Fèhìntì by Moji Akinde designer goes from modeling to home decor

Moji Akinde
Photo courtesy of Moji Akinde

What is your background in fashion?

I’ve worked in the fashion industry as a model for over eight years — albeit in smaller capacities —and my preferred fashion sense being unique, bold and chic; certainly translates into what I do with Fehinti. An effortless, vibrant way to accessorize your personal space.

What was the tipping point when you decided you were going to be a fashion designer?

Nigerian fabric is often exclusively used for items of clothing, something the fashionista in me greatly appreciates. However, I think that it is an injustice to limit such beautiful artistry to clothing alone. I decided to start Fehinti by Moji Akinde because not only do I love to share my aspects of my Nigerian culture, I believe that the place a person lays their head to sleep at the end of the day, deserves as much attention and personal touches as everything else in our lives. I want each person who owns my pieces to walk through their door, a smile brighten their face, as they think “I can relax, I am home”

What’s the worst fashion trend you ever bought into? Biggest fashion regret?

This is a tough one because I rarely buy into fashion trends. I acknowledge them, however my personal style and self expression is what I dress for. I did come across a secondary school picture from my tomboy days and I had on a blue crop tank top, sagging baggy jeans and boxers. Boxers!

In the words of the infamous Iris Apfel, “Fashion you can buy, style you possess.”

What is the weirdest thing that inspires your work?

I will answer this with the weird things I see in my work! Due to abstract patterns of the fabric I use, I tend to see other things in them the way you’d see animals in clouds. There is a sold out Adire fabric that immediately reminded be of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, an Ankara fabric I recently got that popped Frank Lloyd Wright in my head and another that reminded me of Charlie Brown’s shirt. I might be the only one who sees these things, although i’d hope there other weird folk like me who see it too.

How do you go about selecting materials for the latest collection?

While African/Nigerian fabric can be bought anywhere these days, I particularly pride myself in sourcing quality cotton, fade resistant, and distinct fabric.

My aunt is gracious enough to get the Adire [tie-dye] fabric directly from Abeokuta where it originates from, and my friends and other family members who understand the color and pattern schemes I am thinking of, don’t mind roaming the streets of Nigeria get the Ankara [wax-print] and Aso Oke [woven-cotton] for me.

Do you have any fashion collaborations coming up? What about commissions?

Indeed. The continent of Africa has 52 countries, each one with numerous distinct cultures, traditions and fabric texture. My goal is to showcase as many of these cultures and textures in my work. In the process, I too, am learning about the abundantly rich continent that history books often do not teach. I hope to share these with as many people as possible.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Set the table. They will come.”

As I’m sure a lot of artists and entrepreneurs would agree, we are our own worst critics. I often wonder if anyone would be interested in what I have to offer. Then someone told be this, “Set the table, they will come”. From then on, once that annoying voice of critique creeps up, I silence it by throwing myself into the best work I can muster, and let that speak for itself. So far, it has been effectively spectacular.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received and put into action?

Not advice per se, but I signed up for a business coaching workshop that was wrong for me. I allowed myself be pressured into a cookie-cutter mold without asserting my uniqueness and that of my business idea. After that, I learned to trust my instincts more, making sure that whatever decision I make is tailored to who I am and the message I plan to convey.

What’s your favorite piece or collection? Why do you consider it a treasure?

All my Adire pieces. These are hand dyed, hand batiked fabric pieces that are almost a dying art in Nigeria. The Adire tradition originated in Abeokuta close to my hometown in Nigeria; and there are numerous talented and underrated women who have dedicated their lives to this art. I appreciate their artwork and value their dedication to the craft, so when I am able to get my hands on them, I cherish them.

What is the last place you traveled to? Did it spark anything in terms of fashion?

The last trip I took was to San Francisco, and out of the country was to Spain. Neither of these trips sparked anything since Fehinti was conceived and brought to life only a year ago. I do hope that the coming year takes me to either Ghana or Kenya. I will have stories for you then!

What do you like most about spring/summer fashion?

All the brightness! The fashion itself isn’t the focus for me, it is the whimsical, dazzling colors, and the refreshing promise of the summer months to come that inspire to do great work.

What do you like most about fall fashion?

Layers, accessories and the creativity of fashion designers. I look forward to the different items of clothing people put together that I typically wouldn’t have thought of.

What do you do to start your day on a positive note?

Coffee. And music. Usually Nigerian music to start the day. You’ll rarely see an angry Nigerian. Yes, we may talk like we are angry, we really aren’t. Just “passionate”. 🙂 This positive disposition of ours crosses over into our music, so what better way to start the day than some upbeat, spirit lifting tunes.

If we entered your work studio what would we find?

A beautiful mess. Piles of cut-up, half sewn fabric and unfinished home accessories. Once an idea for a pillow design or home piece comes to mind, i immediately drop whatever i am doing to bring the vision to life using whatever fabric i can lay my hands on at the moment. When i am confident and satisfied that i can reproduce it later, i stop about 80% to completion, and then source the appropriate patterns and fabric texture to make the finished product come to life. So, if you walk into my space, you will find a lot of “unfinished prototypes” that sacrificed their yardage for the big picture :). *poor things*

What would embarrass you the most?

My Nigerian citizenship might be revoked for this, but I can’t make Jollof Rice. Consult your closest Nigerian for it’s historical significance.

What is your biggest fashion pet peeve?

Leggings worn as pants. I may be willing to look away if they are patterned, otherwise, no. Just, NO. In terms of interior decor, those who do not invest in the space they live in. It could be that one special wine glass, or a picture frame, a pillow. It is important to own a piece of decor that makes your apartment, condo, house, shoebox, a home.

What excites you about the holiday season?

Food and camaraderie. This is also the season i cook the most, and make the most placemats and table runners. My mother always says that a person who feeds others is blessed, and the vision of people, strangers, friends, family gathered around a dinner table or living room floor breaking bread together warms my heart. I think that the holidays bring that about in most people. Especially in Chicago when staying indoors during the holiday season is the smartest and best option we probably have!

Every woman should own …

Her “f—* you” money. And at least one pair of heels she feels sexy in.

Every man should own …

A tailored and well-fitting suit.

If you had an extra hour in a day, how would you spend it?

Sleep! On a sandy beach, on a summertime Chicago afternoon.

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