Sarah  Jemirifo : I Always Knew I Would Eventually Do Something in Fashion

Sarah  Jemirifo : I Always Knew I Would Eventually Do Something in Fashion

Sarah Atinuke Jemirifo is one of the few shattering the glass ceiling in global fashion with her exquisite label, ‘Hydration London’. Though London- based, her blend of local statement, as imaged in her stylishly fusing couture stands her out among multitude. She recently featured in London Fashion exhibition and Jemirifo is high on cloud nine. In this interview with Omolabake Fasogbon, the biracial multiskilled belle speaks on her motivation, planned footprint in local space and latest achievement

As a child, you had always wanted to be a doctor, what drove you into fashion?

Yes! You are right. I picked interest in fashion when I later found myself in the slum of Nigeria. I recall as a teen, I would sit outside to watch people run around in the sun, while I cut my clothes, stitched them, put them together and also changed the designs. If something was on sale, I would buy it, put a design on it and stitch it. I always knew I would eventually do something in fashion. I was able to touch-up my skills from aunties and relatives that owned a tailoring shop then.

 You were born in London, how come you found yourself in the slum of Nigeria?

I happen to spring from a marriage between an English lady from London to a black Nigerian man from Igbajo in Osun state. My time in London didn’t last long before my family relocated back to Nigeria when I was just five years. Somehow, life took a turn for the worst and I ended up growing up without either of my parents – that’s a story for another day. My father was an optician with his own private practice in London. He also built a property portfolio and was living comfortably with my mother. All the properties were sold when we moved back to Nigeria. Life was great at the beginning and we lived in a beautiful house till everything changed suddenly, which led me to living in the slums. Fast forward, I managed to return to the UK age 19 and put myself through Kilburn College where I studied OND in Business and Finance followed by my degree in Business and Finance at Greenwich University. My experience in the slum spurred my fashion label, ‘Hydration London’.

What’s your understanding of fashion?

Fashion keeps a society lively through different new styles and subsequent changes. It does promote social changes and respect traditions and customs in society. It remains my everyday life and as one who loves to make a impact in my immediate environment, I do so with fashion, while always ensuring that my styles make a statement.

So, tell us more about your fashion label, ‘Hydration London’

I have always had a passion for fashion and dreamt of creating my own brand to express my identity in the industry, and like I mention earlier, Hydration London tells my story as inspired by my journey from a comfortable life in London to the slums of Nigeria and back again! Our varieties, from luxury, jewel encrusted velvet tracksuits to show-stopping dresses, each piece in the collections is more than just a garment; it’s a narrative, a memory. For instance, The Chilli Pepper Dress is inspired by the affectionate nickname my mother used to call me as a child. The brand simply reflects the rebirth of one’s life, rejuvenated by turning over a new leaf, re-energised by a new beginning and a brighter future.

What makes the brand distinct?

We are distinguished by our story telling designs. Each of our garments carries a story, allowing a brand to communicate its meaning and values to customers in a captivating and personal way. Besides, we take great pride in infusing elements of our local culture into our design process. Our goal is to showcase the rich heritage and traditional craftsmanship of our home country, Nigeria, while presenting it in a contemporary and global context. We draw inspiration from traditional Nigerian textiles, vibrant colors, and cultural motifs, which we reinterpret and blend with modern silhouettes and innovative techniques. By incorporating these cultural elements, we aim to create a unique fusion of tradition and modernity, celebrating our roots and promoting cultural diversity in the fashion world. Recently too, I developed a new interest in the distribution of entertainment content.

The brand recently featured in a highly prized London Fashion exhibition. What does this mean to you?

I will say this is a dream come true! I was beyond thrilled that we had the incredible opportunity to showcase our stunning outfits at the show. For me, it’s a great honour to be among the selected few considering the competitiveness of the fashion industry in the United Kingdom. I can’t be prouder of what we accomplished.

How do you intend to consolidate on this huge feat to the take the brand up a notch?

We are looking forward to more exhibitions and showcases; we will be showcasing at the London fashion week in September 2023 & February 2024 as well as Dubai exhibition in November. The brand represents strength, resilience and the pursuit of creativity; hence, we look forward to spreading our tentacles in the UK, MEA and across the globe. We want to be identified with innovative designs and impeccable craftsmanship, sophistication and elegance. Overall, we aim to captivate fashion enthusiasts, collaborate with influential figures and celebrities and participate in more renowned fashion events. Gladly, Hydration London is currently on display on some prominent retail stores in America and Europe including Doors Retail Shop, W Broadway, New York and Modern Showroom in Milan, Italy.

You are also considering spreading your footprint to the Nigerian market. What’s the attraction?

The Nigerian fashion market is so vast, diverse and one of the biggest markets in Africa. I love to represent my Nigerian roots and I speak proper Yoruba. It makes sense that we get to have a share of the market with our unique “atarodo” designs. I can’t wait to show the Nigerian Fashion industry what we have on board.

The Nigerian fashion space is already saturated. How do you intend to play out outstandingly?

Yes, I understand the market might be saturated but which market isn’t, even in the UK, it’s not easy either but we are doing it. Same way we will outline a unique strategy for the Nigerian fashion market.

You recently added entertainment content to your portfolio; does this have anything to do with your brand?

Fashion and entertainment have one thing in common – lifestyle, which I’m very big on. Positive emotions, including humor, contribute to a sense of well-being and health. As a lively person, I love cheering people up wherever I find myself. I recall when i travel for vacation with my friends, I’m usually the person with all the jokes, so I know I’m meant for the big screens, I’m currently working on something for TV, it’s only a matter of time.

You seem so engrossed with your activities. Do you have that time to fall in love?

I’m in a relationship with my career at the moment, Hydration is my love. My product also expresses love in different variations. For instance, my chilli designs can represent how spicy a love life can be. Chillis convey the nature of any volatile relationships and show how unpredictable a sexual connection can be. Other design in the collection, such as; ‘Empowered’, promotes the feeling of power and enhance the luscious shape of any women.

As an entrepreneur, what’s your best business deal ever?

That was back in my early days as a property developer. I picked up a run-down property in one of the best locations in London. There was definitely a big element of luck involved, being in the right place at the right time. I lived in it whilst slowly renovating the place. It turned out to be a total refurbishment project and was very challenging. In the end, it was worth the effort as I managed to exit the investment for a handsome profit and truly gained my first real taste of being an entrepreneur.

What was your most memorable moment?

That was when I had to cook a big snake and eat it. My dad being a hunter used to set traps around the farm for wild animals. We usually get different bush meat but it was a snake this particular time. This tasted like something in between fish and chicken. I cannot imagine myself eating that now!

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