Ilé-Ilà is a new interior design brand launched by architect turned product designer Tosin Oshinowo. The brand, meaning House of Lines in Yoruba, is a marriage between Tosin’s architectural aesthetic and her Nigerian culture. Ilé-Ilà seeks to be an influencer of contemporary Africa, evolving beyond what is associated with traditional ‘African’ design to the fashioning of products that appeal to anyone and everyone globally.
The brand’s hallmark is its use of traditional Așǫ-Oke, a handwoven, local cotton fabric used primarily as the celebratory dress of the Yoruba people. Așǫ-Oke is indigenous across the entire Yoruba region of Nigeria, however in areas like Ondo, Ekiti and Oshogbo traditional Așǫ-Oke carries a higher status culturally.
“When I presented a friend’s Așǫ-Oke supplier with the fabric gifted to me during my wedding, he told me the fabric was over 100 years old,” Tosin recalls. She adds, “Așǫ-Oke is a record of history. As I acquired more Așǫ-Oke, my mother would tell me ‘oh I remember my grandmother wore this when I was a child in the 1960s’. Highlighting the historical significance of Așǫ-Oke is quite powerful.”
This is not to say Așǫ-Oke is the only vessel Tosin uses to celebrate her Nigerian heritage in her interior design. Her first collection also features a collaboration with designer Damola Rufai. “He has a strong approach to pattern design, and showcases African sensibilities in a contemporary textile,” Tosin says of the artist. She is also working on new products with Polly Alakija, now famous for her transformative murals on the underbelly of the Falomo Bridge in Lagos.
As she thinks to future design collections Tosin also takes some cues from her fashion peers. “Maki Oh is a designer I love because she has taken Adire and modernized it. Bridget Awosika is amazing as well. Her clothing line is feminine but very ‘Devil Wears Prada-ish’. Terribly boss-like but also feminine at the same time.”
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About the author:
Nana Spio-Garbrah is the Founder and Creative Director of Blueprint Africa, an interior styling consultancy focused on African aesthetics and building a community around African design. She was Assistant set designer on hit TV show An African City, Season 2. She is also a trained economist, poverty avenger, and a dancehall fanatic with a love-hate relationship with complex carbohydrates. To follow her antics, connect with her here: