Abiola Akinsiku has a strange goal for a fashion designer; not fame, fortune or the runways of Paris (although she’ll accept all that gladly)- but instead to help make the industry less superficial. “I want to help give women income earning opportunities through being a part of my brand, ” Abiola explains, “I don’t mean just sewing, but by utilising whatever skills they have, as photographers, makeup artists, web designers you name it. I’m driven to help women succeed especially after my own experiences with domestic abuse. Helping people is who I am.”
Abiola is candid about the challenges she’s faced in life, having endured an abusive relationship, and raising her daughter, Precious, who is the inspiration behind the Precious Threads fashion line. The Montreal born designer of Nigerian roots was taught sewing as a child by her babysitter and came to fashion via a circuitous route through a career in website design, and subsequent employment at a youth detention and custody centre. It wasn’t until a few years ago when her daughter bought her a sewing machine for Christmas, that Abiola began to sew in earnest. In 2015, she launched Precious Threads and began to produce custom, fashion-forward designs. “The woman who wears my designs is not shy and retiring! People take notice when you walk into a room. My designs are about clean construction, lively African prints, and saturated colours. Every piece I make is from African fabric, reflective of Nigerian roots and cultures, and the amazing vibrant African women like my mother who inspire me,” she says.
Precious Threads by Abiola received the 2017 African Fashion Industry Award for Emerging Designer of the Year. The Award event was part of the African Fashion Week Toronto calendar. “African Fashion Week has been my biggest platform so far. To win that award was confirmation that there is value in what I’m doing, and I don’t take recognition for granted. It signifies God has greater things in mind for you than you can imagine,” Abiola acknowledges humbly.
She embraces the sum of her life experiences, “Everything I’ve been through, I’m grateful for because it made me who I am today. I take time to figure out the reason for what I’ve gone through and to see what opportunities to help others come from it. My advocacy for women is to give them a voice; to give them a light in the darkness.” Abiola also teaches sewing and computer studies to girls at the Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment. Her next step to achieving her industry goal will be to hire her first employee and begin building her fashion force of empowered women.