Abiodun Folashade Tokunbo is the CEO of Anjy Luminee Couture, also known as House of Luminee, a high profile designer outfit in the heart of Ikeja, Lagos. She believes in the promotion of indigenous fashion with particular emphasis on the use of at least a touch of Ankara fabric in most of her designs. However, with the array of celebrities, which she has as clients, it is difficult to believe that Ms Tokunbo started designing fully in 2013. She has worked with celebrities like Mercy Aigbe, Ooni of Ife’s wife, Sola Sobowale, Chidinma (Ms Kedike), among others. She tells Tosin Clegg how her career began, the fashion and show business industries, successes and much more
I was born in Ijesha Isu – Ekiti. I am the sixth daughter in a family of eight children. I attended Hosanna Africa Primary School after which I attended Methodist Girls High School. Then I acquired my ND in Banking and Finance from The Polythenic Ibadan and later went to Lagos State University, where I studied Business Administration.
Fashion and sewing is something I have always loved doing
When I was growing up I will always go to this ‘baba’ uninvited; he was a tailor and with time he started giving me pieces to work with and perfect my sewing. I didn’t stop there, when I get home, I will sneak out with my father’s agbada, cut it and redesign it into a new outfit. He will initially shout at me, but on seeing the new results he will be shocked.
Initially, people didn’t believe that I made the clothes whenever they saw it. It was difficult to attach the brand and the personality.
And when I started paying particular attention, I noticed how all of them resonated and had this glittering feel. Then, I just thought of my brand as an ‘illuminator’ and the word Luminee was formed. Just like light that brightens up the atmosphere, my brand brightens up the minds and mood of people when they wear them. I think making people feel their best makes my brand different form others.
I started my brand in 2013 and that was right after I finished my final papers at LASU. I didn’t want to sit at home while I waited for my results that were typically going to take two years to be out, so I went back to my first love. I was always going to Oshodi, and I would buy materials and borrow people’s machine to sew and give to models to wear. It was on one of those occasions Mercy Aigbe saw my design on the internet and she contacted the model who in turn shared our contact and the rest is history.
Nigerians supporting Nigerian fashion brands
Nigerians are supporting Nigerian fashion brands more than anything these days. I don’t think we have the mentality of not wearing made in Nigeria wears. With the rate the industry is growing, in few years, it will be one of our biggest exports. The world is watching and we are working. How the industry is structured with clients being able to choose how they want their clothes to come out and the kind of materials they want is making the industry boom because people feel they are now in control of their fashion choices and nothing is forced down on them.
Where I see my fashion brand in a few years
We are already exporting clothes to clients all over the world, but in a few years I’m sure we will have walk-in outlets in major cities in the world.
How I would define my personality
As a person, I like to think I am a fighter and goal getter. Coming from a history of nothing to building my brand to the household name status it has attained, can only be achieved by a fighter.
Fashion is an expression of personality
Fashion is an expression of personality but showbiz, as we all know, is a platform. And looking at showbiz from the positive angle, it’s a platform that exports fashion and introduces it to a larger audience. On how important they are to each other, I think they are codependent; you cannot really be in this showbiz and not be fashionable. Showbiz gives fashion a platform and fashion on the other hand gives it some sort of validation.
My A-list clients
I have worked closely with a lot of A-list actresses and socialites such as Mercy Aigbe, Shola Shobowale, Ini Edo, Queen Silekunola M. Naomi Oguwusi, Tayo Odueke (Sindodo), Mide Martins, Mercy Johnson, Angela Okorie, Bobrisky, Tonto Dikeh, Ope Dolapo, Eniola Badmus, Fathia Balogun, Olaitan Ogungbile, Eniola Ajao, Oge Okoye, Kemi Afolabi, Omoni Oboli, (Anthony Joshua’s mom) Nkechi Blessing Sunday, Ayo Adesanya, Aduni Ade, Chidinma Ekile and they have all been wonderful. It is also interesting when I get to reach into their creativity, when we are discussing, to see how an outfit should look, what to add here and there is what defines their style, that’s one of the things I like most about my job. Beyoncé is the dream client, I have always seen her as a strong woman with a very important message. Imagine her spotted in one of our pieces, she will look straight from the upper echelon of Lagos.
Challenges of the fashion industry
I think, just like every other industry, we lack basic amenities. If we can burn less funds powering our light to be able to work, then I think the industry will progress more, as a lot will be saved and be used for building and taking care of other bills
Fashion is the air I breathe
Fashion is the air I breathe and the ground I walk on and the food I eat. I have an academy where I teach up and coming designers how to be their best. I have always wanted to do this and it is just God’s Grace that he blessed me and has given me the platform he did. I will say I am living my childhood dream.