Nigerian born and educated Marion Ayonote designs beautifully innovative and feminine footwear. There is a need for each of these unique pieces to reflect the personality, lifestyle and aspirations of its owner. With offices based in London, Marion Ayonote creates collections that appeal to Women the World over and her approach to design has been sought by individuals around the world keen to exploit and experience the creativity imbued in her work.
Marion, what an amazing bio you have. I can relate to your childhood upbringing where you draw your inspiration from – being exposed to the Arts. You are also a much awarded designer and have exhibited your designs at a number of international high profile events since your launch in 2000. Congratulations on your journey so far!
RPHill: Marion, I applaud you on all of your awarded accomplishments; however one of your more prestigious accolades was in 2005 when you were awarded membership to the Chartered Society of Designers [CSD]. Tell us about what led to this milestone in your career and how it has impacted your designs.
MA: Thank you so much. I was asked to speak at an Investment seminar for creative businesses in the city of London when Christina Martinez approached me and invited me to apply to become a member of the CSD. I requested information on their criteria and applied. I was invited to meet the moderator; it is quite a thorough process… The CSD is backed by Royal Charter and had the Duke of Edinburgh as its Patron. So it was quite intense. I was required to present my portfolio, samples of my work and CV etc. After a series of questions, I was given a chance to defend my designs. I received a response in writing and was awarded MCSD on the 28th of November 2005. Becoming a member of the CSD enabled me to practice design to the highest professional standards, there were regular meetings with members from various design disciplines: Graphic designers, Automobile designers, Architects etc. I was to speak at the British design council, and the courses offered at the CSD provided me with an insight into Intellectual property and contract negotiation. However, I have since left the CSD and now practice independently.
It is not easy developing a fashion business and getting it exposed. You seem to be on the right road of success from product placement to designing for luxury brand exhibition tours to designing shoes for world beauty pageants [to name a few]. Success is often achieved with a few bumps along the way. What are some of the difficulties or challenges in today’s role of a fashion designer in getting exposed and how do you find ways to overcome them?
I was quite young when I started my label and had no understanding of business. I did not know how to price my collection; I’d get lots of orders and then get stuck. Paying the manufacturers and not myself, so I had to address the business side of fashion… with regards to challenges in getting exposed? I find highly vetted trade shows such as London fashion week, GDS and the New York, Milan and Paris shows great for exposure and that would require adequate resources. Some have found social media a useful tool. But strange things do happen… I was on a call one morning at an event, when a Lady from California walked up to me and asked, ‘would you like to be in Hollywood’? And naturally, I thought she was off her rocker but a few months later my shoes were on the Red carpet at the Globes. Originality and hard work can pay off.
Product placement on celebrities is any designer’s wish or can be seen as the ultimate means of exposure. A-list celebrities are seen wearing your beautiful footwear. How important is this tactic to your branding and marketing plan compared to other avenues of exposure [trade shows, sales agents, fashion shows, etc.]?
Well, the trade shows and agents are mainly for selling our products, so that’s our focus at the shows. Celebrity placements are great for exposure and a huge compliment. As you know stylists would only choose what they like, there isn’t much one can do about that.
The fashion industry is excessive, overdone, and can look the same season after season. How do you stay fresh, innovative, and inspired?
I work on a variation of themes. I select a topic and immerse myself in it, working through information and detail; I find my inspiration and develop a collection around my discovery.
Running a fashion business involves both disciplines of creativity and the operation of the business. You have been doing this for over a decade now. Please share a business tip with the reader that has served you well.
I have been a designer for over a decade, but I am still learning about business. A tip that has served me well… stay focused!
Since your parents recognized and nurtured your talent at an early age, what would they say about what you have accomplished so far? Feel free to elaborate about your childhood.
My mother has been my main source of strength. Always is extremely supportive and full of praise. She is very kind. My father passed away whilst in my final year at University. he is the main inspiration behind my MA logo that was how he wrote the M in Marion. I think he would have been delighted. I had a fantastic childhood; growing up in the North and South of Nigeria. Although, I don’t speak any Nigerian languages, I appreciate the culture and diversity of the various ethnic groups.
Based on your world travels and drawing inspiration from your journeys, are there any innovative trends in footwear on the horizon that push today’s fashion boundaries that you would like to share?
I prefer not to work with trend forecasts or reports. I travel for inspiration, visiting historic sites and ancient cities; I do so to remove myself from the current season, empty my mind and work from a blank space.
I love your statement of what inspires you and that you need to empty your mind and work from a blank space. Spoken like a true artist, as you are. The EDGE philosophy is about the artistry of fashion and your designs speak to that.
All images courtesy of CLD Style House.
Once again, EDGE congratulates Marion Ayonote on her journey so far and extends continued success for the future!