In The Spotlight: Olatoun Jolaoso From Petit Tribe
For a brand that launched in March this year, Petit Tribe has already established a strong presence in the burgeoning childrenswear market. Inspired by the nomadic Fulani Tribe who was integral to a childhood growing up in northern Nigeria, designer and entrepreneur Olatoun Jolaosos striking collection comprises beautiful and vibrant prints and patterns.
She says the Fulani Tribes sense of community and vast history spanning the centuries, formed the basis on the UK based brand. Petit Tribe aspires to these values of community and is constantly drawing inspiration from our travels through life. It is the fusing of influences that inspires Petit Tribe we are global in outlook and take inspiration from everywhere.
Olatoun, who studied information systems in the US and the UK, was inspired to launch a childrenswear collection after struggling to find clothes that reflected her African background when pregnant with her daughter almost four years ago. My fascination with cultures, travel and fashion led me to start my own brand with a certain percentage of the proceeds going towards educating children in Nigeria.
Grateful for her incredible childhood growing up in Africa, Olatoun is also keen to give back and does so via the Petit Tribe Foundation. 1% of the brands revenue is donated to schools in Nigeria. This will help build a much better underlying skill base in Nigeria. I want to engage in a meaningful way with working class families in rural and developing villages and cities to hear their stories, with the intent of sponsoring their childrens education.
What inspired the launch of Petit Tribe?
I studied information systems the US and took then fashion in the UK after being in the States. Petit Tribe was inspired by the birth of my first daughter. The new experience of motherhood, and the many blessings it brings, took me on a journey and I began search within myself. Becoming a mother forced me to listen to my inner voice and to pursue my dreams. I noticed a gap in the childrenswear market, having travelled widely and being unable to find clothes for my daughter that reflected my African background. This is when Petit Tribe was born.
How would you describe the Petit Tribe aesthetic?
Our aesthetic is one of contemporary design, outstanding quality, detailed finishing and the urban globetrotting influences. At the core of the collections are bold colours and dazzling prints. Petit Tribe is contemporary luxury childrenswear with an African heart.
What was your childhood like growing up in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna?
Growing up in Kaduna was a very beautiful experience as it was full of family. My mum took us to school everyday, we spent weekends going to the outskirts of Kaduna. We would enjoy parties with family friends, long brunches, swimming and gymnastics classes. I particularly remember sitting outside watching the Fulani cattlemen with their herd, I would watch them graze for hours. My childhood was very simple, but very rich in culture. Kaduna is a place where people from many different parts of Nigeria live and work this created a great sense of culture. It had everything you need for a perfect childhood - and more!
How has this influenced your work?
I was inspired by the nomadic Fulani Tribe, whom I saw and connected with almost every day while growing up in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna. The Fulanis astonishingly vibrant tribal prints and patterns inform the design and influence all things Petit Tribe. I am continually inspired by the Fulani Tribes deep sense of community and their ability to fuse cultural aspects of the different societies visited during their far reaching nomadic journeys over the centuries. Petit Tribe aspires to these values of community and is constantly drawing inspiration from our travels through life. It is the fusing of influences that inspires Petit Tribe. We are global in outlook and take inspiration from everywhere.
The Petit Tribe Foundation supports the education of young people in Nigeria how did this come about?
Upon returning to Nigeria after several years of studying in the UK and US, I was shocked by the simple constraint of lack of basic education that faced most working class people. I spent time getting close to and really understanding the issues faced by many of the families around me. A recurring theme was financial pressures on families, forcing children with great potential out of regular schooling. I began to sponsor several local children in order to give them a better and longer education. Through the Petit Tribe Foundation, I am formalising this support to work specifically with families, which have recognised potential to keep their children in long-term education. This will help build a much better underlying skill base in Nigeria. I want to engage in a meaningful way with working class families in rural and developing villages and cities to hear their stories, with the intent of sponsoring their childrens education.
What does a typical day at work involve?
Lots of Facetime calls to my team in London, signing off styles for the next season, social media, seeking out inspiration for the next season and picking up and dropping off my daughter at nursery. The joy of technology is you can work on the move and be flexible with your schedule.
How do you balance motherhood and work?
Motherhood comes first. I tend to have a schedule for everything; my daughter is at nursery between 8:30am-12:30pm so I schedule meetings while she is at school. Sometimes work gets in the place of motherhood and motherhood gets in the place of work, but I would say I have a perfect balance because everything is scheduled in advance.
Whats the hardest part about being a mother? And what do you love best?
The hardest part of motherhood is having to say no to my daughter. I want her to grow up understanding that not everything in life comes easily. But I find it so hard looking at her beautiful face and saying no to her request. What I love best about being a mother is waking up to the sound of my daughters voice every morning. She comes into our room and wakes my husband and I up telling us how much she loves us. Seeing her love makes me a better person, I want to make sure I give her the best of me.
Which other local designers are you inspired by?
Deola Sagoe I love the fact that she has been around for such a long time and is so creative. Lanri da Silva is also extremely talented I love her use of colour and print.
What would be your dream creative project?
The goal of Petit Tribe is to be positioned as a global leader for luxurious lifestyle living. I see us taking our aesthetic into homewares and I look forward to seeing what a Petit Tribe house will look like!".
To shop the collection, go to www.petittribe.com
Words: Georgia Macmillan