APiF: Please introduce yourself.
CAVEN ETOMI: Our names are Joan Caven, Doreen Caven and Oseyi Etomi and together we make up the casual luxury brand Caven Etomi.
APiF: What does the brand Caven Etomi stand for?
CAVEN ETOMI: Caven Etomi is our last names put together. We like to think our brand represents the current day contemporary Africa, which is an interwoven celebration of cultural and modern influences.
APiF: How and why did you decide to create Caven Etomi?
CAVEN ETOMI: Caven Etomi was developed when we identified a gap in the market for Africa-inspired casual wear. We are all from Nigeria and although we had always been influenced by art and fashion, we were all going to be doctors originally. However, somewhere along the line, our passion for design grew and we also noticed that most African designers were focusing on more dressy evening looks. It was difficult for us to find casual modern clothing inspired by our continent so we decided to go into business. We wanted something different, casual and fresh and that is how we came up with our brand.
APiF: What is your cultural heritage and how does your heritage inspire you?
CAVEN ETOMI: We are all Nigerian and we have been so inspired by the art and artists from Nigeria. Our second collection for example was heavily inspired by Nsibidi, which is a system of symbols indigenous to South Eastern Nigeria and by the artist Victor Ekpuk who works with the script. We currently have our line of hair accessories which includes clips and floral crowns and were inspired by the Suri children from Omo Valley in Ethiopia.
APiF: Sisters and business partners – a blessing or a curse?
CAVEN ETOMI: Well, Oseyi is our best friend but Doreen and Joan are sisters but we have all known each other forever, so Oseyi is basically like a sister to us. But to answer your question, it is a blessing and a curse! It is a blessing because we can be on the same wavelength because we are all really close and obviously want similar things. Also we let go of issues easier because we know we will always be in each others lives – whether we like it or not. It can be a curse sometimes because at the end of the day we are business partners, and it is always harder to be in business with family.
APiF: What is your professional background?
CAVEN ETOMI: The Caven’s have bachelor’s degree in Biology and African Studies while Oseyi has a degree in Biological Anthropology. Joan went on to pursue an MBA in Marketing and Strategy whilst working as a model with Wilhelmina in New York and also with a creative agency in New York. Doreen went on to pursue a Master’s in Epidemiology and Oseyi studied Fashion at Parsons and worked in the fashion industry in NY and Lagos.
APiF: Any tips for new or aspiring entrepreneurs?
CAVEN ETOMI: Don’t do it. Just playing. We think that you just have to be passionate about whatever you are getting into. Don’t get into anything just for the fame or for the money because as an entrepreneur you don’t see the rewards for some time. You have to be in it because you love it and you should never stop because it is a learning and a growth process. You might not see yourself growing because you may not see the physical evidence, but if you start something and after a year compare what it is now to what it was then, you will definitely see some kind of growth!
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