Princess Latifat Lamoliatte exudes confidence. A fashion designer and singer she holds a first degree in European Language and a masterâ€™s degree in International Law and Diplomacy. Lamdiatte is the promoter of â€˜ravissantâ€™, a brand name for her fashion outfit at Victoria Island, Lagos. She tellsÂ FEMI OGBONNIKAN, aboutÂ her debut into the fashion world
Tell us about your background
IÂ was born on the 23rd of May. I was born in Ibadan. Ibadan, as you know, is a town where people love cultures. Those days, we had the Ibadan zoo, botanical gardens and it was a very lovely place to live in. Ibadan is still a lovely place is still there. My dad was a lecturer at the University of Ibadan, but we moved when he got transferred to Benin. So, I went back to school in Benin, Baptist High School, Benin City. And from Benin City, I moved down to Lagos and I found myself at the University of Lagos. I went there and did my first degree in European Languages. From there, I went to France and attended the Univesite Stendhal Grenobe where I met Madam Le Claire Fashion and I got interested in fashion, because it was my passion. I love fashion. It was there, I met this French woman and I started learning how to make clothes, lovely designs. From there, I became a French-made designer. I lived in Paris for many years before I returned to Nigeria. And when I came back, I started promoting culture and I became a designer who promotes the Nigerian-African culture. I have a dance troupe and I have a live band. I sing. That is all.
Â Your dad was a university lecturer, didnâ€™t he object to your interest in fashion?Â
Well, as I said, I had a masterâ€™s degree in International Law and my dad was very happy about that. My dad, of blessed memory, wanted all his children to go to school and even, when I was in school, I chose fashion because I kept telling him what I wanted to do. Initially, my plan was to become a Nigerian Ambassador when I finished school. But I just have passion for fashion and I love what I was doing because I love cloths. When I was young, I loved to do a lot of things, like cutting clothing materials with scissors and designing things. So, I started doing it and I became a designer who promotes culture. When I was in Ibadan, we lived within the same compound with retired Gen David Jemibewon; we were very close and we were family friends. I grew up with his children and we are still friends. We used to dance for him. When we were little, we would come out to do cultural dance. You know, they were promoting cultures culture in those days, and I really loved it and that is why I have a dance troupe and a live band. And my dad got to know, and he was not a difficult person. If he was happy with what you were doing, my dad would let you be, as long as you knew what you were doing.
What inspired you?Â
Just as I told you, it all started when I was young; if you like colours, if you like nature, at times, you would just sit down and put designs together and the designs would come together. And it was that vision to see things and the nature outside, and in front of a beach sometimes. When I am in a front of a beach I get more inspirations and I get a lot of things I want to do. Environment really gives me what to do.
Do you have any fashion outfit?
Yes, I do. I have a fashion outfit at Adeleke Adedoyin, Victoria Island, here in Lagos. And thatâ€™s my showroom where I have my designs, I do â€˜pret a porterâ€™ (ready to wear). So, I have clothes that I make; I used to do my designs and I still make clothes for people, I mean, for brides, Chief bride maids. I make clothes for them and all the bridal trains too. I take care of their traditional weddings because I have a dance troupe and we will practise with the brides and I always tell them what to do. I will make a positive outlook for them when they frown. We take care of the brides and do different kind of things for men and children too.
What genre of fashion brand is yours?
I love to do red-carpet clothes, and I do that a lot for celebrities. I love doing that because when they come out I want them to look very â€˜chickâ€™ and that is why the name of my band is, â€˜ravissantâ€™, and it means something very unique. So, you just have to look unique, which is â€˜ravissantâ€™. I make for Nollywood actresses too and once they wear it, people would always ask them, when they step on red carpet, â€œwho did this for youâ€? And they always tell them itâ€™s a designer from Nigeria. So, I am very happy and I love red-carpet clothes, gowns.
But how affordable are these clothes?
They are affordable because I keep to peopleâ€™s budget. That is the way I work because if you come to me, I will ask, â€˜what is your budgetâ€™? I always say that to people because people think that when they see me, they think, I am very expensive. But I ask the question, â€˜what is your budgetâ€™? Then, I will work within your budget and I will get something nice for you. Some people love very unique things and they will say, I donâ€™t want the one anybody has worn, that you will have to do something different for me. There are some people like that and they come to me. So, of course, if you want something that only you want to wear, then, it will be very expensive. But other people just donâ€™t ask for too much but I work within what they have. So, I am affordable.
