The women behind the Nigerian fashion brand Irawo Studio. From left, Abby Ikomi, Ama Ikomi, Temidola Ikomi, and Anire Ikomi. Photo courtesy of Temidola Ikomi
Temidola Ikomi, a 2017 graduate of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, really missed the Northeastern community, so she joined Women Who Empower. Ikomi wanted to build new connections with like-minded women who wished to help each other grow and might have their own businesses, she says, because she is a co-founder of an African-inspired fashion brand in Nigeria, her home country.
“The people I have met so far on this journey have been amazing,” Ikomi says. This year Ikomi was honored with a 2022 Innovator Award, presented by the Women Who Empower, in the young alumnae undergraduate category along with a $22,000 cash prize. She entered the competition last year as well, but didn’t win.
“It shows that being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you are going to give up when you don’t get what you want. You just keep on pushing and pushing,” Ikomi says. 
Together with her mother and two sisters she owns a Nigerian fashion brand called Irawo Studio. Irawo means “stars” in Yoruba, one of the three main languages spoken in the country.
A woman stands on a balcony overlooking a tropical beach with palm trees and green-blue water

Together with her mother and two sisters she owns a Nigerian fashion brand called Irawo Studio. Irawo means “stars” in Yoruba, one of the three main languages spoken in the country.

They always knew they wanted to do something in the fashion world, Ikomi says.

“Fashion has been a great way for me to express how I feel, my identity without necessarily saying anything,” she says. “We all do love fashion. We all also want to embrace our Yoruba culture, [and] that’s something we’re able to do with a modern twist.”

Ikomi was born in Kano, in the northern part of Nigeria, and grew up between Lagos, Nairobi, Kenya, and South Africa because of her father’s travels in corporate banking. She attended a number of international schools and became familiar with meeting people from different cultures.

In 2012, she enrolled in a college in Virginia, but didn’t feel like it was diverse enough for her. She decided to transfer out and chose Northeastern for its diversity and the co-op program. 

“I believe I grow the best through challenges at times, and I felt the co-op program would really allow me to see how it would be to be a full-time employee before I graduate,” she says.

While at Northeastern she was an adviser and the president of Northeastern African Student Organization. She graduated from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration.

Her first job was in corporate communication. In 2018, Ikomi moved from Boston to Brooklyn, New York, where she currently resides.

When both Temidola Ikomi and her sister Ama Ikomi graduated from college in 2017, the women in her family decided that it was time to start a fashion business back in Nigeria. 

Ama Ikomi went to New York University Stern School of Business and took on the accounting and finance of their new company. Temidola Ikomi focused on marketing and advertising. Their younger sister Anire Ikomi, a graduate of Parsons School of Design, helps with the brand’s public image. 

The day-to-day operation of the business is overseen by their mother, Abby Ikomi, who is the creative director of Irawo and lives in Lagos full-time.

Ikomi says she gets her entrepreneurial nature from her mother. In every country they lived in, her mother had a business: hair, furniture, jewelry. 

“I think that’s how I am, too. When I’m very passionate about something, I give it my all, and I want to make sure that it is successful,” Ikomi says. 

Working with her family was a bit tricky the first year, she says, because they needed to understand the dynamics between themselves.

“Because it’s family, you can just be very blunt and be honest. And sometimes that’s what you need in the business,” she says.

They try to keep their focus on what is the best for the business. They all participate in the creative development process, brainstorming collectively about the brand’s messaging or the next lookbook, Ikomi says. 

At the same time, Ikomi says, they are a Nigerian family first, and her mother will always have their unconditional respect. The business comes after that.  

In the first year of operation, they decided to participate in one of the biggest fashion shows in Lagos called Arise to make a grand entrance to a rather saturated market, Ikomi says. Irawo Studio also participated in the Glitz Fashion Week in Ghana.

 “We did all these fashion shows to help us embark [on this journey],” Ikomi says.

