Isi Atagamen is a fashion designer and fashion enthusiast. The ex-model in her mid 20’s who is best known for her eponymous label, Isi Atagamen Fashion Label (IAFL), talks about her transition from modelling to her latest interest, fashion designing in this interview
How did your interest in fashion design metamorphose?
It all started at a very young age when I used to take out sketches from daily newspapers which had sketches of dresses so I could sketch the exact same thing in the book. I had a pretty quiet childhood till my teenage years when I started dancing in church concerts and events with notable dance groups. While doing all these I always had my dream inscribed on my mind, to become a fashion designer as I often told my mother then. So shortly after graduating, I set up my fashion label, Isi Atagamen Fashion Label and I began to make my own clothes. I have continued to hone my skills by following current trends, fashion forecasts, major local and international designers in fusion with my personal inspiration and blend. I also ensure that I always keep my potential customers in mind. So far, I have been credited for my sharp, chic tailoring which possesses a feminine edge, multi-functionality and considerate approach to wearable design. My designs are versatile, creative and sometimes simple but always with an edge. It’s basically ready to wear pieces although I am not limited to that alone. In simple terms the Isi Atagamen Fashion Label represents class, strength, attitude, confidence and especially individual uniqueness.
Did you acquire any formal education for it?
Oh yes. My high school and University days in Lagos unveiled more about my sincere passion for fashion which forced me to study at the LISOF Art and Design College in South Africa.
How many collections have you had since you started designing?
Four collections so far. The recent collection was shown at the Entourage Charity event organized by actress, Susan Peters. It’s a transcend collection that includes a few summer pieces and others that you can wear towards the end of the year and into cold climates. The collection featured different silhouettes from the past decade with a modern/futuristic twist.
Are your designs mainly for male or female?
I design mostly female clothes but I also make men’s clothes on the side although I haven’t gone into it fully yet.
Do you have any influence in your design pieces from your modelling days?
I wouldn’t call it influence. I would say experience; the experience I have gotten in life generally has helped me to become who I am today, it has formed to a large extent, my personality and modelling was one of those experiences.
Where do you get the inspiration to get creative?
Life inspires me. Everything in life is a source of inspiration; from animals, flowers, shapes, buildings, to decades, eras, love and movies. The whole idea is not getting things mixed up but focusing on that one special thing that gets your attention and fascination at a given time of creativity.
Who do you look up to in the fashion world?
Quite a lot. People like Christian Dior, Chanel, Viktor&Rolf, Lanre Da- Silva Ajayi, Deola Sagoe and a few others.
How is life as a young entrepreneur?
To be honest, it’s not the easiest thing. You get to learn faster and try to get enough knowledge on how to deal with people and the various tactics they come with mostly in situations where you have older people working under you. The main idea is learn the art of balance.
What drives you even in the face of seeming difficulties ?
Passion, love and drive. Once you have a passion for what you do, it keeps you going despite the odds. Also, a home filled with love and a partner that makes you happy makes it even easier. It is said that once you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Finally drive, which is the goal, the energy that just keeps you going and helps you grow with each study, acquisition of knowledge and obvious improvements.
As a former model, what was your modelling days like?
It was a great feeling being one of the most sought after model when I did model and it was so much fun although it was hard work. I don’t model anymore but when I see models these days I smile because I know how they feel.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
I can’t count, there are lots. I count everything in my life as an achievement, good or bad. They are all experiences that I see as a lesson or a victory. That I am alive each day is an achievement because it gives me another opportunity to conquer, to try and get better, get closer to my goals and be a greater individual.
What’s your greatest fear?
I don’t believe in fear. Fear is in the mind; we create it ourselves and give it the power or size that it has. It is said that what you fear most will come to you and so for that reason I refuse to be afraid of anything.
If you could go back to a moment in time, what would it be?
I look only to the future and what it brings. The past has brought its victories and lessons alike and I’m happy I went through it, yet it stays there. That’s why it’s called the past.
What does style mean to you?
For me, style means to express yourself and tell people who you are without saying a word. Style is making a sentence through your garment in an appealing way that will be interesting to others either to emulate or admire. It’s like saying, this is who I am.
Besides your label, do you favour high end designer labels?
I favour every form of fashion that is beautiful.
Any tip on how to break into the Nigerian fashion industry?
Carve a niche for yourself, believe in what you are doing and never be distracted.
Where do you see your brand in the next three years?
For it to become an international brand incorporating men’s sport wear, children’s clothes and many more. There are endless possibilities so who knows!