In this episode, I chat with Lola Ukinamemen. Lola is the founder of the fashion and lifestyle brand, Agnes & Lola, a platform that pioneered the retail and therefore availability of African fashion to international audiences. Since then Agnes & Lola has undergone significant changes as Lola went back to the drawing board closing it down for a while before returning to start over from scratch. In this conversation we chat about letting go, having the courage to walk away from a dream when things are not working out as you hoped. Dealing with the internal shame of giving up and coming back stronger.
Lola started her brand because she found it hard to find and buy the African Design she was seeing, and excited by what she was finding she wanted to showcase her finds. I am going to show Africa in a positive way became her mantra. Driven by passion Looking back Lola acknowledges that she was driven by passion. And that in her naivety she rushed headlong into a venture without pausing to do proper due diligence. This unpreparedness led to problems as the business grew, pointing to how she battled with a lack of control over designers and their collections, and how when she received CNN press her website crashed as it was unable to cope with the increased traffic.
The challenges made her feel lost and soon led her to question her dream. As a result, she made the difficult decision to walk away closing down Agnes & Lola and starting another brand, Ife’s Closet. But it wasn’t the same and taking this step caused her to feel a deep sense of shame in having failed and also in having let others down.
Lola soon realised that she missed Agnes & Lola. Named after Grandmother and herself Lola could not ignore how much her identity was wrapped up in the brand and mission. So in a journey that has taken 10 years, Lola returned to Agnes & Lola, reviving the brand in a new direction that is more in tune with how she wants to see it develop. And that is by designing her own collections and producing them in Nigeria in partnership with local tailor and communities.
The new version of the brand displays her confidence and her acceptance of self and not being afraid to show who she truly is and to stop worrying about what others will think.
We talk about:
- Spotting a gap in the market to retail African fashion
- How Agnes & Lola became a journey of discovery of self
- The naivety of starting out with passion but not doing the due diligence required to start a business
- Being unprepared for the visibility that comes with PR recognition
- Acknowledging when things were not working and knowing it was time to step away
- Experiencing the shame of stopping and feeling like she was letting everyone down
- Recognising what went wrong the first time round
- Appreciating the importance of family, in particular, what she could have learned from her grandmother
- Choosing to revive Agnes & Lola
- Regaining her passion and sense of identity in the new version of Agnes & Lola
I am going to show Africa in a positive way.
– Lola Ukinamemen, Agnes & Lola
Links and resources mentioned in this episode
Where you can go to find out more about Lola and Agnes & Lola:
And before you go I have a favour to ask, if you could you take a few minutes to do the three R’s: that is rate it, review it, and recommend it to anyone you feel would benefit. It will really make a difference and I would greatly appreciate it.