FUNMI Ajila Ladipo has come a long way in the fashion industry. After more than two decades in the industry, Regalia, her fashion house has continued to churn out creative outfits from her stables. She relocated from her Ikeja base a couple of years ago to the Island. ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with her about her staying power, her success story and much more.
What has been happening in the house of Regalia, it is quite a while we heard from you.
A lot has been happening, we have had a lot of fashion shows, and we also had another show on Sunday, November 21 at the Kanekalon show. We staged a fashion exhibition there. Regalia is still on and we are waxing stronger by the day.
About 24 years ago when you started, what plan did you have in mind for Regalia?
I never really sat down to draw a master plan. I didn’t draw up a plan that this is what I want to do. I have always known that I am a very creative person. I know that is my world that is what I love to do. I was just growing by the day. I was so young that no one was putting me through. I went to school of fashion and I won the designer of the year 1987, 1988. Since then I have kept on moving. I believe God that by now, we should start making the money. I am just in the creative world, my world is just surrounded by that. I enjoy what I do.
Was there a particular time you felt like quitting?
No, it’s my world. I love to do it. When you love to do something and you have passion for it, it will look like magic to other people. For people who don’t have a passion for it, they quit, they run away from it. I have never thought of it and I will never think of it. At this stage, what else will I be doing well. I can do some little things by the side. I may quite maybe when my creator calls me. I can pass it on to my children. I have four beautiful girls.
Which particular one has shown interest in what you do?
The three of them. I will incorporate them into it very soon. Two of my daughters are already into something close to it, probably, they might not do it professionally. But they are already in it.
What is the greatest recurring challenge you have been facing?
The peculiar challenge of power and of course, finance. But if you have passion for something, you might not be right where you wish to be but you will keep on growing with it. Challenges are meant to be overcome.
Is it hard to be a designer?
No, it is not hard. If you have passion for something, it wouldn’t be hard for you. It will be hard for a carpenter. I love what I do and I have passion for it.
What is the most interesting thing about your work?
The creativity, the ability to imagine and bring things to reality.
What unique selling point separates you from every other designer?
The creativity, my own world that is why my logo says, Regalia fashion just for you.
You have been in the fashion world for quite a number of years now, what is your take on the industry?
I think the industry is growing. I won the designer of the year a couple of years back, I used the Ankara fabric for the show at that time. There were not too many people that liked it, but now, a lot of people welcome and even use the idea. It took a few years but it’s wonderful embracing it. We have grown to using our own fabric to do the things that we love to wear, because we are the ones that wear it.
When a client comes to you, what is the first thing that comes to mind as a designer?
I talk to the person, I want to know the kind of things she loves to wear. I like creative people, I like people we can flow together. So, I get to familiarize myself with the person. From there, the creativity flows. There are some clients that have certain designs in mind, but from my discussion with them, they tend to change it because they feel that design might not fit them.
How will you describe the styles from Regalia?
The kind of things I do are artistic and creative. I call them Afrocentric designs, things that are just me. The things you can’t pick on the street, the things you would know that a creative designer did them. They come in skirts, kaftans and dresses. I do different things apart from the regular that we wear. I am more of a creative person, I always look for something different to do.
You used to stay in Ikeja, Lagos but later relocated to the Island, didn’t it affect your client base?
I still have customers that are intact, irrespective of relocation. We talk on phone, if I need to take their measurement, sometimes, I go to them. I still have customers who will say it has to be Regalia and I have new ones as well. One thing about handicraft is that, if you are good, no matter where you are, people would look for you.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
My basic inspiration is from God. Before I start my design, I tell God about it. I also pick colours from nature.
As a designer, what are the things you wear?
I like to wear things that are comfortable. I wear simple things. I am not a heavy dresser.
You are still beautiful and young, what is the secret?
Thank you, it is God. I try to exercise, but it is not easy. I have even stopped but I eat healthy and try to be positive in everything. I just believe that life is simple. When you are in Christ, you are no longer in crisis.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, December 06, 2011