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ALARA Founder & CEO Reni Folawiyo talks Redefining Luxury in Nigeria in CNBC Africa Interview



Reni Folawiyo - Bellanaija - June2014

Reni Folawiyo

Recently CNBC Africa‘s Didi Akinyelure sat down with Reni Folawiyo – CEO & Founder of luxury lifestyle store ALARA, dedicated to promoting contemporary art, fashion, cuisine and more in Lagos.

In the interview Reni shares her vision for the store set in the heart of Victoria Island, Lagos. She talks on the unique concept behind the store’s intricate exhibit-style architecture designed by world-acclaimed architect David Adjaye; it’s ethos of carrying modern luxury in Africa around the globe and more.

ALARA Lagos - BellaNaija - May 2015

The ALARA Lagos store

ALARA Lagos - BellaNaija - May 2015001 ALARA Lagos - BellaNaija - May 2015002

Watch the interview!

Photo Credit: @ALARALagos (Instagram)

Jennifer is the Beauty Editor & Style Representative of Get in touch - Send an email to: beauty(at) or style(at) | Follow us on Instagram: @bellanaijabeauty OR @bellanaijastyle | Follow us on Twitter: @bellanaijastyle


  1. nene

    May 20, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    the building is magnificent. the interior designs also really nice. she must be very rich because it seems like a lot of money has been spent. i’m weary of boutique owners, most boutiques are used as money laundering fronts.

    • Anon

      May 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Lateef Adegbite meets Wahab Folawiyo! Roger that. Money meets money.

      She has the best shoe game in Nigeria.

    • S!

      May 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      The Falowiyo’s are loaded. She is Jewel By Lisa’s sister in law.

  2. bn lover

    May 20, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Luxury kwa! So we are at the peak of poverty in 9ja we are still talking luxury. Sweet Jesus give us the grace and wisdom

  3. @edDREAMZ

    May 20, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said..
    Niceone gal no doubt….

  4. Omolade Adesina-Dean

    May 20, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    I applaud this lady and how she has executed the business. The design and concept is amazing…. However one of my major problems with the Nigerian ‘luxury’ industry from a business point of view is the absolute gap between consumer and commercial spending. Every luxury brand in the world is now commercial and relevant. They conduct 360 campaigns to entice consumers. It is part of the business. However luxury brands in Nigeria are yet to do anything like that. For years I have watched brands like JEWEL BY LISA and Lanre Da Silva- Brand never promoting their store or even the idea that here is the address please visit. They still like to portray this vague anonymity. and exclusivity. That is not luxury retail., Luxury retail creates exclusivity with price and quantity of designs. However it is accessible to everyone just as long as you can pay for it. We also need to understand many Nigerians do not know about these luxury brands whether Nigerian or International. Just like the amazing ground work Hennessey did to promote the brand when they launched in Nigeria, these luxury brands need to the same. If they think they can survive on just sales from people who live in lEKKI or VI it will not work, You should have young Nigerian girls saying when I grow up I want to buy a Lanre Da Silva Dress or a Jewel by Lisa top. 16 year old girls should be planning a day out to visit the Alara store wondering how many years it will take to save up to buy a piece. That is luxury and that is what a Luxury brand does. It creates a brand and a story around it to allure people to buy into it, Having a lovely store on the island is not enough. The people the media likes to term as ‘local’ and ‘razz’ who live live in amazing places like Warri and Ibadon…those are the people who you would be surprised have the money cash down to pay for these luxury items. They have more disposable income than those we like to think only live on the island. Lets grow the retail industry properly and value Nigerian consumer as a whole. Not based on your own circle of friends. (sorry for the long epistle)

    • Lulu

      May 20, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      You have actually hit the nail on the head, and it actually takes an intelligent mind and a brand minded person to see through these so -called nigerian luxury brands.

      Most of them don’t even know how to run brands anyways, they just always have some money and believe they can use their small circle affluence to sell. Thats why many businesses in Nigeria do not survive past the 5 – 10 years cycle.

      Anyways, Good luck to them

    • i no send

      May 20, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      well said

    • nene

      May 20, 2015 at 9:52 pm


    • lola

      May 20, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      wow. You nailed it. Are you by any chance in the business of fashion? If not, you need to start a biz as a retail consultant. This na osho free consultation.

    • Amethyst

      May 20, 2015 at 11:45 pm

      I totally agree with you Omolade you have hit the nail on the head. Merci.
      She has done a fantastic job – branding is very important not just having a eye catching store, but who is she targeting what age group. Is it for? Do sample sales. she will be so surprised about the turn out.The media as well will help to do a launch, advertise net working.sites.

