Fashion designer Femi Ola takes off!
There’s usually no fast track in the competitive world of fashion design. Years of trial and error are the norm, with a number of false starts and harsh rejection thrown in. But don’t tell that to Buckhead designer Femi Ola, whose journey has been more like a rocket launch than any slow and bumpy road to success. Debuting in late 2021, her Ade by Femi line was featured in New York Fashion Week and worn by celebrities—all before it turned 1. Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and educated in the U.K., Ola always had an interest in fashion, but since childhood, only one professional goal: to become a fourth-generation lawyer. And she accomplished it, first practicing at a firm and then going in-house in the oil and gas industry, all the while earning praise for her style.
Here, she talks about what led her to start a fashion line and what her brand represents.
When did you first start designing clothes?
I actually started when I was in law school. As a U.K.-trained student, I had to take [additional courses] to qualify for the Nigerian bar, and you couldn’t wear trousers to class. So, I started making skirts for myself, and then my classmates started buying them from me. You continued to make items for yourself but were in the midst of a flourishing legal career when you started Ade by Femi.
What prompted you to create a fashion line?
It was late 2021, and my husband and I were going to dinner at Hal’s in Buckhead. Like most women, my weight goes up and down, and I was between sizes and not feeling at my best or most attractive. But I wanted to go, and I wanted to look sensational.
I just threw on this jacket I had made. It was very heavily embellished with embroidery, sequins, beads and stones. I put it on over a tank top with a pair of jeans and heels, and I went out. And I tell you, people kept coming up to my table to talk about my jacket. By the time I left, I was floating. That day, I went from feeling so self-conscious about the extra pounds to feeling very beautiful. And I thought to myself, “You know what? More women should feel this way about themselves, regardless of whether they’ve gone up or down a couple of sizes.”
So that day, I decided I was going to create a line of jackets that were stunning, heavily embellished and very flattering and forgiving sizewise. I participated in a pop-up at Phipps Plaza and unveiled the collection to my friends and family in December 2021—and I haven’t looked back since! The company has expanded beyond jackets since then.
How would you define your brand?
Women juggle so many roles on a daily basis, and I think we need to revel in the fullness of it all. We are all icons, and we don’t need to fit into anybody’s box. I want my garments to reflect that. Months after your launch, you found yourself participating in New York Fashion Week.
How did that come about?
I’d been following the blog Fashion Bomb Daily for years, and I contacted them to introduce my brand and inquire about being in the show. When they invited me, I was nervous and almost chickened out. I was encouraged by the curator of the show and, amazingly, she turned up in one of my designs [the Phoenix dress]. That was the biggest compliment. It was a wonderful experience. Preparing for it was chaotic, but it was thrilling!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself doing this on a much larger scale, with Ade by Femi being stocked in the largest luxury stores around the world. Possibly with my own fashion store. Still based in Buckhead, but splitting my time between all the places that my company will have a presence by then, God willing.
ADE BY FEMI
STORY: Laurel-Ann Dooley
Simply Buckhead is an upscale lifestyle magazine focused on the best and brightest individuals, businesses and events in Buckhead, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Chamblee. With a commitment to journalistic excellence, the magazine serves as the authority on who to know, what to do and where to go in the community, and its surroundings.