Elfreda Fakoya Illustrates Elegance Through Menswear [Interview]
Challenges are the frame work for growth and development, a challenging idea or situation in most cases unlocks an element of our consciousness that may have been previously dormant. When perusing our passions challenges are inevitable, but quality and beauty are often the results of diligence and reflection. Quality is a word that is synonymous with the beautiful and eloquent creations of 23-year-old Elfreda Fakoya.
Growing up in a rather big Nigerian family, creativity is something that she naturally gravitated to. Aside from her interests in film, illustration, music and travel, fashion is something she actively perused in recent times. [Extract from Issue VII, read full story here]
Tell us about your background – Age, family, Nationality, interests, hobbies and your fashion schools
I am 23, from a rather big Nigerian family. Aside from fashion, film, illustration, music and travel are amongst a few of my interests. I went to Fashion Retail Academy for two years and then went on to do the BA Course at Ravensbourne.
What is your earliest memory of fashion?
Fabric actually, I remember finding some Red chiffon in grandmother’s room, it was probably about a metre and a half, I started obsessing over how I had an idea to make it into a dress for myself and wouldn’t stop bugging her to let me cut it up, she refused.
What inspired you to take this path as a career?
To be honest menswear was never the plan, I was going to make womenswear and I had been for about 3.5 years prior to my first year at Ravensbourne. After my first project, my tutor said I had a good outcome but I had not challenged myself, I decided to try something new in order to do so and I have been doing menswear ever since.
Tell us about your time at fashion school
It was amazing, I really enjoyed it. Experimentation is what I love to do the most and I got to do a lot of that. It was very tough, the course is very intense, meeting the set requirements alone was not enough, you had to prove yourself, and then do it over and over as the challenges got tougher. You can spend a month creating something, present it, and the tutors just a scissors and cut it up. They give you new instructions and you go off and start again. It is was also highly competitive but I got lucky and had a good year group. I guess tenacity and keeping the right people around you is something that I learnt from it.
How has fashion school guided your knowledge of the industry and the craft?
As far as the craft goes it gave me the chance to really put in the hours that helped me to develop my own style and how to present and package it with finesse. With the industry, it allowed me to understand where I could position myself and how I can go about standing out, which is very hard to do in fashion.
Who are your design mentors, personally and in the mainstream?
Mainstream would be Thome Browne, Commes de garcon and personally would be Grace Wales Bonner who I interned for.
Tell us about your illustrative work? Where does your style come from?
My friends laugh a lot when I say this but I initially used to draw exaggerated versions of my face when I didn’t have a live model to reference from. I spent some time studying the styles of different illustrators that I really liked. I think after a while I found my aesthetic somewhere between a combination of all of them.
When do you feel you are most productive?
Whenever I have spent my doing archiving multiple things that help fulfil my long or short term goals.
How would you describe the clothes you make?
Architectural and expressive.
What inspired the clothes you make from a cut and sew perspective?
If I know exactly how to achieve a design in terms of the pattern cutting, then I have to redesign it in order to elevate the quality of the design. Usually, the best designs are the hardest to make.
What are some of the concepts behind your brand?
It explores a sort of feminine approach to men’s silhouettes. The idea of fluidity and creative utility wear. The identity of the brand comes from a sort of pan-cultural experience where multiple cultural references come together to form a more well-rounded identity. Which I feel is the reality of most people in the world today.
Why did you decide to focus on men’s clothing rather than women’s clothing?
It was more interesting and I created more original menswear because I didn’t have set ideas of what it had to be.
What were some of the toughest times while creating your collection?
For me, a look is never complete without accessories, real people don’t wear clothes without styling it. I had a very clear image of what those accessories and supporting garments had to be and I had to make them myself. So aside from the fact that I was trying things I had no prior experience doing I was also creating multiple pieces per look. Where someone had a week to make maybe a dress, I had to make trousers, a top, a jacket and try to fit in a bag. I didn’t sleep much lol.
