Preserving Nigerian Heritage and Craftmanship with Aso-oke
Tunde Owolabi is a visual artist, photographer, designer and the founder of Tunde Owolabi Studios. In 2015, he founded Ethnik by Tunde Owolabi, a unique brand inspired by culture and based on the traditional aso-oke textile weaving craft passed down from generations in Yoruba land. Owolabi seeks to preserve and promote Nigerian heritage and craftsmanship, as well as re-invent and sustain the use of aso-oke through modern designs. He has participated in significant group exhibitions and held two solo exhibitions titled African Elegance at the Battersea Art Gallery, London (2009) and Aso-Oke – The Woven Beauty at the Red Door Gallery, Lagos (2009). His commissioned works can be found in important collections all over the world including, the Singapore Museum, the Hungarian Embassy and the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Owolabi has also worked as a designer at The Research Studios, London with the famous English designer and typographer, Neville Brody.
Is any other member of your family artistically inclined?
Yes, my sister is an architect.
How do you differentiate between the yarns and nuances of the woven textile, and the designs that work best for your products?
Yes, our products are fair trade. We work with local artisans from start to finish. In addition, we are not just providing jobs, but also contributing to the communities of the artisans through our CSR.
Do you source locally for your other materials apart from the aso-oke?
Is your complete production process carried out here and how do you maintain the quality?
Most outfits made with aso-oke are dry cleaned. Given the fact that you work with woven fabrics and leather, how will they be cleaned?
Your interest in preserving our culture and crafts is laudable. Are you encouraging others to do the same?
I believe what I am doing is a big enough campaign to encourage others, not only in Nigeria but around the world. Cultural values should not be toyed with. I encourage the artisans to continue making the textile more appealing to the younger people so it is not only used for weddings.
I am a believer in hard work. When you work hard and your work is honest, then luck follows. I was contacted by the CNN crew from New York. They said they had been following my story and wanted to do a feature on me.
Your label already has a huge following among style arbiters. Where do you see in it 2 years time?
What’s next for Ethnik and do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in this field?
Image credits: Tunde Owolabi
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