    • Rolly

      May 20, 2015 at 11:55 pm

      Hands down the BEST comment I have read on this site. Your intelligence and eloquence is commendable. I absolutely love how you made your points without being rude or condescending. You should pursue a career in consultancy or branding/marketing. Excellent observations and brilliant points !!!! Please if you have a blog, let us know..

    • Yaya

      May 21, 2015 at 1:33 am

      Hello Omolade,
      I think it’s wrong to say things without proper research. These nigerian luxury brands have flagship stores and Stockists. Most of them encourage people to walk in and buy their pieces. Their addresses are written on their websites. I aspired to own a Jewel by Lisa piece since I found out about the brand and on my birthday, I walked into their store and got myself an embellished print skirt. I even got a discount because it was my birthday! Lisa Folawiyo even had her diffusion line stocked on Fashpa and at L’Espace. I actually do know that Lanre Dasilva Ajayi stocks at Temple Muse and released a collection with pictures on instagram stating that the pieces were available at Temple muse for purchase.
      So what is the fuss about?

    • Hmmm!

      May 21, 2015 at 3:02 am

      Hmmmm! Shop built with oil and gas subsidy money for oil and gas subsidy wives. Why on earth would you think they were interested in branding? Luxury and designer have a different meaning in Nigeria. Most international designers are actually graduates of design schools or they’ve worked as apprentices in a design house for years before breaking out solo. In Nigeria most designers are wives with too much time and money on their hands looking for a way to self promote, to be in the public eye, be on the blogs, in magazines, on instagram, go to fancy parties, dinners, hang out with celebs, attend New York Fashion Week to stay relevant. The tailors behind the scenes are the designers. If my husband had $400million in his bank account, I’d be a designer store too.

    • Ari

      May 21, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      You will be called a hater but you have just said the truth.

    • Seriously

      May 21, 2015 at 3:23 am

      Great point! I hope these designers can read your comment.

    • shannie

      May 21, 2015 at 5:01 am

      You are absolutely right. BN always feature designers and some of them have amazing collections, but they don’t think about setting up fully functional online stores so people can access the items. I don’t live in Nigeria and I have never been there. However, if I see something that I like, I want access to it, even if I may not be able to afford it.

      However, as the lady in the interview says, everything is about timing and even though Nigeria still has a long way to go, it will get there. Someone will be the catalyst that changes how luxury brands are promoted and how everyone can get access to them, even if they don’t have the financial means to attain it.

    • Ewa

      May 21, 2015 at 10:31 am

      Spot om. Was just having a conversation with my colleague on how the retail industry is the business. Ask Nigerian banks and they’ll tell you where they make their money from. Not the HNI’s but from retail. Wish our luxury fashion brands will tap into this.

    • Wale

      May 21, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      You drove the point home-totally agree.

    • Ijeoma

      October 31, 2015 at 12:19 pm


      Please, I REALLY need to TALK with you. Please how can I contact you?

  5. deb

    May 20, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    GOD bless u OMD. Omolade Adesina Dean. That was how I mailed Lanre dasilva last year for enquries about making a dress, they dint even reply. Later I now saw the dress she made for genevieve @the last AMVCA, I laughed and threw tantrums. Thank GOD for zuhair murad&elie saab.

  6. hmmmm

    May 20, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Omolade …You are so on point

  7. Maryjane

    May 20, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    You sound intelligent and talented. Use your talent well.

  8. Orisa

    May 20, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Its interesting that it’s not only up market fashion boutiques that dont respond when you enquire about products. Even jewellery makers like Gee Balo also ignore enquires. How they expect to grow their business is beyond me.

    • Rolly

      May 21, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Honestly. I see celebrities wearing their pieces all the time but really is that it? Why go through all that wahala of creating a brand if you are accessible to just about 15-25% of the population (I made that statistics up cause I really have no idea what the population of celebs in naija is) …sometimes these people even get the items free of charge for promo

      What I’ve noticed is that these luxurious brands are not remotely interested in serving the general public. They think these celebrities (who most of the time are living pretentious lives) are the only ones worthy of wearing their items.

    • Ewa

      May 21, 2015 at 10:38 am

      They’re not even up to 1% of our 170M population.

