There is a growing global interest in African design, textiles and products, and talented Nigerian interior designer and lifestyle brand creator, Eva Sonaike, is taking the world by storm on the back of this trend. Her aim is to position the 'African' aesthetic in the global textiles and interior industry as part of her bigger brand-building picture.
LoA spoke to the talented Eva Sonaike about her entrepreneurial journey from fashion journalist to luxury interior and lifestyle brand creator, and her ambitions for the future.
What does your company do?
Eva Sonaike is a London-based interiors and lifestyle brand creating luxurious textiles, home-décor and accessories with a distinctive and vibrant West-African aesthetic. Inspired by the cultural mélange of West-African textile tradition and European craftsmanship, a passion for interior design and an exuberant love of colour, as the company’s Creative Director, my aim is to add a new and distinctive aesthetic to the luxury interiors market. Expertly printed in Germany and manufactured in the UK, the luxury range (of textiles and products) boasts a breadth of exclusive designs that bring a touch of African luxury to any setting.
"Now we are are eight years down the line and I can proudly say, that I established the company of my dreams. We are stocked all over the world and are continuing our mission to bring African design to the forefront of the luxury interiors market."
What inspired you to start your company?
My background is in journalism and I worked for several years as a fashion journalist for glossy lifestyle titles in London. But since a very young age I had a keen passion and interest for interior design. When I had my first child and was on a six month maternity leave, I decided to re-decorate our apartment and make some cushions from 'ankaka' fabric. They looked so nice that I decided to produce a small collection of samples with a local manufacturer. I contacted several stores and everyone loved them, so I decided to approach the big department stores in London. And within one year we were stocked in London's top department stores Selfridges, Liberty and Fenwick of Bond Street. This showed me that if you have a passion, believe in something and work smart, you can reach your goals and make your dream a reality. I was back at my fashion job then, but knew that I wanted to take it further and develop the 'part-time job' into a stable, well-known brand that is renowned for its luxury African interiors. So I handed in my notice and have been running Eva Sonaike on a full-time basis since 2011. I soon realised that the beautiful 'ankara' fabric, isn't suitable for the interiors market and also wanted to distinguish myself more from the rest, so I started designing my own fabrics. Now we are are eight years down the line and I can proudly say, that I established the company of my dreams. We are stocked all over the world and are continuing our mission to bring African design to the forefront of the luxury interiors market.
"At the moment all my team members are African women. One from Sudan and another one is a fellow Nigerian. It is great working with women who understand and support my mission of bringing African design to the premium and luxury market."
What makes Eva Sonaike products stand out from the rest?
If you are looking for unique items, that stand out you should come to us. I love colour, so all our pieces are colourful, but at the same time not overpowering. We also combine a traditional 'African' aesthetic with a contemporary, luxury style, which many of our professional clients describe as ‘new'. Every Eva Sonaike product is handmade to the highest specification and quality. I am obsessed with perfection, so we managed to find the best printer, manufacturers and we pay a lot of attention to detail, even when packing our products. All of our products are made in the UK, some in Sweden and we make the rugs in Nepal, where we can guarantee ethical production standards.
Tell us a little about your team
We are a very small team here in the studio, but work with many freelancers and manufacturers. At the moment all my team members are African women. One from Sudan and another one is a fellow Nigerian. It is great working with women who understand and support my mission of bringing African design to the premium and luxury market.
"My future plans are to continue to grow the business, be stocked by more retailers worldwide, grow my direct client base and work with interior designer on commercial and residential projects. And at the core of all of this is to position the 'African' aesthetic in the textiles and interior industry as part of the bigger picture."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Not at all, I am a journalist by trade and was always working in the creative and lifestyle sector. I had a great career and learned from a young age to multitask. I worked as a TV producer, magazine journalist and fashion PR over the past 15 years, which gives me a great basis for running a business. And I am also multilingual (fluent in German, English and French and a bit of Yoruba). But since running the business, I also developed my business skills, which I very much enjoy.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
My future plans are to continue to grow the business, be stocked by more retailers worldwide, grow my direct client base and work with interior designer on commercial and residential projects. And at the core of all of this is to position the 'African' aesthetic in the textiles and interior industry as part of the bigger picture.
"If you have a passion, believe in something and work smart, you can reach your goals and make your dream a reality."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I love designing, but to be realistic, that is only 15% of the job. It is very satisfying looking at the journey I have taken from making a few cushions, to developing into a household name in the interiors industry. I had a look at my press cuttings the other week and I have been featured by publications I never dreamed of. I think making a living from doing something you enjoy is always satisfying, especially if it looks great and makes other people happy.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
First of all, you have to have a great product, idea or service. The market is over-flooded with so much these days, that you really have to stand out! Then be persistent and don't be discouraged if there is a 'no' or some doors won't open. You have to have a lot of stamina and keep going. It is a ongoing journey, which can be very frustrating sometimes, but if you stay positive and focused, unexpected things may happen!
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Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we love the women entrepreneurs of Africa who have big dreams, big entrepreneurial ambitions, and the talent and business savvy to make them a reality. Eva Sonaike is not only doing that and more, but her fabulous work is making the world sit up and take notice, and is at the forefront of positioning the African aesthetic as the hottest new trend in luxury interior design style. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa