s tricky to simply stumble across these new brands, you have to take it upon yourself to find out who is on the rise in Nigerian fashion.

I learnt more last year, when I was an official ambassador for Lagos Fashion and Design Week. Each day I was eager to see the creations from established Nigerian fashion heavyweights - Lanre da Silva, Tiffany Amber, Maki Oh and many others. As I interviewed the designers and spoke to other influencers, it was astonishing to see how excited we all were about what was to come in Nigerian fashion. That’s not to say Nigerian designers have not left an international mark already – Michelle Obama is a huge fan of Maki Oh and even hosted her at the White House. I would say that my favourite European brands vary from Rosie Assoulin to Kenzo, but there is an enigmatic uniqueness found in Nigerian collections that is hard to obtain elsewhere.

As well as luxury Nigerian fashion, affordable designers are spilling through the seams in Lagos and other African capitals including Johannesburg and Nairobi. The latter boasts exceptional talent such as 2ManySiblings and accessories brand Adèle Dejak. Unsurprisingly, it is the younger, newer wave of designers who want their peers and the public to buy homegrown talent. As a Nigerian who predominantly owns European and American-based brands, I’m undeniably a part of the problem. But I’m also excited to witness and be a part of the new generation of creatives striving to make a lasting difference.

ELA: Your fashion blog has an incredible following. How did it come about?

Temi: My life has always been centred on fashion, design and art so I started my blog to create a platform where I could express my passions and creativity.
I didn’t know if anyone would read it, so I’m proud of how much it’s grown and where it’s headed.

ELA: Your personal style is unique and fun. Have you always been interested in fashion?

Temi: I’ve always been enthralled by fashion. I love throwing contrasting pieces together and finding unique items in unlikely places. I honestly believe you’re never too old to play dress-up.

ELA: How important is it to ensure young African designers are able to develop their talents and thrive?

Temi: Supporting young designers is crucial in ensuring the future of African fashion remains bright.
Africa undoubtedly has the talent, so it’s all about making sure all that aptitude materialises into something tangible.
ELA: Favourite fashion and beauty brands?

Temi: I love Alessandra Rich, Zara and Claudie Pierlot for classic pieces you can mix and match easily. Some of my favourite Nigerian designers include Bridget Awosika and Maki Oh because they design their collections with a profound aesthetic in mind. I keep my beauty regime simple, sticking to brands I have been using forever – Eve Lom and Sodashi for my skin, Bobbi Brown and YSL for makeup.

ELA: What are your favourite destinations?

Temi: My most memorable places so far have been the Maldives, Rio de Janeiro and Cap Ferrat. However, as an art history student, Rome and Paris are my all-time favourites

ELA: What are your ambitions for the future?

Temi: I hope to continue developing my blog and seeing the different paths in fashion it could lead me down. However, my plan is to ultimately work in art dealing after graduating from university.