Nigerian designer Odunayo Adeoye is so bubbly and down to earth that you might miss the fact that she is extremely serious about her craft. Oyato Designs is a fashion house which originated from the humble beginnings of New York City. In our search for cultured designers looking to make their mark, we came across this budding self-starter who decided early on that she wanted to dress people with style, in hopes of changing the world client by client. Vintage Pop print: Oyato’s 2013 Collection has all the ingredients of high fashion flare with accents of this designer’s colorful personality. Odunayo is set to make waves in the fashion industry by her use of cultured prints, sophisticated style and a vintage flair that emanates from each custom made Oyato piece. Keep an eye on this African sister. She bears an elite makeover team!
What influenced your venture into the fashion industry?
Since I was thirteen, I’ve wanted to do it. I don’t know if you remember but MTV’s Spring Bling, with all the kids and Daytona Beach really influenced me. I used to watch a lot of videos on MTV, and I was like, ‘Wow, I really want to dress these people.’
What age did you start designing and making your own clothing?
I started fairly late, at age 19. It was during college when I started apparel design.
What is the origin of your brand’s name? What does it stand for?
The brand name is a Yoruba word. I am from Nigeria. “Oyato” is a Yoruba word which means “to stand out” or “be different”. The pronunciation is Oh-Yah-Toe. Meaning, whenever you see something that’s a bit odd you would say: Oh, Oyato! That’s pretty much the origin because I’ve always felt like the odd ball or the weird one out of the group, and it was a nickname I gave myself. Then, it became my company’s name.
Where did you premiere your first collection?
My very first collection was in school, which was my graduate collection of 5-10 looks and we pretty much got graded on it. My first official Oyato collection was in 2010 in Queens, New York at the First Presbyterian Church Hall. It was my solo debut and the collection was called “Lady”. It was dedicated to my mom. It was really for my friends and family.
Who would you say is your target market, or customer?
Women from the ages of 21 to 45. I would like to make that age bracket a little wider because I definitely want to get to a point where I can dress women of any age. It’s definitely for women of any race, any culture, and any background from 21-45. We also cater to any size range since we do a lot of custom and made-to-measure clothing for our clients.
What makes your brand different?
I think what makes us different is that the outfits are made-to-measure, so you can pick out anything you want and we’ll make it your particular measurements. We also supply services such as makeup, hair and styling. So at any point in time, if you’re having an event like a birthday, wedding etc… any event, we can give you a full-blown head-to-toe makeover.
What have been some difficulties in establishing your brand?
The first one was school. I graduated after apparel design and I immediately started making clothing. Then, after that, I had to struggle to find another school to go to because I wanted to get another degree in business. Being in business school is totally different from being in an apparel design program that’s for sure. At one point, I was doing the business full on and trying to do a bunch of shows to try and get funds because I didn’t have an actual job. The sad part is that you can go to school, get a degree but once you get out you’re not really guaranteed a job. So, after school it was really hard for me to find a job, so I said ‘You know what? If I can just do this and get some money in my pocket then fine”, so that’s how I started. Once I graduated it was a relief. Another issue I had was when it came to making clothing. There’s not much of appreciation for a dress that’s made by a “Designer or Seamstres” and when I say “appreciation” – the money factor of it, or the prices of a dress was difficult. That’s why I wanted to go to business school because I wanted to find out how to market myself, how to price my garments, how to do this and do that.
What inspired your current “Vintage Pop Print” Collection?
It was more inspired by just watching so many old movies, and watching all 5 seasons of “Mad men” online There is a lot of vintage inspiration, the pop represents the pops of color, like the red and mustard, and the vintage damask print. It kind of incorporates all of the colors that I obsessed over. I wanted the bell sleeves and the wide trousers, old cowl necklines and full skirts. I’m very obsessed by the 1950’s and 70’s so I kind of wanted to express that in this collection.
What fabrics did you use and why?
I used a lot of linens, a lot of cottons, and the black and white damask print was taffeta with a velvet (burn out). I used a lot of breathable fabrics.
Describe your initial design phase. What must happen when you begin a new collection? (Fabric sourcing, traveling, research)
I usually do a lot of reading and watching a lot of documentaries. I would go online and see what’s trending, or what’s about to trend. I definitely look at other designers to see what they’re doing too, because what I realize there is nothing new under the sun, and I don’t try to duplicate anything. After that I started to sketch what I would wear. So a lot of research online, Google has become my best friend. I also go to Barnes and Noble and get books on fashion. Also, I actually collect Vogue, which I started collecting back in 2002, I have a book shelf full of them.
When in the creative process – are you hands on cutting, draping, sketching, and digitally designing your line? Or do you work with a team of assistants, and graphic artists?
Right now we are in the process of talking to a manufacturer in India. They are going to be helping me with my newest collection in terms of production and fabrics. I don’t actually design my own fabrics just yet because I ‘m still researching people that can do it for me at a good price and also someone who I can trust. I do a lot of the draping, cutting, and patternmaking myself. The sewing part is usually the least work, draping, patternmaking, fabric sourcing is where the work actually goes into because it takes a lot of math, research and precision so it’s definitely a lot of work. I’m going to be outsourcing it soon but, for now we do everything in house.
What is the overall essence of this collection? What do you want to come across to the people that are viewing it?
