Taiwo Sonekan Blurs Art + Design
Emerging UK designer, Taiwo Sonekan, enriches her designs with an aesthetic that is correspondingly arresting in the visual sense, as they are brilliantly constructed. We dive into the concepts behind her creations, her processes and ideals on who the Taiwo Sonekan woman is.
Quaint Revolt: Tell me about yourself and what lead you to this particular field.
Taiwo Sonekan: I’m 23 years old, born in Nigeria and I have lived in the UK for 19 years. From living in Africa as a very young child and all through growing up, I have always been inspired by art and bright colours. I never imaged I will become a designer, as A Nigerian I had a more academic career choice which was to become an accountant but as I got older I realized it wasn’t for me. Around then, I began to notice my passion for my desired career path in textiles [and] fashion but even then I didn’t think I’d have my own brand. Today, it is incredibly hard to get into the fashion industry, sometimes you just have to put yourself into it.
QR: Your aesthetic is so well developed, it’s alluring. How did you hone your distinct approach to design?
TS: Thank you! Studying fashion in LCF [London College of Fashion] made me know there is a lot more than just the final product, it’s the journey getting there that matters. I find that my work looks more exciting and meaningful when the research behind the collection is. I like my work to be related to life and the people of society that no one really pays attention to. For example my SS16 collection was based on the idea of the Elderly no longer feeling beautiful and my AW16 collection is based on the idea of relying on our [four] other senses when the most important one, sight, is non-existent. Most of these collections people do not notice the idea behind it but I love that parts of it make them ask questions. It is more fun that way.
QR: It seems that visual art is very important to the brand you are building. Can you elaborate on how your art influences your designs? Visa versa?
TS: I feel it’s like this because I have always been more of a textiles designer than a fashion designer. I only decided that my textiles work looked best on womenswear, so that is how I chose to present it. This meant I had to self-teach myself pattern cutting. I really have to give it to my textiles mindset that my work comes across in that way because I have always loved art especially collage art but my most favorite way to show it is through fabric. I also feel that there are not many designers out there that show visual art in their work. Don’t get me wrong, I love minimal but there is so much life and character in this world. It doesn’t have to be hanged on a painting, we can wear it.
QR: Who is the Taiwo Sonekan woman?
TS: I’m very glad you asked this question. A part of me still believes I’m yet to find her, but from what I imagine so far, I’d say she’s a free woman, she cares about the world and issues happening but at the same time she is not afraid to be selfish and look good as long as she believes she has helped others enough. I’d like to believe she lives to inspire others, she’s independent but not afraid to love or be loved. She refuses to follow the system.
QR: The silhouettes and materials of your garments are so well executed. Is there a back story to those specifically?
TS: I want it to be more about the textiles that I try my hardest to make the pattern pieces very simple so the textiles can speak for itself. I find it funny that no one actually notices the garments as simple until I explain it’s just a plain pattern top. Though I actually love it, that it’s not seen as simple. There is just so much happening on the fabric you almost forget the simplicity of the pattern. For example, the doll dress in my ss16 collection is a basic silhouette but because it is transparent people don’t see it that way. The idea of less is more is true! I spend so much time on the image of the art that if I was to distract it with the pattern piece it [may] eliminate the art. But I do look to try more complex pieces in the future. I just have to be careful in how I do it.
Sonekan is outlining the parameters of her brand – blurring visual art and fashion design – and we can appreciate the fusion that she brings. Many talk about wearable art, but rarely do we see such garments on the racks of stores and boutiques. This designer is actually mustering up pieces that look like art and wear like clothes. For what’s next, Taiwo Sonekan offered: “I have started to gather a team of amazing people who see so much hope in the future of the brand, that we want it to be noticed in the larger eyes of the fashion industry. I feel that my first move is to find the customer and stick to it! But after that, I am looking to take it to the level of getting the brand prepared for fashion week, press days, to be in fashion department stores such as Selfridges and other countries. It’s still a journey and a lot of work but I am more than ready for the ride.”