Whenever I come across talent that is unusual, yet captivating, the first thing that crosses my mind is “how on earth did they realize they could do that?”
For the first time, I got answers; but that is not even my favourite part of this conversation. It is how this 23-year-old, award-winning fashion designer is redefining fashion, one jaw-dropping piece at a time.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Oyinda Akinfenwa and I am 23 years old. I am the last child of four and a Christian. I’m an introvert and I enjoy watching movies and TV shows. I love eating good food and I’m also a big fan of yoghurt.
What was growing up like? Did you already have any idea what career you wanted to go into?
Growing up was fun for me. I’m the last child so I grew up alone mostly because my siblings are a lot older than I am, so I got all the attention. It was when I attended a boarding secondary school, my introvert traits started showing up. At the time, I didn’t have any idea what career I wanted to pursue but I loved modelling and planning social events.
Did you get a chance to explore these fields?
I joined a modelling team and was involved in a modelling contest back in university. I was also in a dance group, and these two groups happened to plan events which I helped out with from time to time, but all that ended around my 3rd year.
Interesting. I know you studied law at the university, how did that happen?
Well, I didn’t have a definite career path when it was time to choose for university, so I went with what my parents wanted because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
Do you regret it?
No, I do not regret studying law.
Do you practice or intend to practice law?
I do intend to practice but at the moment, I want to also pay more attention to my brand. I have plans of doing that next year because I’m in the NYSC program at the moment.
Let’s talk about your brand, Janore. What inspired the idea?
Before I made the first design, I’d never thought about making clothes. I was just at home that day and I was bored. So I decided to play around with my mum’s scarves and it turns out I can sew and I just kept going because it made me happy and it felt like I could do something. My brand kicked off when I wanted to see these designs I made for myself on other people, which inspired me to create a brand using my name (Janet + Oreoluwa). So, I decided to start my brand and I’m glad I did.
Building a brand is cost implicative. Did you have to worry about getting capital?
Yeah, though my family pretty much covered most of it. My sister got me my first machine; at first, she got me a small one, and when I showed more interest in sewing then she got me an electric one.
Winning the Fidelity SME Spotlight award in 2020 helped a lot too. There is also the fact that people are always ready to support my brand if I ever need anything because it shows promise. It makes me very happy and motivates me. I can’t thank them enough for believing in me.
So, who do you make clothes for? Who is a Janore woman?
I make clothes for all ladies. I try as much as possible to make sure that no matter the type of style you prefer, you can always get something from my brand – might be a whole design or one of the styles you get from one design.
A Janore woman is someone who is not afraid to try new styles, explore fashion styles and make a statement with what they wear. The Janore brand also reminds women that they’re beautiful at all times and should be proud of themselves no matter what they experience daily.
At what point did you start getting recognition for your design skills?
From the beginning, people seemed to like what I did and over time, the attention continued to grow with more designs I made. It just kept going and here we are.
Does recognition often translate to patronage?
Ha, no it doesn’t. I don’t mean that I don’t get patronized, but recognition doesn’t automatically mean patronage. When more people know about you, over time they remember you, and eventually, they want to buy from you. That’s how you keep pushing and remain consistent.
Your brand is notable for making clothes that can be worn in at least 2 different ways. Why did you choose this identity?
The identity wasn’t planned. I tried to work on an outfit one time and felt I could style it in a different way because I wasn’t sure which style to go for and I decided to keep the different styles. it made sense to me, which made me continue to explore different ways of styling and it stuck to my brand.
I’m guessing it is quite the pressure to always come up with multiple designs for one fabric. Do you ever wish you could simply make one design and call it a day?
Well, sure but I still try to find different ways to style it in my head so I think it’s stuck now but I will definitely try single way styled designs again soon.
What is the average cost of a Janore piece?
Fifteen thousand Naira.
You are also a real estate agent? Tell us about that.
This happened because I needed a placement for NYSC and I wasn’t ready to work at a law firm, so I was given the opportunity to work in a real estate and surveying firm instead. So far it’s been going great, I get to learn something different from what I’m used to and also in an area that has high success rates. It’s always a good idea to invest in real estate because the value keeps appreciating. I love it.
Having 2 active careers must be challenging to handle all by yourself. How do you make it work?
Honestly, it’s hard because I barely have time for myself. I’m always thinking about work; sometimes I have to work on agreements for clients, other times I have to go to the office every day and I have to make sure customers are satisfied and that the clothes are coming out great. It’s a whole lot but I’m pushing and soon, I’ll be focusing fully on my fashion brand.
What does the future look like to you, in fashion, law, and real estate?
With fashion, the future is scary but I’m ready for it. I know I have to keep going and always reach for the stars especially because fashion is what you make it to be, so I have to keep putting out my best, stay consistent and hope that people keep loving what I do and keep wishing me the best and supporting me. I plan to expand my business to different countries and eventually take it to the top where anyone can see the designs and say “that’s a Janore piece”.
With Law, there’s always going to be a place for me here because I’ll always be a lawyer.
With real estate, maybe down the line, I’ll make it my part-time business because I can always edit it and decide how much work I want to take on or not. Overall, I wish myself the best and I hope that all my hard work pays off.
I hope so too and I wish you the very best!
Oyinda is one of the many Nigerian fashion designers making clothes that can be styled in many ways. Her creativity is mind-blowing, but as evident in our conversation, her passion for her work is even more inspiring. The Janore brand represents sustainable, yet affordable fashion, and with the trajectory of the fashion industry right now, Oyinda just might be a few steps ahead of her time.