Celebrating Black Designers: Onalaja
Contemporary womenswear brand, Onalaja came onto the scene in 2014. The goal of the brand is to showcase the designer’s Nigerian heritage and Italian designer aesthetic.
The label’s founder, Kanyinsola Onalaja, started the brand after she graduated from Istituto Marangoni with her BA in Fashion Design. Her designs were showcased at Graduate Fashion Week and Africa Fashion week in London. The brands’ websites say they want to, “bridge the gap between Kanyinsola’s Nigerian heritage and flair for artisan crafts, Italian design aesthetics with the formality of British fashion
To keep the brand true to Onalaja’s heritage they implement weaving, hand embroidery, hand-painting, and hand print-work. This adds to the overall luxury of the brand while staying true to its roots. “Culture and heritage visually curated can celebrate and highlight the qualities that connect, complement, and contrast, but ultimately celebrate creative perceptiveness.”
Onalaja studied 3D pattern cutting in Rome at the Academia di Costume E Moda. She used this and her love for textiles and color to start experimenting with her own collection. Her experimentalism was showcased at Lagos fashion and design week.
Onalaja’s company slogan is “Our Heritage Re-Imagined – The Africa We Don’t See.” This means that the company strives to “re-imagining heritage interpretation and the language of tradition.”
Inspired by Aso-oke fabric, Onalaja recreates basket weaving techniques. This creates a juxtaposition between traditional and modern methods of design. By using hand embroidery (an example pictured above), it creates living art. Using African techniques curated to the season creates sculptural and artistic pieces.
Onalaja has received numerous accolades for her work including becoming a Vogue Talent Muuse Finalist in 2014 and winning Best Fashion Collection for the Academic year 2013-14 at Istituto Marangoni 2014. Her work has also been featured in an editorial in Vogue Italia.