Mariam Elisha is the true definition of beauty with brain. She is the entrepreneur behind Rikaoto by Me, one of Nigeria’s top clothing lines. Her designs are always elegant, classy and beautiful. Overtime, she has been known to clothe beauty pageant contestants and beauty queens.
In a chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly, she shared why she designs and makes clothes for beauty queens, the secret behind the name, Rikaoto by Me and how she keeps her skin flawless and beautiful.
How was 2015 for Rikaoto?
2015 was awesome for Rikaoto. About 14 beauty queens emerged wearing Rikaoto outfits. Well meaning individuals both in Africa and outside also wore our outfits. We are really grateful to God. Rikaoto is moving forward, I am happy and still pushing.
Looking back, can you say you were able to achieve some of the goals you laid down for 2015?
I’ll say I achieved half of them. Business wise in 2015 was awesome but personally, there were things I would have loved to do that I couldn’t meet up with probably due to work.
What are your laid out plans for 2016?
At Rikaoto, we intend to do a lot of fashion shows in 2016, like the New York Week, and the Mercedes Fashion Week in Johannesburg, South Africa. We intend to do lot of shows. We’ve not done so many shows in Nigeria. So, we’ll be doing that this year.
We would also be opening a store in the UK this year. That would be towards the middle of the year. The store would be in Parklane area.
Looking at when Rikaoto started, you have actually made a success out of the business at a tender age. How have you been able to achieve all of these?
I would just say it is by the grace of God. When I started modelling, I went into beauty pageants. At a point, I felt that I should do something more professional. Not that those others were not professional but as you get older, you get to do things that fall into place, like building a career, so to say.
So, I thought Rikaoto and it was difficult for me to change from being a beauty queen to a fashion designer. A lot of people find it very difficult to accept, they are always like, you are just too beautiful. You are just to stand and smile, you are not meant to take my measurement. You don’t need the money and other stuff like that.
It was a bit difficult but with time, people got to accept the brand and with lots of help from friends and people around me. People gave me the opportunity to make stuffs for them, and here I am today. I would just say it has been a blessing and I am lucky that people accepted the brand as fast as possible.
We’ve been able to release great collections that people compliment. So, it is great.
Would you be unveiling any collection for 2016 anytime soon?
Yes, I would be unveiling some collections towards the end of February. The collections are inspired by the colours of the sky. It is going to be a mixture of the colours of the sky (blue and white). Basically, it is just to lay emphasis on nature as well as fashion put together to compliment the human physique. What I’m doing this season is basically for women.
Looking at your designs they are always so lovely and unique, how do you draw your inspiration?
It all depends on my mood at that time. It’s just like an artiste sitting down to write a song. What comes to your mind, what you think of, the colours that come to your mind at that time and stuff like that. What I usually do is think of that and also try to put it into what’s in trend at that moment and create something out of it that I feel people would want to wear.
Looking at how amazing your designs turn out, we would like to know where you trained, especially when it comes to the outfit for beauty queens?
I learnt the basics first, then I proceeded to New Jersey Fashion School to learn how to do the colour blending, balancing and pattern placement.
How did you come about the name Rikaoto?
It means fruitful. It is from my dialect, I am Hausa from Kebbi State. It is also my other name. When I was thinking of starting my company, I was thinking of different names, then I felt Rikaoto is a good meaning and people like it.
So, I chose Rikaoto by Me. The ME is for Mariam Elisha, instead of Mariam Elisha Fashion Collection or Mariam Elisha Couture (laughs).
What inspired you to start making clothes for beauty queens?
When I was starting a fashion line, I did not actually intend making clothes for beauty queens. I just found out that pageants don’t usually look colourful and flashy on stage like the ones I’ve been opportuned to see outside the country.
I thought of what I could do to make ours look like that because our girls are really beautiful but the packaging has to be together. So, I felt that I should do something that would wow the audience when they see the girls on stage. I am just lucky that we have lots of beauty queens emerging with the brand but it wasn’t planned or premeditated.
People have the impression that you design more for beauty queens?
Yes, people do and I don’t know why. I think I even do more of bridal outfits, so people might think I do more of beauty queen outfits because the beauty queens get to talk about the brand and showcase the dresses more.
Can you tell us what makes a good designer?
A good designer must pay attention to details. I love when I see a dress, even if it’s not so flashy, the sewing has to be neat, the finishing has to be on point. That is what I call a good designer. Also your ability to be able to design based on the client’s personality or the client’s body, posture and all of that because some styles may not suit someone’s kind of body stature.
So, you have to know that body type and know what can go well, what colour can go for the skin tone and figure out something to do.
You are always looking beautiful, what is your daily beauty routine?
Normally, I don’t usually pay so much attention to beauty routine, but I make sure I take a lot of water in the morning and wash my face before I go to bed, take off my makeup. When I wake up in the morning, I wash my face, even if I am not ready to take a shower and sometimes I use cleanser to wipe off and make sure I don’t have any dirt on my face because I like feeling fresh when I am home.
I don’t really have a routine per se but I just work around that.
You make clothes for people all the time, do you ever have time to make clothes for yourself?
That’s the question. I don’t ever have the time to make clothes for myself, most of the time. I have to leave my dress and work on the customers clothes but I try as much as possible to look good when I am going out.
When last did you make something for yourself?
I made something last week to wear to church (laughs).
How long has Rikaoto by ME been in business?
We’ve been operating for about six years now.
Where do you see Rikaoto by ME in four years, when you are 10?
Somewhere very far, making more money, more designs and more collections and of course having the brand produce more collections.
Who are your role models in the fashion world?
I have lots of role models. I love designers that are creative. Love to see creative work and I don’t have any designer that I would say this is the most fantastic design or interesting designer because design comes from the heart. I may not like your design this season, I may like it next season but your ability to make sure that more people like it than those that don’t like it is what makes you a good designer.
I just believe that designers are creative and they are unique in their different ways. All designers have different styles and I respect all designers for that.
Is there any runway you are presently eyeing?
I definitely want my designs on all runways, look forward to fashions shows and I love fashion shows. I love to see models wear our collection on the runway. I love to see people admire the brand. There is really no particular one that I would say I want to be in, because I love fashion shows generally.
As a designer, is there any fashion item that you can’t do without?
I used to be addicted to clothes, but not anymore. I love shoes, I make sure I spend lots of money on shoes.
Like how many shoes would one find in your closet?
I don’t know, like 300 pairs, maybe (laughs).
Are you in a relationship?
Yes, I am.
So, we should be seeing pre-wedding pictures soon?