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Interview with Creative Director/Designer of Unyforme Design

Photography: Derrick Odafi

Interview: Derrick Odafi

Transcript: Siobhan Martin, Ria

Michael Dairo, also known as Money Valentino is a young designer that has dedicated his time and efforts to the craft of design well before his time in the fashion industry. From a very young age, Michael would discover software that allowed him to manipulate images and shapes and which would later become an instinctive part of his life. Through the curiosity of his youth, he began to develop his skills through pure enjoyment - starting his career in design as an early teen, designing Myspace pages for friends. Michael's interest in fashion would soon follow, which earned the moniker 'Money' as his sense of style gave his peers an idea of wealth. Since these humble beginnings, Michael has considerably developed his craft, being part of 2 prior brands with close friends before taking the leap on his own with his latest venture Unyforme, with a mission statement of merging heritage and futurism while creating new architecturally focused silhouettes.


We recently sat down with the designer, speaking to him about various topics such as his upbringing, the fashion industry, and his new upcoming lines at Unyforme Design.

Hi Michael, where are you originally from?

Hello. Through my family I’m from Nigeria, but North London raised me.

What is your earliest memory of doing something creative? Did you feel like people around you were supportive of it? 

As far as I can remember it would probably date back to when I first discovered Photoshop. At the time I treated it as a personal hobby and did it more so for the creative expression than it being or leading to anything serious, although I did receive praise from my friends at the time when they saw what I was able to produce through the software and that was pretty cool to me.

At the age of 11 you actively began your design journey, tell us about that. 

It was around this age when I discovered my passion for design through Photoshop. It was completely by chance too actually that it came about this way. I was in my living room one day with my brother. He was on the family PC and I was watching tv and I remember turning my head one time to the corner of the room where he was and he was using this software (which I now know to be Photoshop) to create these different designs. I didn’t have a clue as to how he was doing what he was doing but it definitely caught my attention. At some stage later, I managed to access his user file on the PC—I was somewhat of tech nerd, there wasn’t much I couldn’t do—and I found a folder that had all the designs he was making inside and I started opening each file one by one, revealing all of these different designs. My first reaction was ‘whoa’ because they were really good and I had no idea that he had this kind of talent. I don’t have a clue where he learned to do any of this stuff. After opening the files, I quickly began familiarising myself with the different tools in Photoshop and then I started to hide some of the layers on that design he made, trying to break down each part step-by-step. I still didn’t have a clue how he was doing all of this but one thing for sure was, I wanted to be able to do it too. After some time, I practiced quietly and used whatever tutorials I could find online to teach myself how to understand the basics and eventually get better. 

By the time I was 13 I had gotten pretty good. At this point I was able to make things such as logos, flyers and I’d begun teaching myself how to make myspace layouts. After using one of my own custom designed layouts on page, my friends started to notice and were asking me to make one for them and I did. It was pretty cool to see my friends using layouts that I designed. Before I knew it, I started getting messages from other users on the site asking me to make layouts for them. It got overwhelming at one point because it was a lot and bear in mind, I was only 13, 14 at the time. I still had school to focus on (laughs). My biggest break came when a guy messaged me to help him design a layout for Tinie Tempah. I couldn’t believe it. To this day I still can’t because making myspace layouts was something I did for fun in my spare time.

As I got older, I connected more with design. Eventually it expanded from web & digital design to product design and eventually fashion design 

Once you found this passion did your brother help you out with the software in any way?

Not really, no. I was very covert with it. It was something really personal for me at the time. As much as I was inspired by him, I really just kept it to myself. I did it for me. It was a way of expressing myself and to be honest, I don’t think he really even knew I was doing it.

Your alias is ‘Money Valentino’, where does that come from? 

‘Money’ is a nickname one of my old school friends Anton gave me—there was this false idea that I was rich because I had a lot of nice things and one day, he called me “Money Mike” and the name pretty much stuck with me. I knew it was official once I changed my MSN name to that (laughs). Later on, I shortened it down to just ‘Money’. The ‘Valentino’ part literally just came out of nowhere. It had a nice ring to it and pretty much stuck ever since.

You describe your mind as Abstract, what abstract painting would you describe your mind as? Something colourful?

Red and Pink on Pink or Pink on Pink by Mark Rothko, however, I’m not entirely sure on the legitimacy of the latter. I tried to find some information about the work a while ago online but wasn’t able to find much.

Who is your favourite fine artist?

I don’t have one in particular, but I am fan of Mark Rothko, Chris Ofili, Yves Klein and Kerry James Marshall’s work.

The colour Pink is very important to you, why is that? 

Apart from aesthetic purposes, it’s also about what I associate with the colour—the brain to be specific. The brain is one of two most important organs in our body. It’s where our genius comes from and without it, we wouldn’t be able to function like we do on a day-to-day basis.


You delve into various creative disciplines, what would you say is the ‘brain’ of all of your creative skills?