We Interview: Adesola Falomo, The Ultimate TwentySix Woman
We had just met and I remember seeing her sketches of female swimsuits. They looked really different from the regular one piece (I hear it's now called monokini) or bikinis. She casually mentioned that she had plans to perhaps one day, produce those on a commercial scale. I'm sure I thought 'Ah people are creative oh, while I'm just here trying to finish this LL.B degree'. That was many moons ago. Swim wear is not yet a part of TwentySix label, but hey, we don't know what she has up her sleeves.
When TwentySix launched, a part of me was not surprised.
Ok, I was surprised actually. It's one thing when someone takes up sewing lessons while on holiday in Nigeria. It's another thing when in just under two years of taking those lessons, her brand has become a popular #BuyNigerian label, endorsed by fashion bloggers and fashionistas within and outside Nigeria. So yes, I was surprised.
I'm so excited to feature the brain behind the amazing TwentySix story - Adesola Falomo. She's cried a lot of times for TwentySix, describes her ideal Nigerian man as Creative and Monogamous and despite the crazy issues in Lagos, she thinks it's the greatest city in the world.
What's the inspiration behind the name TwentySix. Did it just pop up while in the shower?
- I played around with a couple of names centered around being dressed in a skirt, being feminine or a ballerina but I wasn't sure I wanted to be limited by just that style. It was also going to be my 26th birthday, so I decided on TwentySix.
I know you have a first degree in Architecture and two related international masters degree. What advantage has this had on your brand?
- My degrees in Architecture are definitely playing a huge role in how I build TwentySix. I have the ability to create the type of aesthetic I want - I see the things from a creative point of view first. It however sometimes, conflicts with making business decisions. I guess it's a blessing and a burden.
How would you describe yourself in one word.
Why circle skirts for a start? I wouldn't have thought they are the easiest thing to sew. What else can you actually sew?
Humm... I think I should give the anecdote on how this started. I learnt how to sew and skirts where the easiest for me. I just made them for myself. My friend, Sophia (who runs the5kshop.com) wanted me to retail them on her store. Next, I'm scouting fabric and making just skirts. It was a comfortable place to start. We have now included dresses and crop tops. I can sew dresses and I have attempted sewing shorts (not easy!).
What do you think of the #BuyNigerian movement - Yay or Nay? What's the biggest hurdle to this movement. Other than TwentySix, what's your favourite Nigerian label.
- Definitely Yay. Manufacturing is the biggest, we can't entirely claim 'Buy Nigerian' if we still have to source fabric from international markets. Something as minute as the thread that goes into our product is imported. Labour is Nigerian every other thing isn't. More people are starting to look inward to purchase consumer goods which is great. I am excited about the prospect of the movement but it will take some time to catch on. I don't have an absolute favourite Nigerian brand - I love PopCaven, Andreah Iyama, Allen&Fifth, Maki Oh... the list is inexhaustible.
Your favourite TwentySix piece?
- Right now, it's the White Tulle skirt.
Three Challenges of being an entrepreneur in Nigeria.
- Don't get me started! Electricity, ridiculous internet cost and electricity again. If these were sorted, costs will reduce, more people can work remotely, traffic will be miniscule.
Lagos or London? What's your absolute favourite city to live in?
- Lagos! The greatest city in the world.
In the UK, we've seen high street labels collaborating with luxury designers - H&M x Balmain, H&M x Alexander Wang. You've collaborated with a few Nigerian brands - McBell and Atelier NOYAKA . What international brand collaboration is on your ultimate wishlist.
- Thank you for this question! I need to expand my vision because I've never thought about this. I've been obsessed with the world of Kate Spade - they have created travel books, short films. I admire everything about the brand and the space they have created for women. It would be a thrill to collaborate with them.
What is the brand's greatest achievement so far?
- My first reaction was: 'what great achievement?'. But we ship internationally, and I think that's pretty cool. The Nigerian Postal Agency (NIPOST) works guys and everyone should know. We are on our fourth look book, the best so far.
And ultimate vision for TwentySix?
- To never stop evolving.
Describe your ideal Nigerian man in three words.
- Consistent. Creative. Monogamous.
You're the boss now, do you still make these skirts yourself?
- Lol! No I don't but I'm always a part of the production process.
The one time you cried in relation to TwentySix?
- Haha! I've cried many times and its usually a cocktail of many things gone wrong. The most recent was just few weeks ago, someone sent a long email with complaints - everything was wrong that week, it really broke my heart.
Does social media marketing work? Would you buy followers?
- No, never buy followers. That's like eating your cake before you even slice it. Social media is the ultimate market for my brand; Yes it does work.
Burger or Lobster?
- Are you kidding? Triple Decker Burger!
What's the most useful criticism you've received on your products? And the most useless?
- None is completely useless and I try not to take them too badly. Someone once told me: 'when I see one of your product, I have seen everything'. That's okay, it is the simplicity in what we do and it works, but the comment propelled us to try something different with Atelier NOYAKA.
What personal steps do you take to empower women?
- My little way is making efforts to help & being completely open when asked questions. I also keep my team mostly women.
Three women who inspire you. Other than your mother.
- Leandra Medine Cohen (Founder, ManRepeller), Joy cho ( Founder, Oh Joy) , Lisa Folawiyo (Founder, Lisa Folawiyo).
Who is the TwentySix girl?
- She's a self-aware woman who understands that it's not about being defined.
Would TwentySix consider expanding to cater for the male folks?
- We have expanded to Kids, a men's line will be a great addition. How does TwentySix Men sound? I am not sure, maybe we would have to tweak it a bit. But yes! we are looking forward to it.
Any final words?
- I need to give a shout-out to everyone that has worked with me, I most certainly don't do this alone. I have had a lot of help for next to nothing, just pure love and sacrifice.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. Please feel to leave any comments or questions below.
Considering the fact that because I had my wedding in Nigeria and we took the decision (Ok, Tee really took the decision, I was looking forward to shipping all my gadgets to the UK) to give our wedding gifts out to charity, I was happy that I could at least take this particular gift of my TwentySix skirt with me on my honeymoon. It didn't matter that I couldn't find the perfect top to pair it with, because I left half my clothes in Nigeria, choosing instead to fill my suitcases with stock fish, dried fish and all the other food items that become luxuries when you step into the UK.
I wore my TwentySix skirt on my 26th birthday. Cool Huh? See here.