Yemisi Makinde is the driving force behind the brand YEMISII which re-launched with its latest collection in Lagos, December 2010.
Yemisi has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong desire to succeed at everything she puts her mind to. 9 years ago she turned her passion for fashion and accessories into the Virtuoso fashion brand.
Virtuoso was a success as it hit the right notes with young professional women who wanted unique expressions through their fashion accessories. Virtuoso designs offered stunning yet unconventional creations .
The products gained global recognition and acceptance in fashion shows and exhibitions in Nigeria, South Africa, Europe, England and America, alongside other recognizable industry brands and talent, thus creating a global outlook for the brand. In 2007, Virtuoso evolved into YEMISII (a derivation of her first name).
YEMISII like Virtuoso set out to change the world of fashion through imagination and art. With a strong desire to celebrate the beautiful African heritage to utmost levels of sophistication and elegance YEMISII is firmly positioned as a fine connection between art and fashion, a new dimension to the word ‘style’. “ I love to rock the boat; I work with unusual but exciting media to create unique and innovative wearable art pieces. I see my work as art”, says Yemisi.
The new YEMISII collection titled L‘ AVENIR (the future) premiered in December 2010. It is specially designed for the sophisticated and stylish. Yemisi says her recent two year tour of Europe, South Asia and the United States has opened her eyes to new creativity and influences. This has deeply impacted the new collection L‘AVENIR. Her outlook is now firmly fixed on a future that announces progress, maturity and fulfillment.
BellaNaija.com talks to Yemisi Makinde about YEMISII and the new collection from the brand.
Ijeoma Ndekwu: When did you know you wanted to work in fashion?
Yemisi Makinde: I remember being about 6 years old and being enthralled by models, ballerinas, synchronized swimmers; elegant women in general. I knew from that early age, I would always be interested in what made those women look so magical and beautiful to me. My knack for customizing clothes and designing accessories became a full time job when I graduated from The University.
IJ: When you started Virtuoso 9 years ago, what was your vision for the brand?
YM: All I wanted for Virtuoso was to help women be more expressive of their personal style. I created Unusual and innovative accessories that redefined the norm and also kind of set the pace in terms of design aesthetics in Nigeria. I was a self taught designer for whom accessories design was simply a passionate means of self expression. I had no idea my brand would grow as quickly as it did or that my work would travel and be so well embraced in different parts of the globe.
IJ: How has the vision transition to the YEMISII brand?
YM: The transition has been more in the perspective, than in the vision of the brand. The vision has always been about understanding ones personal style and being able to express it in a way that ensures individuality and celebrates uniqueness. The transition is in the fact that we now do what we do with a global perspective; this calls for a much higher level of innovation in design, more maturity in terms of execution and craftsmanship also an undeniable sense of sophistication which we are now growing into.
IJ: Virtuoso is an award winning brand, so why the evolution to YEMISII?
YM: As Virtuoso, the products gained global recognition and acceptance in fashion shows and exhibitions in Nigeria, South Africa, Europe, England and America, alongside other recognizable industry brands and talent, this created an undeniable global outlook for the brand. The name Virtuoso however did not adequately celebrate the African essence we wanted to portray on the world platform. In 2007, Virtuoso evolved into YEMISII (a derivation of my first name), to reflect an authentic African brand with a global perspective.
IJ: What do you plan to do with Yemisii that is different from what was done with Virtuoso?
YM: Virtuoso, for all it’s innovation and uniqueness felt a little experimental to me. YEMISII is more deliberate in outlook, we are firmly positioned as a fine connection between art and fashion. With YEMISII, the desire is to celebrate our beautiful African heritage, but to utmost levels of sophistication and elegance we could not have attained as Virtuoso.
IJ: What inspires your work?
YM: My work is inspired largely by people, history, cultures different from mine, and more recently by travel. Design has always been for me a means to sharing my unique experiences and the amazing journey that is my life.
IJ: What was the inspiration behind L’ AVENIR?
YM: L’AVENIR is the french phrase for “the future”. The collection is reflective of the journey I have made so far in my work and also projects to the future I desire: One that announces maturity, progress, growth and emergence. A future where we are successfully able to grow gradually, from where we are to where we want to be; by learning to do better, the things we’ve done before. I see the future as an organic growth, of a progression we decide we want to make and then set out to gradually achieve. This thought was my inspiration for the collection L’AVENIR.
IJ: Why should the Nigerian public embrace your new collection- L’ AVENIR?
YM: Being a Nigerian, I understand the instinctive nature of Nigerians to always look good and cosmopolitan. We also have become more patriotic about finding and celebrating what makes us Unique. The new collection L’ AVENIR adequately meets both the need to look fabulous and the desire to celebrate who we are. The Unique designs, quality of materials used and level of craftsmanship places the collection firmly on a world class level.
IJ: You’ve described your two year tour of Europe, South Asia, and the United States as an eye opening experience to new creativity and influences. What are these influences and the new creativity?
YM: For me, it was the beautiful way people presented themselves, the preservation of their history, the celebration of their unique though different cultures. Practically everything I saw influenced my work. In Europe, It was Art: the expression and the preservation of it. In South Asia, it was the strong sense of culture, the United States just has a freedom in thought you find contagious. All these are elements that have greatly impacted me as a person.
IJ: Since you started your label, what has been your highest point, if any?
YM: One of my high points was receiving the St. Moritz award as the best designer in Nigeria at the time. Another was the day I first saw my work produced using the high production technique and equipment we lack in Nigeria.
IJ: You currently reside in Orange County, California, are there plans in the future to relocate back home?
YM: My husband and I talk about this inevitability but we haven’t put a date to it just yet.
IJ: With production centres in Lagos, Europe and USA, Yemisii is best described as a global brand, what are the challenges you experience in running a global brand?
YM: The difference in time Zones, language and cultural barriers, learning to understand how people think in various parts of the world where we produce. These are some of the challenges we need to overcome everyday. For the most part, it’s actually a lot of fun.
IJ: How do you present a beautiful African heritage to a global and obviously diverse audience?
YM: Design like art, is very subjective. To be able to adequately present a unique African edge to my designs, I have to be careful to ensure it is done with levels of sophistication and elegance which can be embraced by a diverse audience. In my designs, there are subtle elements that can convey a more powerful message. People usually are drawn by what’s new, fresh and Unique. Also by how well its been done and whether or not it meets the standard of expectation they have become accustomed to. If it doesn’t fit with who they are, they won’t buy into it.
IJ: Where do you see Yemisi as a person, and YEMISII as a brand in 10 years?
YM: Still learning, growing and evolving. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be able to do this 100% for the fun of it.