Launched in 2014 by Nigerian designer Kanyinsola Onalaja, Onalaja is a contemporary womenswear label that was born out of a passion for using the medium of fashion to elevate traditional forms of African art. The brand’s aesthetic is defined by texture clashing, playful proportions, and rich colors; each collection of shimmering evening gowns, embellished dresses and tactile separates places an emphasis on producing tangible interpretations of her heritage in a way that reimagines traditional Nigerian crafting techniques, from weaving, hand-embroidery, hand-painting, and hand-printing.
Onalaja graduated with a BA in Fashion Design from Istituto Marangoni, and went on to obtain her master’s at the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome. She later honed her skills working with brands such as Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon before deciding to launch her own brand. Taking inspiration from the traditions of her heritage, the sensual craftsmanship of Italian design, and the formality of British fashion, Onalaja’s aesthetic is guided by a reverence for the female form.
Onalaja is also inspired by the work of Professor Ron Eglash, and his study into the infinitely complex patterns of fractals and its link to African design. This influence emerges through her use of traditional techniques and materials, as well as the conscious scaling of work, surface patterns, repetition and geometry.
Onajala was named a Vogue Talent Muuse Finalist in 2014 and won the award for Best Fashion Collection for her graduating year at Istituto Marangoni 2014. In 2020, the brand was selected as one of 30 participants in Arise Fashion Week’s 30 Under 30 contest.
- Muuse x Vogue Talents Young Vision Award, Finalist, 2014