As our high streets become more and more clone-like complaints about the lack of variety of clothing in the shops can be heard more frequently. But one lover of fashion, rather than complain, did something about it. Christina Oshunniyi was frustrated with the offerings in the mainstream stores and decided, while on a trip to Nigeria, to create her first collection of clothing. Employing her mother’s tailor and using the vibrant wax prints, batiks and kente that are widely available there, her inaugural collection comprised an array of contemporary jumpsuits, dresses, trousers, vests and skirts.
Once back in London, and while wearing her unique designs, she found that she was often stopped and asked about the origin of her clothing. So in 2010 Yorubatik was born. However, the main motivation for setting up her business was an inspiring trip to Ghana where she visited men, women and children living with Aids. Through partnership with Africans for Development and Progress she took it upon herself to teach the women how to work with ‘tie and dye’ for profit.
This month saw Christina set up a pop-up shop at CIAD’s Tartan: It’s Journey Through The African Diaspora exhibition in London. The fabrics used in the merchandise on sale were all locally sourced and crafted in the UK.
Christina Oshunniyi spoke to Eva Dyer about why partnerships are important to her and what advice she would give to someone seeking to set up their own business.
ED: Did you work in fashion before setting up Yorubatik? If not, what was your background?
CO: Well Eva you can say I fell into fashion as I actually studied Performing Arts. I designed a couple of styles that now sell on my site initially for myself but due to public demand and people nearly stripping me naked on the street from what I was wearing, I designed my first African-inspired colourful harems collection
ED: Have you plans for another pop up shop after the tartan exhibition closes? Where and when?
CO: I will be at Africa Utopia Festival at the Southbank from the 12th -14th Sept 2014 (anyone who mentions CIAD’s name will receive a 5% discount off any purchase). Currently I am stocked at DiverseGifts and online at www.yorubatik.com
ED: You set up business during one of the worst recessions in recent history. Does that make you brave or barmy? Why?
CO: Recession is a state of mind, sounds barmy…I know but I am simply happy to live in a city that allows me to be expressive and creative.
ED: Tell us why your partnerships with women at home and abroad are so important to you?
CO: I enjoy and embrace every creative opportunity to collaborate and celebrate the various amazing, inspiring, creative talents and craftsmanship skills of women, who due to certain circumstances do not enjoy economic success or a have a chance to shine . Partnerships are great as there is so much joy in the sharing with a diversity of women from different backgrounds. Recently, I was honoured to work with local talents in London on the tartan exhibition, there is so much hidden talent in the UK and I really want to tap more into crafting here.
ED: Is there a typical Yorubatik customer? Who are they? Are they male/female, young etc?
CO: A typical Yorubatik customer varies from someone like me, ageless (laughs) who identifies with Africa and is proud to be African, to a customer who also has a passion for African fashion and enjoys celebrating Africa culture
ED: In what price range do your products fall?
CO: Eva you cannot put an exact price range on Yorubatik, there is a suitable price for everyone but I would like to say that my prices reflect and are based on the crafting and creating process.
ED: What advice would you give to someone seeking to set up a small business?
CO: Be passionate , be practical, be resourceful, attend relevant events have a mentor and be patient.
ED: Sum up Yorubatik in one sentence
CO: Yorubatik creates ethnical , eco -friendly and ethical fashion pieces for him and her, influenced and inspired by culture and contemporary designs
* The Yorubatik/#AfroTartan pop up shop will be at Craft Central in Clerkenwell until August 30th alongside Tartan: Its Journey Through the African Diaspora
DiverseGifts @ 390 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF