Meet Lohije, the Winner of the 2022 Fashionomics Africa Contest

Meet Lohije, the Winner of the 2022 Fashionomics Africa Contest

Fashionomics Africa hosted its second edition of the sustainability contest in collaboration with Parsons School of Design, United Nations Environment Programme, and BPCM. This contest attracted scores of applications from all over Africa, all of which demonstrated the abundance of talent and creativity in Africa’s fashion industry. After much deliberation by the judges, Nigerian premium artisanal brand, LOHIJE emerged as the winner of the contest. We sat down with the brand’s founder to learn more about their journey of building a sustainable fashion brand. 

LOHIJE is a sustainable fashion brand founded by Gift Olohije. She is an avid entrepreneur who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication degree from the University of Benin, Nigeria, and a Diploma in Fashion Design from Rhoda Michael’s Fashion School. Inspired by her mother who was a seamstress, Gift developed a love for fashion at a tender age.

“I was inspired by my mother, Doris Erhagbai. She was a seamstress. I loved watching her make dresses for my sister and me. That was where my love for fashion began,” recounts Gift.

With time, Gift picked up interests in African culture and crafts, and she was particularly intrigued by the work of Nigerian artisans. After her studies, she worked for other fashion houses and was also engaged in freelance work. The experience nurtured her fashion skills, and at the same time, exposed her to the poor treatment of workers in the fashion industry. From then on, Gift was determined to start her sustainable fashion brand, which prioritized people over profit. 

In the next phase of her career, Gift committed to gaining more knowledge about sustainable fashion, and in 2021 she launched LOHIJE.  Founded on the principles of sustainability, the brand is committed to making profit in a humane way.  

Its garments are crafted using a conscious design process and materials that celebrate African culture, nature, local crafts, and artisans. Sourcing of the brand’s production materials is done locally and organically, ensuring that there is no waste, through tactical and skillful cutting and reuse of leftover materials. For LOHIJE to maintain posterity of its local crafts, it employs local artisans who are experts in traditional forms of cloth weaving, dyeing, and other forms of traditional textiles. Their approach emphasizes indigenous techniques, while infusing modern-day innovation to satisfy the growing taste for contemporary fashion.  Local artisans that the brand works with have always been a key component of the brand’s model through their contribution to its production processes.

“Our goal has been to celebrate African artisans behind the scenes doing a lot of work,” says Gift.

LOHIJE’s products are designed to appeal to conscious shoppers, and people with an appreciation of African crafts and culture. So far, the brand has been able to exhibit its designs on major platforms such as the Lagos Fashion Week, and most recently, win a grant from the African Development Bank’s Fashionomics Africa.

As an emerging brand, LOHIJE still struggles with funding to scale its operations. Incorporating sustainability affects its bottom line by slowing down production, through the lengthy production processes which characterize most of its products. Nonetheless, LOHIJE is convinced that its sustainability practices guarantee the brand’s relevance, both now and in the future.

“There is never a time we wouldn’t have to consider human over profit, there will never be a time we wouldn’t be concerned about what our clothes are made of, where they are being made and who made them,” says Gift.

By continuing to invest in relationships across all stages of its growth, the brand is sure that it will continue unlocking value for its brand.

Views on Sustainability 

Gift is of the view that brands in Africa are starting to embrace sustainability and circularity, and actively taking part in the solutions. However, their efforts are constrained by issues such as the dumping of second-hand clothes in Africa, which emerging brands cannot control. She, therefore, advocates for collective efforts by fashion industry stakeholders, to facilitate the industry’s progress in terms of sustainability. Gift recognizes the significant contribution of African-based fashion industries in shaping sustainable practices, through practices such as thrift shopping, hand-me-downs, and incorporating indigenous crafting techniques. She, however, feels that there is room for improvement in terms of policy, infrastructure, and integrating technology. 

Views on the Overall Fashionomics Africa Initiative

As a sustainable brand, LOHIJE applauds the Fashionomics Africa team, and the African Development Bank for creating such a crucial opportunity for African designers. 

“It is very encouraging to know that institutions such as Fashionomics Africa and the African Development Bank care about the success of sustainable fashion in Africa, and have created a platform for it to thrive,” says Gift.

LOHIJE’s first encounter with Fashionomics Africa was through social media. One of Gift’s friends sent the application link for the contest to her and she applied. Since then, her brand has benefited so much from the initiative. Thanks to the prize money it won through the contest, the team has been able to plan its expansion. 

After participating in the Fashionomics Africa contest, the team at LOHIJE feels encouraged to continue on their path and take on bigger feats to promote sustainability and circularity.  Winning the competition reinforced the brand’s vision of being at the forefront of the global fashion community. In fact, LOHIJE has been reenergized to continue celebrating African craft and her artisans while upholding the basis of conscious fashion.

From its collaboration with Fashionomics Africa, LOHIJE is hoping to gather expert knowledge on sustainability and circularity, to grow its business and adequate exposure to position the brand to attract new markets. It also looks forward to an impactful mentorship experience that will help it to give back to its community. 

To see more of LOHIJE’s eccentric designs, or purchase some of their looks, feel free to visit their website. If you are an entrepreneur running a sustainable fashion brand, keep an eye on the Fashionomics Africa website, for updates on the next Fashionomics Africa online contest. 

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Meet Lohije, the Winner of the 2022 Fashionomics Africa Contest

Jun 22, 2022
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