She describes the Irawo clothes as African-inspired womenswear that is modern and elegant as well as very comfortable and professional. She says, Irawo garments are for trailblazers who are chasing their dreams in their own way. They can be mothers, students or working professional women.

The company carries out all parts of the production process in-house, from conceptualizing the fabrics and garments’ design to execution and shipping to clients. A team of in-house artisans designs all the fabric patterns, which allows Irawo Studio to completely control their supply chain, Ikomi says.

In five years, the company firmly established itself within the West African markets, Ikomi says, with biggest sales in Nigeria and Ghana. They have also seen growth in the U.K. and U.S., primarily in New York City and Atlanta, Ikomi says. They ship world-wide as well.

Their goal now is to expand more on the U.S. market in an authentic way, to grow sales and get into more retailers.

“We have utilized influencers to help us break into the U.S. market,” Ikomi says. “We do a lot of paid advertising as well.”

This experience with launching and running Irawo Studio taught Ikomi that an entrepreneur needs to have a complete 360-degree view of their business. 

“You really need to be fully equipped to know your business inside and out,” she says.

That is why she moved back to Lagos in 2019 for a year and a half to better understand the operations of the business and its expenses.  

Ikomi still continues working in marketing and communications outside of Irawo Studio. 

“I believe in being very well-rounded and utilizing what I am learning on my job for the business,” she says. “It’s not necessarily about choosing one, but it’s about making time for whatever is important to you and prioritizing your time.”


As Featured In

ARISE Fashion Week 2018: House Of Irawo Runway Debut Expresses The Stages Of Femininity With Sheer

Sheer embroidered lace, décolletage, metallic fabric and floral attachments graced the runway as the House of Irawo presented its debut collection last week at the Arise Fashion week showcase. As the pieces flooded the runway it was clear that the idea for this collection was a simple yet refined expression of the stages femininity.

The designer paid homage to the female body in a subtle yet grand way being that this was their debut on the runway and the vibe was just right for a first entry. The House of Irawo collection, from observation, retained the balance between fragile and chic morphing each piece into something any stylish woman would want to wear off the runway. The message from the design house was soft and opulent.

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ARISE Fashion Week 2018

Glitz Africa Fashion Week 2019 | House of Irawo Presents TADA SS19

House of Irawo presented  TADA SS19 at Glitz Fashion Weekend. The TADA SS21 collection is for the ever evolving contemporary woman. We were inspired by fashion icons such as Diana Ross, Grace Kelly and Christy Ogbah an afrofunk Nigerian singer from the 80s, and Grace Jones.
These Iconic women we believe would resonate with this collection the pieces are bold, fearless, distinct and eclectic. The daring jacquard, cohesive colorful sequence, detailed tulle, and flower satin fabrics complement the dark silhouettes that reflect the 70s and 80s era woman. 

Artsy! Irawo Studio Celebrates the Resilient Woman with Kadara SS21 Collection 

 African prints are taking centre stage on the global scene and there’s no better way to pique your interest than to introduce ‘The KADARA SS21 Collection’ by Irawo Studio.

The Kadara woman is resilient, never afraid to blaze her trail and bold enough to venture on the road less traveled.

As the name implies, ‘KADARA’ stands for ‘Destiny’ in the Yoruba language. As a Nigerian brand, Irawo Studio is committed to preserving the Nigerian heritage by incorporating significant Yoruba motifs in their pieces• As such, this collection was created for the discerning modern woman who’s proud of her roots and seeks to connect with same in contemporary fashion, and any woman with a love for culturally-significant designs•

The intentionality behind this collection remains applaudable—from its exclusively designed fabrics to creatively woven masterpieces• The deliberate use of the adire-eleko (tie-dye) material made with the Olokun design exudes a preservation of the Yoruba culture represented through exotic taste• The aim is to put forward designs that tells significant tales of history while sitting naturally on every bend and turn of the Irawo woman’s body. 

Read more on Style Rave