How challenging is the fashion world?
Well, to me, it is ok, if you know what you are doing. There are challenges in everything you are doing in life but as long as you know how you can handle it and you can do the right thing, there wonâ€™t be problems. Some people want to take loans and I always discourage them. Some people want to take loans to build up something, that is, to start a business, but we know that a lot of them divert from the real things they are doing and start buying other things. And before they know it, they canâ€™t pay back the loans. So, I always tell a lot of people when you want to do something, like designing things, start with the little you have. I have heard a number of designers say they donâ€™t have money to start and all that. No matter how little it is, start with it. You will start gradually and build up your business. Rome was not built in a day. So, there are a whole lot of challenges. Like, there is recession in the Nigerian economy, which makes it difficult now for you to raise funds.
How committed are you in the promotion of the traditional Nigerian-African fabrics?
I have promoted the Nigerian-African fabrics since I have been doing my shows at Eko Hotel. I have been doing my designs with Adire, aso oke and ankara, which I love and I use to promote our culture. I lived there (Paris) for many years and I got back before I decided to promote my own fabrics from Africa because I want things to grow. And our fabrics are very beautiful. That is what I use for the Nollywood stars, Adire. When they wear them, they look beautiful. You know our people and their mentality; they want to wear things they pick from the Western world because they think those are better than what we have here. No! We have very beautiful fabrics. All you just need to do is to get beautiful designers to design them for you and put them on; and you will keep on loving them.
Nowadays, foreign cultures, in terms of mode of dressing among Nigerian youths have taken over traditional outfits, where is the society heading?
If you look around, youâ€™ll see a lot of people wearing the Nigerian-African fabrics. You can see them wearing ankara and adire. Those wearing â€˜spaghettiâ€™ top are those that call themselves â€˜yuppyâ€™ gals and guys because they want to feel like they are still young. These are 20, 25, 27 years-olds. But later they will change. They just want to feel like those people in the Western world. It is what they watch on television. They want to compete with them, but you cannot compete with the owners of those things because they have their own ways of doing things. But later they will embrace our own Nigerian-African fabrics. A lot of people have embraced these Nigerian fabrics by wearing ankara. I know because I do designs in ankara and I see a whole lot of designers are doing the same now. People are wearing it around and they are wearing it to parties now. But for me, I think, we are promoting own our fabrics and it is getting better than it used to be. But I am happy because when I started doing my shows in 2003, I was pleasantly surprised when my designs were being worn on stage and some people were saying, she came from Paris and she is promoting African fabrics, instead of her to bring western things to Nigeria. But today, I am happy because I still remember what it was like when I started promoting African culture in 2003. We are doing well. We are getting there.
How are you promoting the Nigerian culture with your dance troupe?
We have a dance troupe and I have a live band. We dance at functions. They invite my troupe to dance. I dance myself and I sing. I attend festivals and I wear my regalia at festivals and I really dance as well. I dance so well at festivals and by doing so with my troupe I promote our culture. Some troupes donâ€™t turnout well and this makes some people to say, â€˜oh, they are local, but the way I did my own band is different, because I have really beautiful girls and handsome guys and they dance very well. That is the way it is. I love it and I promote my culture. I go to festivals and we do all things. But we are looking forward to the future. There is something I want to do, but I donâ€™t want to say it now and so many people are going to come. So, for now, that is the way I have been promoting the Nigerian-African culture.
What is your troupe called?
You are elegant; what does it entail?
Because I am a jolly person; when you are happy inside, you would be lovely outside. I am always happy.Â I donâ€™t let anything to disturb me.
You are married, but how do you feel when other men are try to woo you?
Â Well, you know men for what they are; they never take their eyes off ladies and so, they will always want to try to woo ladies. But I am very diplomatic with men. If a man says he likes me, there is nothing wrong in liking me and I will just get along with him and say, â€˜Oh, you are my â€˜brotherâ€™! Donâ€™t worry, I have found a new â€˜brotherâ€™. You will be my brother from now.â€™ And he becomes my â€˜brotherâ€™. That is just the way I put them off me. I have been doing that and it works for me.
How do you feel when men meet you and compliment you, that you are pretty?
I am always happy when men tell me that I am pretty, and I will just thank them, and tell them that they are lovely.