  9. Muse

    May 20, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    OAD well wriiten. Truth is luxury is SO LAME in Nig. We are too fake and live in denial. Maybe cars but the rest is just bogus. I cant be running a business for just my friends and family and once in a green moon customers. Most of them have no clue and because of our class conscious society that looks down on people as too cheap and too low and too razz even with earning power , when infact they are the clients they should be going after, they would rather the so called elites that are not so rich when they have to spend there, the ones with chips on their shoulders as if the money is pouring over and pretend, but nothing really. They are even trying these days engaging nollywood or nollywood is engaging them because they are making cash. We do things the other way round, most of these designers survive because their husbands and fathers bleeding the country (most) can pad their expenses at the worst their margins are so low if their structure is transparent. The comment about money laundering is not a lie. I am afraid to say, if in all honesty this shop runs by itself as it is with this concept it will be hard to recoup returns in even 15yrs. Longer term yes. best is value for real estate appreciation. We will see, I am proud of her in spite of it, her vision and best of all, her decision to promote African artists and designers. and I love David Adjaye’s work on it. We should invest in other things before looking at luxury on this level. It feels like opening an LV store in ajegunle. Best of luck to Mrs. Folawiyo but you must be quick on your feet.

  10. Letty

    May 21, 2015 at 1:30 am

    Rolly 15-25% is very generous. Its more like 5 percent. These women run around in the same circles I’m sure the merchandise will be outrageously overpriced and not readily accessible. When you enter stores like this they size you up to determine if you are worth their while. They cater to a very small niche Reni seems like a nice lady her husband is a billionaire. She really does have some serious money at her disposal. This store will cater to people in the top percentile of her income bracket and to the rest of the populace will serve pretty much as a museum and eye candy.

    The one thing that astounds me in nigeria is the deep disparity between the uber rich and the poor who are wallowing in grinding poverty. It almost seems surreal. Nigeria is really a nation with immense contrasts. I will like to visit her store when in Nigeria purely to feast my eyes and admire the set up. Now purchasing merchandise might be a stretch . All the same good luck reni for bringing your vision to reality

  11. Letty

    May 21, 2015 at 1:45 am

    I love the serious discourse going on here. Whenever i visit nija i am flabbergasted by the shallowness priorities seem misplaced. Most conversations are superficial and empty people even wonder if i really live in America because i am so down to earth very simple and unpretentious. I hope this store provides employment to young people and really promotes budding up and coming talent not the same old same old names we have seen and heard.

  12. Bisi Shobanjo

    May 21, 2015 at 2:08 am

    I believe ALARA has embraced arts not only of the Nigeria culture but across the Continent of Africa and Western Worlds . As Owner, so eloquently narrated. She has turned investibale concepts to marketable concepts in Nigeria. International luxury brands are not created overnight but constantly evolve through Quality, Creativity and Innovation. I am sure ALARA would look at the best Channels to promote their brands across the globe. I am also confident that, comprehensive promotional plannings are under considerations. We must recognize and accept why certain “goods ” are called ” luxury”. Pricing and quality!. It is only those who have the disposable Incomes that affords them. The key is positioning oneself for Sucess, so to attain desirable lifestyles.

  13. Aju Kuti

    May 21, 2015 at 3:47 am

    We love it all d way

  14. Wow

    May 22, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Tunde folawiyo oil subsidy money. That is interesting. I don’t live in Nigeria and I haven’t figured out what this oil subsidy means. I know this is an aside from the conversation at hand but can someone explain what oil subsidy is

  15. Adun

    May 26, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    I have to say, listening to the interview and reading the comments on here, I feel unusually compelled to write something – this appears to be a well-informed and well-designed concept store that celebrates and educates us about the best of Africa. I agree with Omolade that luxury and branding is something to be built/attained to, but Alara here is a retail store like Selfridges, so I think the brands themselves need to build their own images, whilst Alara can be the curator and retailer for them. I intend to visit the store when next I’m in Nigeria. Hopefully it is not too exclusive and too unattainable, but it looks like it could be a very interesting building, and an experience in itself – perhaps over time, they could have other angles that cause foot traffic, so it is like Omolade said, an escapist destination in its own right.

    David Adjaye’s involvement is also a plus, and looks like one of the many directions retail should be taking, especially the focus on celebrating African identity with GOOD quality, well-crafted products (and hopefully not prohibitively expensive) which is not always the case when one visits African shows/fairs. So well done, onwards and upwards…

  16. Nicki

    January 3, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Yes, firstly the building is reminiscent of the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham, North London. So David should have designed something different. Secondly the Folowiyo’s are seriously wealthy but besides that, Reni has always been talented in designing and creating and being ahead. Some ten years ago, I purchased a leather bound ‘bin’ for magazines from an interior design shop in Ajose Adeogan, Victoria Island, and it was designed by herself. One cannot argue about the poverty but I think it’s great that Reni has put to use her wealth to create a store which is so beautiful, even if it’s just to go in to look and dream…..

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