What do you enjoy most about what fashion does for society and how do you want to influence this?
The way that it challenges set ideas of what things should and shouldn’t be, it preserves yet propels culture in that way. In society today fashion is fleeting, in today and out tomorrow, I hope to present a different perspective, one where things a more lasting.
Who are some of the people and publications that have shown interest in your collection?
Graduate fashion week, Fashion Scout, Sagaboi, Kevin Carrigan at Ralph Lauren, Vogue Talents and a few artists that I am very excited to work with.
Tell us about your short film ‘the gradual collapse and ultimate death of the fashion industry?
It was a report I did at university about how the operations system of the fashion industry will need to reviewed and in a sense reborn in order to cut out waste and become a lot less damaging to the planet.
What does it mean to you being one of the top 25 graduate fashion students?
For me so far, fashion has been a form of expression, an art form within one of the toughest industries to become a part of. Being one of the top 25 helped me realise that although I have not yet secured a proper place within the industry there is room for me to fill because what I have stood out from amongst hundreds of others. It felt like a real validation of everything I have been doing.
We noticed that pinterest is one of your go to sources of inspiration, what looks and aesthetics interests you most?
Film and photography actually. I like exploring the contrasts between the way people of different cultures dress now and in the past.
What time within fashion do you consider your favourite ?
The 50s and 20s and early 2000s in Nigeria, So wavey.
How do you want to impact the fashion industry?
Bring some more art to runways and peoples wardrobes.
What do you believe are your greatest strengths?
I don’t give up easily, I am quite passionate and perceptive.
What do you feel are the key points of improvement you need to take your art to another level?
More practice and experimentation.
Do your morals & values play a part in the clothes you make?
The experiences behind my morals and values seep into the way my work is presented. As far as the designs, I try to keep a completely open mind to stay inspired.
What do you believe is the most liberating part of what you do?
The fact that I have created something can exist and express itself aside from me even after I die.
How would you like the style of your creations to develop moving forward?
I would like my work to go from being relevant within fashion into the world of art. Like pieces of art created with fabric.
What fashion houses do you hold in the highest regard and why?
Margiela, Dior, Balenciaga and Commes de garcon, for their history and formidable founders.
Tell us about your creative process, how you start your projects and technically execute them?
Ideas and research, I am constantly taking in, seeking new information and trying to transfer skills, that’s usually the start of any project, bringing together two or more separate worlds to create something new. As for the execution, half of it is achieved from simply trying to create a version of something in my head clear enough for someone else to understand (like an illustration or a toile) and the follow up is just refining it over and over. It takes a while.
What are the ideas behind the colours and patterns used in your collection?
I created a colour scheme that came from the different stories I had in mind then it was like a game of miss matching things. Like the pink trousers, you don’t really make the leading piece in a menswear look pink, so I figured that was the best way to go. The prints were pulled from the illustration I used in the concept.
Who do you want to make clothes for and why?
For people who don’t care if it is men’s or women’s wear. The clothes are for people. If it makes you feel good or achieve a sense of self that you desire, wear it. Why? Why not. In my head that is all that clothes need to do. I would also like to design performance wear.
Do you have plans on creating more ready-to-wear pieces?
Yes I do.
What is the plan for you currently? Work under an established brand before branching out or developing your brand now?
Both to be honest.
Aside from Being a creative director you have also styled for some fashion shoots, what about the skill of styling interests/improves you?
Styling is great because when done properly it can be used to deliver a narrative that wasn’t there until everything is put together, designing the clothes is one thing but the lifestyle ideas behind them cannot be conveyed properly without styling, I like to practise. It is like experimentation.
What do you want to change/ Improve within fashion?
The way people approach sustainability and the idea that only one idea or look can be fashionable at a time.
How do you hope to inspire the creativity of others?
I read somewhere that anyone who lives within their means lacks imagination, I hope I can live a life that shows people how to be creative not just within their craft or profession but in every area of their lives.