I’m so excited to bring to you an up and coming designer who specialises in making gorgeous clothes using African fabrics and prints. Maria Hornsby-Odoi is a fellow alumni of the University of Kent, who stumbled across the idea of designing fashion wear using African fabrics when she struggled to find clothes to fit her own frame.
In today’s post I share some interesting insights about Maria and her brain child “House of Afrika” along with some of her gorgeous designs.
Me: What is the most enjoyable thing about running House of Afrika?
Maria: I love seeing how the ladies that come to me get excited about trying on colour and experimenting with different clothing styles.
Me: What would you say drives what you do?
Maria: I am on a mission to change women’s perceptions about what they can and can’t wear. Many women are afraid of trying new things and have no idea of what really looks good on them as a consequence. House of Afrika is a platform where women can actually experience how what they wear can transform them and bring them out of their shell.
Me: What three words would your customers use to describe the style and feel House of Afrika?
Maria: Most of my clients tell me that they feel like royalty when they try on my designs, so the first word would have to be regal. They are also captivated by the bright colours and the vibrancy of the outfits, so the second word would be vibrant. I’m not sure about the third one but I guess different (this is where I piped in and offered up edgy which we both liked).
Me: So you didn’t set out to design clothing did you?
Maria: No, I actually studied International Relations and trained to be a Barrister but I realised there was a space in the market when I struggled to find nice clothes to fit my frame. The idea literally dropped into my spirit, I am not a typical business person by any means for example I had to learn how to sell.
Me: What type of people tend to purchase your designs?
Maria: I have clients from around the world, a lot from the US but also Europe like Italy, Norway, Sweden and France, it appeals to people from across the ethnic divide. They are also generally in their 20s to 40s and are either professionals or people looking for something different, dramatic and unique for when they go out or maybe to events or speaking engagements.
Me: What new skill have you learnt from running your business?
Maria: Outside of learning how to run a business and become comfortable with selling, I have actually learnt lots about photography. I used to hire someone to take my photos but then I realised that this could be something I could do myself. I purchased a good quality professional camera and off I went. Not only is it a great skill to have but it’s so much fun too! It also gives me the flexibility to take photographs when and how I want to.
Me: What has been some of your greatest challenges in setting up and running House of Afrika?
Maria: I would say that a current challenge I am facing is around the area of enlarging my business and trying to find the time to run it in the way I would really like to.
Me: So does this mean you have plans to expand?
Maria: Yes. My next move or my desire is to make House of Afrika mainstream, I would like to see my designs in major high street shops and department stores.
Me: I love so many of your designs for example the jumpsuit is on my buy list, what are your favourite designs?
Maria: I also really like the jumpsuit, but my other favourites are the maxi dresses and the 50s style dresses too.
Me: Thank you Maria for taking time out to chat with me. Before we go do you have a final message that you would like to get across to the ladies who will read this blog post?
Maria: Yes, I would like to say to all the women out there BE ADVENTUROUS! Get out of your comfort zone and refresh your image, give your style a makeover. 🙂
OK that’s it for this blog post. If you would like to find out more about House of Afrika you can visit Maria’s Etsy store or Facebook page, she will have a new range of A/W (Autumn/Winter) designs out shortly. If you’re not sure what colours would best suit you, why not contact me for a quick discussion on how you can buy right the first time around.