Born in Nigeria, Joy Meribe closed Milan Fashion Week last week with her first runway collection. Armed with degrees from Nigeria and Italy, Meribe boasts of a luxury fashion brand in Italy dedicated to alternative, versatile and original fashion. Its collections feature unique garments inspired by Western fashion models with clear references to African culture and style, showing off amazing fantasies and patterns. Offering unique solutions ranging from the most classic looks to more casual and younger models to meet the needs of women of different types, her passion for the eclectic and the sophisticated shines through her work. Back from Milan, Meribe talks to TOBI APODIPE about her experience during a major fashion week, among others.
What was your experience at Milan Fashion Week recently?
It was surreal. Just seeing my name on the official Milan Fashion Week calendar made me so emotional. During the fashion show, when I went out to greet the audience, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got emotional and burst into tears.
This huge success comes barely a year after your first collection, which hit the headlines. How was the trip so far?
It has been a year that has seemed so many years to me. During this year, I have grown so much as a fashion designer thanks to the mentorship of Michelle Ngonmo, President of the Afro Fashion Association, of which I have been a member since its inception six years ago; Stella Jean, popular Italian designer of Italian and Haitian origin and founder of the fashion brand ‘Stella Jean’ and Edward Buchanan, founder and owner of the fashion brand ‘Sansovino6’ in Italy. These are the people who founded the project “Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion – We Are Made in Italy (BLMIF – WAMI). It’s a movement that has questioned why black fashion designers in Italy have had no luck until now.
How would you describe the aesthetics of your brand? What styles do you favor?
I define the aesthetics of my brand as “Afropolitan chic”. It’s a fusion of Afro and Western styles.
Where and how do you get your creative inspiration?
Anything and everything around me. I got to see a particular cover that I like and decide to create something similar but with other features. Nothing is new in fashion these days. I sometimes take inspiration from existing styles, but I create something that is an improvement on what is already there.
How much would you say the BLMIF movement has been instrumental in the growth of your brand and yourself?
Before the BLMIF-WAMI movement, it was difficult for my brand to take off in the midst of all the big brands that Italy is famous for. The movement gave me a lot of visibility and validation. It gave me the opportunity to be seen.
Would you work with local Nigerian designers to present them on the world stage?
I would if I had the chance. I already have a few in mind.
Did you have a lot of difficulty before you could break through last year?
Yes. I struggled with the lack of adequate funding and lacked credibility with suppliers and production companies because of it. Sometimes all you need is financial availability in branding and positioning your brand to give you that extra boost.
What is your personal style?
My personal style is casual chic. I like to be comfortable in whatever I wear. Uncomfortable dressing, as beautiful as it is, stresses me out.
What is your future project for your brand?
Talking about the future makes me a little uncomfortable. God only knows what the future holds. However, I will continue to give my all and continually improve my art through constant learning and hard work.