MEET TAIBAT LAWAL - SCIENTIST, ACCESSORIES DESIGNER/MAKER AND ENTREPRENEUR

Tell us about yourself

Salam, my name is Taibat Omobolanle Lawal and I am happily married, Alhamdulillah. I presently live in Arlington, Texas, United States. I grew up in Northern part of Nigeria, Kano to be precise and my family moved to Lagos just as I was about to get into Lagos State University where I studied microbiology. While in LASU, I went to NIIT where I studied Oracle Database Administration and became an Oracle 9i Database Administration Professional. After my undergraduate degree, I got married to my wonderful husband and best friend Wasiu Adedapo Lawal and moved to the United States. Here I went to University of Houston Clearlake for my Masters in Biotechnology, which I completed in August 2011. During my  Master\'s degree, I worked as an Infectious disease medical technologist and had to put my creativity on hold to pick it back up immediately after I completed the programme. All in all at the present, I am a medical technologist and a business owner – both full time!

When did you start Tee’s Designs

Tee’s designs started in 2009 as “Noblegas Apparel” – inspired by the chemistJ, born out of the need for a modest clothing line. This came about a year after I got a sewing machine as a surprise birthday gift and I had spent some time creating designs that were widely admired around me. But after several considerations and re-branding, the name was changed to Tee’s designs in 2011.

Describe your business

“Tee\'s designs” is an online store that offers handmade jewellery and accessories for everyone. Our designs are unique and pretty innovative and are all made with Ankara - a 100% cotton fabric with unique patterns commonly worn in West Africa. In today\'s world, tribal collections appear to be making a leap into mainstream fashion and Tee\'s designs\' vision Insha Allah, is to become one of the top brands in tribal unique accessories for everyone. We take jewellery, accessories and home decorations to a new level of sophistication and yet provide an unparalleled selection of fashion and%20fun products at reasonable prices. All our products are carefully made to meet your expectations. With a variety of offerings to choose from, we are sure you will be happy with our products.

 What brought about the name Tee’s Designs

 We started business as Noblegas Apparel and after so much consideration; we knew we needed to change the name. A dear friend calls me “Tee” and one day she said “na wa o! Tee na u do this one too…. this your design na helele” and that was where the idea came from. I toyed with it for a while and finally decided “Tee’s designs” it will be because I did not want the name of the business to limit my imagination and creativity…..with Tee’s designs; we can explore new grounds …..clothing, accessories, home decorations etc….anything that can be designed! What is the inspiration behind Tee’s Designs

 Everything%20around me is inspiration but my main inspiration comes from fabrics.When I wake up in the morning and realize that I\'m living my dream - it inspires me to continue to create. I am also inspired by people especially two fashion divas I have as siblings – Toyin and Feyi.

 Most of my home decoration designs are tailored towards things I do in my home. I always like for everything to complement each other and match and yet be unique and different that you will not be able to find in stores anywhere.

 Even though we are more into accessories right now, we would like to have an Islamic clothing line too in the nearest future.

What’s your creative/design process like

 First with any design out there, the thoughts and imaginations, I let them take me places. Then I come back to reality and sketch what I am imagining and try to figure out%20anything that might be of hindrances to the design. Next step will be to try it out – this usually is the longest phase because they are not always feasible, but I have fun trying to create them with comfort, in mind. Take earrings for example, you have to make them in such a way that they are not too heavy for the earrings and yet not too light that they will not stay.

How did you break into the Accessory market

 <%2Fspan>Like I said before, we started as a modest ladies clothing line but even as a clothing line we had bags bangles and hijab pins as some of our products. As a full time Infectious disease medical technologist, time is something I do not have a lot of. Accessories are easier for me to pick up and design after a long day trying to figure out what is going on with hundreds of patients.

What drives your choice of Fabric and Accessories

%26nbsp;Uhm! My choice of fabric- there is a saying that “what you have you don’t really appreciate”. Living in the United States, people always complement your dressing, when you are dressed in Ankara – because it is different, elegant and unique! and I love my heritage. Once, someone asked my husband if she could get some of the fabric he was wearing so we gave her some tie and dye fabric. This woman had the fabric framed! It was just too beautiful she had to use it to decorate her office. So deciding on Ankara was somewhat easy for me, not only do people like it, it is 100% cotton and very flexible to use, it has loveor me, my first challenge was/is getting the capital required to start a business. As with any business, when you are just starting you will constantly need to pump funds into it because of course not every single item will sell all the time. Secondly, gaining the trust of customers – buying online from a small business is not something people generally do, because there are a lot of concerns – Will it look good on me? Is it made well? What if…? Which is why our products are also sold on etsy.com and we also attend juried fairs.

 *Juried fairs are like small trade fairs where all products are inspected by the organizers to ensure that whatever is sold at their events are of top quality.

What is your personal goal/long term plans/vision

To become a successful woman with a loving and caring family by Allah\'s mercy.

Who is your role model/mentor in this line of business

 To me business is business; you just have to channel your God given talent Masha Allah into it. I really do not have a role model in the fashion industry, but as a business woman, my dear mother is my role model and mentor. I’d also like to give some credit to my tailor down in Ogba, Lagos as she was the one that taught me to sew in the first place. Without that, all of this might not have happened. But I do admire top fashion designers out there, like the likes of Tiffany Amber, Rabia Z of Rabia Designs, Duro Olowu, and many more.

 How do you combine the home front with work

 As a medical technologist, I try to leave work at work. And as a designer and a business owner, I try as much as I can to balance things but yet sometimes it can be hard especially when a show/craft sale is coming up or when I am designing a new collection. A very understanding, supporting and encouraging family helps a lot. Masha Allah, I get help with acquiring new customers and business ideas from my husband who is also currently a Ph. D student.

Interview conducted by Sherifah L. Fujah (1one4 Fashion/Style Editor)

USEFUL LINKS FOR MORE INFO

Website: www.teesdesigns.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Teesdesigns

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Teesdesigns

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/teesdesigns

Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/teeesdesigns

POLYVORE: http://teesdesigns.polyvore.com/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/teeesdesigns/

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