Agnes & Lola is one of our favourite African fashion retailers to have emerged online in the last few years. For their ethics, principles and all they stand for. So when they sent us their recent lookbook campaign I was happy to put it out on our website but I pushed Lola (Director of Agnes & Lola) to answer a few questions as we wanted to know a little bit more about the minds behind the store front.
- AFG – Please tell us more about the background of your company and your background too
Lola – Agnes and Lola was officially started in 2010. I am the sole director and have a working background in Fashion Retail and Financial Services. Over the course of 8 years, I worked for many companies including Harrods and Liberty London. During this time, I got to understand about quality customer experience and what it means to be a successful brand. Following this, I moved into Financial Services working for International Banking Corporations.
- AFG – Why did you decide to set up an online boutique when you did?
Lola – I first truly appreciated African fashion after viewing the modern way it was used when I lived in Paris. I just always felt that I wanted to create an outlet where I could show African fashion talent on par with the rest of the world. The idea was further fuelled on after I went to a fashion show and wanted to buy a garment from one of the designers we now stock, Chichia London. I could not instantly get it and decided that we were missing an outlet for this. I stopped thinking about it and finally decided to just go for it.
- AFG – Why the name Agnes and Lola?
Lola – I went through a million names with my sister, but this one just struck a chord with me! It’s a mix of my late grandmother’s name (Agnes) and mine (Lola). To me, it shows generational influence and pays homage to a woman who paved the way for me.
- AFG – Which designers are you working with at present and planning to launch soon?
Lola – We are working with Chichia, Bot i Lam, Jewel by Lisa and Lalesso amongst others. This year, we are also introducing new talents like Viv la Resistance, Re Bahia and Haus of Hercules. Their work is amazing and I get really excited when I see young African talent flourishing.
- AFG – How do you feel about the rise of online boutiques selling African fashion right now? Is this is positive or does the competition concern you?
Lola – I think that it’s absolutely positive. If you think about it, there’s Net-A-Porter, My wardrobe, my Theresa, Matches and so many others, all selling luxury garments from similar designers. They all have unique selling points and that generates interest in their sites. My point is, for a market to legitimately exist, there has to be competition. It indicates a demand for the product which is positive for all involved including the designers and the retail outlets. I find it rather tiresome when industries are monopolised by one or two individuals or families and new entrants into the market are discouraged. It stifles the upcoming talent and in a way kills the potential of the economy. You can’t be the ‘only chief in the village’! Competition enhances the best talent and pushes the imagination in whatever profession you find yourself.
- AFG – How does your ethical stance affect your business?
Lola – It affects my business because it affects me as an individual. I am unabashedly proud to be African and I feel responsible as an individual to contribute to our development even if it’s in a small way. When I read about the efforts it took to raise the minimum wage in Nigeria and see politicians living in luxury, it makes me know that I can’t wait for others to make that change; I have to be that change. Our ethical thinking has evolved from making one-off donations to charities to partnering up and contributing to longer term efforts. I came across the Mayamiko Trust who trains locals in fashion-making and business skills. I am really inspired by their enthusiasm and approach. We are working together on initiatives to continue their efforts as well as building a long term production unit and generating business with some of the designers we work with. We are currently working on a Bricks of Hope campaign that looks at supporting the work they do.
- AFG – What are your plans for the business how do you plan to develop it?
Lola – Hmmm….simply put and in the words of Tyra Banks, “I don’t need to be the biggest, I want to be the best!” My plan remains to continue to build on the international foundation we have and reach even more countries! I want to continue growing our reputation through our brand and customer quality. It’s really important that we continue to build the ethical aspects of the business and support the wider growth of the fashion industry in Africa.
- AFG – Would you consider introduce a bricks and mortar store at any point? What is your thoughts on online v bricks and mortar?
Lola – Yes, but it would have to be in a location that I decide to call home. I am quite fussy and would have to be present in the shop to make sure that everything is as I want it. I would want to make sure that the customer experience is amazing!
- AFG – What brands would you esteem to sell on your site?
Lola – I don’t start with a particular brand in mind. I am firstly inspired by the designs that I see and the creativity behind it. I love brands that tell a story and are able to create a signature style.
- AFG – What would say to anyone else looking to set up an online boutique?
Lola – It’s not for the faint-hearted and takes up a whole lot of effort, especially as I still work full time! Be prepared to make mistakes along the way, but you learn from them. In the end, if it’s something you are passionate about, then it’s worth going for.
This is why we love this company. They know what they want and what they are standing for. We are excited to see how they develop and look forward to future brands and initiatives they work with and present.
So for now let us now introduce to you their SS2012 collection. The mood of the collection is offbeat romance; a mix of graceful
femininity and non-conformist tendencies. They are inspired by “enamouring women who have an effortless charm that make our minds wander along. The likes of Waris Dirie, Frida Kahlo, Nina Simone, and Martha Graham; the ones that make our soul yelp with delight.”
We absolutely love the softness of this campaign. Why dont you also have a look and please do share your thoughts.
For more information see the website – http://www.agnesandlola.com/
Please find their video campaign here: http://vimeo.com/36483514