It would be easy to pigeon-hole Lola Faturoti as an African fashion designer. But she’d have a problem with that — with any labels, really.
Though she grew up south of Lagos, Nigeria, Faturoti moved to London at 17. A couple of years later, she ran away from home and found her way from the London College of Fashion to New York. She fell in love with the city’s internationalism.
The striking beauty began working at Charivari, a fashion-forward boutique on the Upper West Side, and making her own designs on the side. Her boss, Barbara Weiser, caught wind and allowed her to begin selling her clothes in the store once she saw them.
“I’m a dreamer,” Faturoti says. “And this is why I ran away from home too. I was being put too much into a box. I knew it wasn’t for me, and so I needed to leave to be free. It’s very important for me to be free.”
She caught the attention of fashion journalists with her collections in 1999 and 2000. For the latter, she organized a stunt, showing her collection on the street across from where guests from Ralph Lauren’s show were leaving the designer’s show. “I’m not a good conformist,” she says.
Nowadays, she’s got a ready-to-wear line that mixes all of her influences and emphasizes her love of craftsmanship and traditional costumes from Panama and Vietnam. “My DNA is African, but I’m a woman of the world,” Faturoti says.
And it was her opinions on women’s fashion, especially as they get older, that fascinated me. To wit, emphasize what you’ve got, at any age. “Women don’t look at themselves in the mirror anymore, so they don’t dress properly,” she says. “They look at the magazines to dictate what they wear, instead of looking in the mirror.”
As for herself? Faturoti considers herself ageless, and that seems to be the key. “I am 50 by birth, but I do not think I have an age,” she says. “My life is just starting. If I think that I’m getting toward my grave, then I wouldn’t be able to do anything. But because I know this is the beginning of my life, it doesn’t stop me from anything.”