Ayiba‘s editor-in-chief, Eyitemi Popo, met up with the two beauties behind Styled By Africa for a day of fashion and shopping at the QAA Wearable Art Gallery in the famous Nike Art Gallery, Lagos.

Kiran Yoliswa was raised in Zimbabwe and moved to the UK to study bio-medical sciences where she met her co-founder, Eritrean-born Alae Ismail. The two would turn their passion for African creativity and fashion into Styled By Africa. Styled By Africa (SBA) is an award-winning online destination for people interested in exploring the best contemporary African fashion. Through its online boutique, SBA uses fashion as a tool for sustainable trade, selling products from all over the continent including Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana to customers around the world.

How did you fall in love with fashion?

Styled By Africa for Ayiba 5 _ QAA wearable art

QAA Wearable Art Gallery

Kiran: I’ve always loved clothes and dressing up. There’s definitely power in how fashion can make one feel on an individual consumer level. But for me, Styled by Africa is more about the power of fashion globally and what it’s able to create. That’s why it’s important for us to have all the brands on the site be made in Africa because we are trying to encourage those industries here. We want to create wealth here on the continent through fashion.

Alae: For me, fashion is a form of self-expression. The color, the pattern, the vibrancy tells the story of one’s heritage. I just love that about fashion!

Styled By Africa for Ayiba 7_Alae Ismael

How do you curate the Styled by Africa boutique?

Styled By Africa for Ayiba 10 _Kiran  YoliswaKiran: A lot of it is us traveling around to different African countries and sourcing different brands. So for example, while we’ve been here in Nigeria, we’ve been checking out different brands and workshops. We’ve traveled to Ghana and Zimbabwe doing the same thing. We’ve also sourced merchandise from South Africa and Ethiopia. And now, we are getting to a point where brands are approaching us, which gives us the ability to pick and choose what brands fit best.

What’s your favorite travel destination in Africa?

Kiran: I’d have to say Ghana because I went there for a Styled by Africa project and loved it so much that I went back two more times in the next two months.

Kiran Yoliswa for Ayiba at Nike Art

Alae: I feel like its Nigeria right now, but honestly I feel like every African country we’ve been to has had its highlights. I can definitely say with Lagos, the best thing about this place is the go-getter spirit. Everyone is always ready!

Styled By Africa for Ayiba 8 _ Kiran YoliswaAlae Ismail of Styled by Africa  for Ayiba Magazine

What do you think about the Nigerian fashion scene?

Kiran: From London looking in, I can say that it’s at the forefront of the conversation on African fashion and is really leading the way.
That’s why we’ve really been wanting to come and get up close with the brands here. There’s so much innovation happening, but what I love most about Nigerian designers is that their work is so rooted in their culture, but sort of pushes it to the next level of contemporary.

Kiran Yoliswa for Ayiba Magazine

Alae Ismail for Ayiba MagazineWho are some of your favorite Nigerian designers?

Alae: There are too many! Jewel by Lisa, Maki Oh, Tiffany Amber. I guess those are the ones that have gotten a lot of international press, but I also really love GREY. We visited their store the other day and I was like a kid in a candy store!

Alae Ismail for Ayiba Magazine_Nike Art Gallery

Alae Ismail Kiran Yoliswa Ayiba

Where do you see Styled by Africa in the next two years?

Kiran: Well, both AlaStyled By Africa for Ayiba Magazine 12 Kiran and Alaee and I are now doing this full time so we are really focused on growing the online store. We’ve kind of covered all the regions of Africa, well except for North Africa, but now we’d like to focus on expanding our offerings within each region.

Alae: Also, establishing our editorial content. As we travel, we’d like to create more content for the travel blog and highlight the creatives we meet.

 Styled By Africa for Ayiba Magazine 13 Kiran and Alae

All wardrobe was provided by QAA Wearable Art Gallery. Queen Ahneva Ahneva Wearable Art Gallery (QAAWA) focuses on using traditional indigenous textiles to create fashion and accessories collections. At QAAWA, textile artisans create and design silk, batik, tie dye, and indigo fabric. Their beadwork and embroidered artists are masters in their craft. Each design is done with love of art and fashion.

All images were taken at the Nike Art Gallery in Lagos by Mohini Ufeli.

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