As a teen in Nigeria, Abiola Aluko had a stroke of good fortune. The aspiring fashion designer lived near an alterations specialist who would help her tailor make her designs and develop her sense of style.
“I would help friends design clothes and take it to the dressmaker to make,” said Aluko. She would continue making clothing throughout college while she studied accounting. She graduated, married, and went on to hold a range of jobs, but always kept her hands in the fashion world.
Years later, when her two young adult daughters headed off to college in the U.S., they encouraged Aluko to meld African influenced fabrics with contemporary American fashion. She felt it was time to do what she wanted to do, as well as something that would help the people in her country.
In December, Aluko launched Tiskies, a garment manufacturing company and a brand of ready-to-wear clothing featuring original designs in a range of sizes, in Lagos, Nigeria.
Now a resident of Lawrenceville, Aluko launched the brand in Atlanta. On Aug. 24, Aluko debuted the collection in a fashion show at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The event also served as a fundraiser for the Center.
Nigerian dignitaries including the Director of the Nigerian Export Council and 30 women from Africa were at the event. Carolyn Young, wife of former Mayor Andrew Young; Sara-Elizabeth Reed, wife of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Kathy Bremer, managing partner of BoardWalk Consulting; and former Atlanta City Council member, Julie Emmons are just some of the local models.
For four decades, the textile industry in Nigeria fell into decline after hitting its peak in the early 1980s. At the time, the local industry employed about 250,000 workers in the country and had the third highest level of production in Africa after Egypt and South Africa. Aluko said she hoped Tiskies would help revitalize the country’s textile industry.
“I decided to use Nigerian prints, most of the textiles factories are all shuttered up. I said, I have to have a factory in Nigeria. I could put smiles on people faces,” Aluko said. Tiskies provides jobs, training and health insurance to many Nigerians who work at the company, said Aluko.
The clothing features original branded prints made from Nigerian textile manufacturers. Aluko works with two textile designers to create the prints, then takes them to Nigerian manufacturers to create the material.
The women’s clothing collection, which Aluko also designs in Nigeria, includes dresses, pants, tops and more priced from $70 – $250. The clothing features simple styles and a small color palette to meet a wide-range of tastes, Aluko said.
She hopes Tiskies, which means “good and righteous” benefits both the wearers and the makers in positive ways.