I feel like I’m always going to be very vintage about my collections. Only because I’m very into the costume periods. The 1920’s era is actually my favorite decade. I feel like back then, people really thought about the way they dressed, and considered how they were going to present themselves in the public. People think about the way they dress today as well, but they have more individuality nowadays.
Aside from your website, are there any additional locations where pieces from your collection can be purchased?
Right now, everything is available via email, we will be premiering our online shop on our website this Fall. So everyone should look out for that. We also have showrooms in New York and Baltimore. Clients have to call and make an appointments before they come. We are also on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Vine.
Describe any upcoming events and locations, where our viewers can preview your collection.
We will be having a fashion show in the Fall, and we will be doing some events during Fashion Week as well. Once we get the dates we’ll definitely send you the info.
What have been some highlights or breakthroughs within the industry since you started?
I feel like the show that we did last year was really a big deal, because we were doing it during Fashion Week which is one thing that I’ve always wanted to do. So I checked that off my list, and on top of that, we did it in New York City (Times Square). Another highlight was being featured on bellanaija.com which is one of the biggest African blog sites. I sent the pictures of our “Vintage Pop Print” look book and it was on there for months. Like a month or 2 afterwards and I woke up one morning and I saw a re-tweet with my name in it, and I was like: Whoa, this is surreal! We were also featured on an African magazine called USA African Journal. There’s been a lot of great things that happened. God has been really good. I’m just ready for what’s next!
Out of all the lines that you’ve created, what’s your favorite?
My favorite collection is always going to be the last one that I’ve completed. Because I feel like each one just gets better and better, and I get better and better in terms of how I design. You always look back and feel like well, ‘I could’ve done this a little bit differently’, but if people are happy with it that’s the satisfaction I get out of it.
Have you had many sleepless nights when producing your collections?
What?! It can get crazy! It always happens like this (my mom says that I should stop it), because I’m always sewing like 5 hours before the show. Not because nothing is done, but just because you want everything to be perfect. You want to make sure. ‘Do I need to put anything else on this?’ I watch a lot of Project Runway and what Tim Gunn always says is, ‘You have to know when to edit your designs and know how to stop.’ Last year, I don’t think I slept 48 hours before the show. I think it was more so excitement and doing the last minute editing. It can really get crazy, and then I have my assistant that’s always there so that always helps.
Wow. 48 hours? That’s a long time, do you crash and burn after the show?
(Laughing) Yes! I crash, I burn… The last show I took off a whole week. I was like, ‘I’m not doing anything.’ Everybody should just leave me alone. I did not do a damned thing for a week after that.
Which part do you enjoy most? The process of producing or the finish product?
The finished product. (Laughs) I mean, I like the production. I think there’s a point where I can see everything come together. I also enjoy that. But I think the finished product is like: “Oh yes! I’m here, I’m done. I don’t have to do that again.”
Could you see yourself doing something else outside of what you’re doing? Could you imagine your life without fashion?
Probably not. If I could… I’d probably be a writer. I used to write short stories and I used to have a blog before, and even when I was writing I was writing about fashion. It would be just a weird turn of events if I was doing nothing related to fashion.
How important is integrity to you as a human, and as a businesswoman?
Integrity is very important, I can’t stress that enough. We’re not all perfect, but it’s very important. It’s something my parents tried to instill in me: That you can do whatever in this world, but as long as you have integrity people will always respect you and that will get you far.
To aspiring designers who might be inspired by this feature, what sort of advice could you give to them? Share advice you wish you had when you started.
Just learn your craft and dedicate yourself to your craft. The one thing that will differentiate them from you is how your dedication reflects in your work. If you dedicate yourself to your craft and you make it as good as you can possibly make it, people will know the difference between what’s real and what is frivolous. And please please please please please, you know, keep pushing if this is what you really want to do. If you want to be a designer and this is what you set your mind to, just keep pushing. Things may happen, setbacks may happen, financially. You might not be as stable as you like but just keep pushing. Try and make things good for yourself, and always do good to others. This industry can be very, very dog-eat-dog but, I feel like if you’re kind and polite and considerate, and just a nice person, it will get you very far. Humble. Let’s put that out there too. Humility, it will get you very far instead of being mean, nasty and just down right vindictive.
What made you agree to this interview? What are your thoughts on GrungeCake? Is there anything like it?
I wanted to do the interview because it’s always nice to find out about new publications. I always want to know what’s going on out there. I’m always looking for new ways to promote the brand or just connecting to people. When I saw it I was like, “Yo! This is another young person doing something… I would definitely love to be a part of it. I’m young too!” I don’t feel like putting myself in a bubble will benefit me in the long run. I’d rather be connected to the people who are young and “gettin’ it” as I like to say and try and see how we also produce greatness. That’s really what I’m about.
Would you say you are currently satisfied with where you are as a business? If not, what needs to be done in order to take you to the next level?
I always say that there is room for improvement. I mean, even Beyoncé is trying to do better and she’s at the top of the game! I feel like the thing that will make me more satisfied is once we lock down these overseas manufacturers. That’s like my short-term goal right now, and when I say short term I am talking about in like in a month or two. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. I feel like that will take me to the next level whereby I would have relief, in terms of, producing and sourcing, and someone else will be doing that for me so I can focus solely on things that are going on stateside.
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