05/25/18 | share:
Interviewed by Natalie Pattillo
Lola Faturoti doesn’t subscribe to the whole “dress your age” notion. With nearly 30 years of experience fashion designing under her belt, she’s a style expert who knows a thing or two about wearing (and creating) whatever the hell you want. When I walked into Mondiale Lifestyle, a boutique store in the Lower East Side that sells Lola’s designs, I was immediately swept away by her magnetic smile and effortlessly cool swagger. She was sporting green cargo pants with gorgeous yellow embroidery and a grey shirt adorning African women — both designed by her. It quickly became clear to me how Lola’s work became wildly popular early on in her career.
Surrounded by the store’s vibrantly colored tapestries, intricately woven rugs, and beaded jewelry, Lola began to tell me about how her Nigerian upbringing inspired her as a fashion designer. Lola grew up in a Nigeria and was the daughter and granddaughter of tribal chiefs in Ondo. Lola’s grandma, a well-respected dressmaker and designer in her community, raised her. She was always around women who were making clothes, and through them, learned about sisterhood and sewing at a very young age.
“I was brought up with women sewing together, gossiping, supporting each other. Gathering to create clothes was how these women shared stories,” Lola shared. “If something was wrong or if anyone needed help, they talked about it while they sewed. That’s how they created community.”
Since then, fashion was never simply a hobby for Lola — it was a way of living and a means to live as boldly as she wanted. Lola uses her creative spirit to weave contemporary and traditional styles and cultures. As a young adult, Lola made her way to London and honed her artistry at London college of Fashion. Then in 1991, she moved to New York, where she fell head-over-heels for the bustling and diverse city. Her first job was at the famous Charivari, a boutique on the Upper West Side. It didn’t take long for Lola’s boss, Barbara Weiser, to take note of her talent and invite her to sell her clothes in the store. Lola’s clothing line quickly became sought after by notable stores in Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Italy, and more. Today, some of her pieces are showcased in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Fashion is just having fun. It's a way of expressing yourself. It's nothing to be taken too seriously. Maybe some people take fashion too seriously. I think it's something you need to be authentic to who you are and it helps you to express yourself,” she told me. “If you dress authentically, it doesn't change with age.”
A few years ago, Lola took a hiatus from the hustle of fashion designing every season. She kept thinking, “Where do I see myself in 10 years?” and “Do I see myself designing clothes without having a social cause?” As a naturally spiritual person, Lola decided that she wasn’t going to just keep doing beautiful clothes without a social mission. She wanted to find a way to fuse her upbringing, cultural traditions, and modern clothes. Then, it came to her! She would travel to indigenous communities throughout the world and work with the women to create designs that honor and preserve their heritage. And that’s how LOLALOVESCARGO was born!
LOLALOVESCARGO is the merge of traditional designs from various communities with cargo pants (that are manufactured ethically by women in Sri Lanka). She aims empower economically disadvantaged regions, while bringing awareness and education to western women on the importance and beauty of ethically-made traditional clothing. Kind of like the sisterhood of traveling pants, but with a social mission. Additionally, the cargo pants will feature stories of the women behind the stunning designs. That way, a buyer of these beautiful cargo pants can get to know these women, their culture, and support their work.
“It's one pant that fits every occasion, basically. Because of the decorative aspect of it, it elevates it from just being casual, but you can still wear it casual. It's a pant you can take with you while traveling,” Lola explained. “You can take that one pant for only two weeks with a few tops. It's functional, versatile, fun, and sexy...whatever way you want to wear it.
This month, Lola is traveling to India to work and connect with women on the next LOLALOVESCARGO design.
“Sisterhood is women taking care and watching out for each other. Standing together. It's nurturing each other, especially in man's world — although that's changing a little bit because of us rallying around each other,” she said. “Now that we're finding our voices again and rallying together it's going to be a very powerful moment.”
~*Do you recall your first memory of seeing sisterhood in action?~*
Photos by: Bridget Collins