Tayo Shonekan is a leading Lagos- based fashion designer and a stylist. She got her first taste of success in 2004, when her first attempt at designing for her Aimas label was a hit. The entire batch was sold out in the United Kingdom! Growing up, this engineer turned fashionista, had a wealth of cultural influences that could draw on for inspiration and ultimately, went on to explore her passion. She has styled several advertorials, celebrities and fashion lovers.
Tell us about your background and education. What were your experiences growing up?
I had my primary school education in Lagos at Corona School, Ikoyi. Afterwards, I went to Queen’s College, then the University of Lagos. I was there for only a year, after which I went to Coventry University in the UK,where I studied Manufacturing Systems Engineering. I had a wonderful childhood; growing up was memorable. I come from a family of six and have three siblings. We are quite close in age, so went to the same schools and had similar friends. We grew up in Ikoyi and had a free, fun lifestyle. We would stroll down to friends’ and neighbours’ houses and ride our bikes on the streets, not having a care in the world. Our environment was pretty safe; no one was worried about being robbed or kidnapped. My dad loved travelling and we travelled with him to a few countries, which was quite nice. I think he felt it was part of our education and would expose our minds to a broader view of the world.
Has your background in engineering significantly influenced your work as a fashion designer?
I studied Manufacturing Systems Engineering and though it might not directly influence my designs, it has a lot to do with the production as we produce all our pieces in-house. You know what they say, “ No knowledge is lost, and nothing you ever learn is useless”.
How did you first start working as a fashion stylist, what was your first styling job?
I have always loved getting dressed from a young age. When I wanted a piece, I did not have, I loved to make up by putting others together. Around 2007, I moved back home from the UK to start my fashion label. I thought it would be nice to first get into styling so I looked through some local magazines but was not impressed. I honestly thought they needed help. I happened to have mutual friends with Omoyemi Akerele, who at the time was Fashion Editor of True Love Magazine, then True Love West Africa. I think someone must have mentioned I was around and wanted to go into styling, so she contacted me to ask if I would like to style one of their fashion pages. At first, I styled their supplement pages, but I later got to do the main ones.