Elizabeth Claire was founded in 2005 out of the fondness for the African tradition, culture and fashion. The line owned by Joke Okolo, a graduate of Lagos State University and the Stratford Fashion Institute, Chicago U.S.A, offers an array of bright to warm colours, creating afro centric designs, bearing in mind exclusivity, the comfort and elegance that define its works. It specialises in haute couture, ready to wear and costumes (corporate monogram and printing). Most of her designs are batik, tie and dye on chiffon, cotton, and silk, embellished in beads, sequins and precious stones. In a chat with Complete Fashion recently, Joke tells us about how she joined the fashion industry, her personal style, her Diva Power summer 2011 collection and trends to watch out for in the coming year.
How did you become a fashion designer?
I can say that my sweet mum lit up the creativity in me. I must tell you I got into the industry at the age of seven from my mum’s little fashion house back then and she bought me my first dolly mannequin at the age of nine and has been consistent ever then. However, i must also mention that my wonderful husband really encouraged me to work on my talent and pursue my dreams and there is no going back.
What are your general professional and non-professional interests?
My interests professionally have a lot to do with arts and craft either on clothes, neckwear or paper. I love working in my studio drawing or making images on paper. Whereas my non – professional interests amongst many include travelling and scouting for antiques and ornaments as part of my inspiration, reading, cooking, swimming and playing hop-scotch with my kids. Well, though not necessarily in that order
How did your brand become a household name?
After the Nigerian Fashion show 2007; which I participated and was the second runner-up in the competition, and that was my first time ever to showcase my designs and I won the best designer for the beach wear category. I made the dress out of raffia, embellished with sequins and coral beads. Most of my designs were very original and afrocentric, mixed with precious stones. They really looked breathtaking, and since then have gotten very good and positive response from people whom I regard as friends for life!
How would you define the Nigerian fashion industry?
The industry is growing big with lots of talented and creative designers, thank God Nigerians are fashion forward people. I believe we are swiftly catching up with the international market; however the only missing link is for designers to believe and start collaboration with a common positive and efficient goal. Not just wait for government interest and intervention. Well, thank God the government is beginning to show interest now; I believe there will be a huge intervention to project the Nigerian fashion industry forward. It’s amazing the number of talented fashion designers in Nigeria; we need a positive force to monetize these talents, creativity, fabric and packaging to the international market.
Where do you really draw your inspirations from?
I draw my inspiration from things around me and I try as much as possible to make them as unique as possible. For these collections, my inspiration was gotten from Power Holden Company of Nigeria- PHCN. We seldom have power and most times its low voltage so one lovely evening I was in my studio starring at the voltage and meditating on my travelling plans when I noticed the light dimming on and slightly went off, it was then I got the idea of making the Adire designs on the chiffon and silk to have that shadowish-fire look. And when I had finished, I began to love them. So I can say these collections were inspired by PHCN. (Laughs). The one with giraffes was inspired by my visit to the zoo. I saw two giraffes cuddled together and thought I should do something on it. I walked out of the house on a summer morning, and butterflies were the first things I saw and that gave birth to the one with the butterflies. The inspiration for the Mademoiselle collection comes from everything around us.