Photo Story: AYAO Collection by Yemzi

This editorial, inspired by William Okpo’s SS14 photographic imagery is the story of three young women seeking balance between the tranquil countryside and the fast paced city. I feel as though the red outfit represents the equilibrium. The entire collection is made from organic stretch cotton drill and was shot in the 2012 Olympic games area in Stratford, London, this October

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Wardrobe Credits:

Wardrobe: Yemzi AYAO Collection

Team Credits:
Designer and Creative Director: Elizabeth Akingbade
Fashion Photographer: Cara-May
Make-up Artist: Chantelle Phillips
Hair Stylist: Bethan Thomas
Models: Amy Woodman, Jalicia Nightengale, Sarah Sheppard
Jewelery Stylist: Nina @ Magpie On The Run

© 2014


Interview with the designer: Elizabeth Akingbade is the Founder and Creative Director of Yemzi Ltd.

My name is Elizabeth Akingbade, I graduated from BA (Hons) Surface Design at The University of The Arts London in 2013.

When did you first discover ethical fashion?

I discovered ethical fashion when I decided to put my illustrations onto garments. I didn’t want to be yet another designer who joins the conveyer belt of fast disposable fashion, and it was at that point that I decided to work exclusively with organic and FairTrade materials.

As a designer, why is it important to you to utilize sustainable methods and materials in your designs?

I have always been particular about saving, avoiding waste, reusing and recycling where possible, so naturally my values have translated into my brand. I use FairTrade GOTS certified organic cotton, bamboo and soon peace silk for my collections. For me a quality item is not just a beautiful end product, but a piece to be treasured that has been made harmoniously from first thought to finish.

As a designer by choosing to be a part of a sustainable supply chain I am ensuring that every individual involved is paid fairly and there is little impact on the environment. That is very rewarding in itself. As people we have a habit of turning a blind eye to what we cannot directly see. My approach to fashion is according to the changes that I want to become commonplace in every industry.
Who do you design clothes for?

Yemzi pieces are for women who buy fashion according to what they fall in love with; maybe it’s our unique print that started off as an oil painting or our tie sided bib top because the design is like nothing else available. We are doing our own thing, it’s a particular vibe which customers will become more familiar with as we grow and develop signature silhouettes, colour palettes and prints.

We are trend aware but focused on developing collections that reflect our identity rather that trying to predict or reinterpret what is on the runway. I have a huge amount of admiration for fresh, fearless, smart, strong, ambitious, confident, creative, multifaceted women and it’s them that I have in my subconscious when I design. No flavour or style is substituted for sustainability here. It is an added bonus that our products are ‘peaceful’ so customers not only love their purchase but also feel great that they are buying consciously.

I want to be a part of a dialogue that empowers women and champions ethical fashion. Through connecting with a social enterprise my next collection will feature hand woven brocade by female artisans in Guatemala. In addition to a fair wage these women are given business skills and access to health care. This is a template that I hope to replicate in Nigeria by 2016.

As a sales advisor in a second hand designer clothing store I discovered that my favourite customer group was the plus 40 female.  She had an eye for quality of material as well as the garment construction, had the most endearing and interesting personality, best stories, advice and was most defiantly the most content and confident of all customers. However, my designs predominately attract my age group, the 20 somethings.

R: What are some of the inspirations for this collection?

This collection is titled Ayao, which is Yoruba for goddess of air. As a British-Nigerian designer I am always taking influence from my dual-cultures. I want people to associate the Yemzi brand with purity, strength and culture. This is communicated in our brand ethics as well as aesthetics with the design of pattern cutting, fabrics, colour schemes, patterns and even in the choice of models and how we present the pieces to our customers. Expect to see my oil paintings and pen sketches as fashion prints become more prevalent in upcoming collections.

R: Where are your garments available for sale?

We are currently negotiating new stockists, customers should visit for purchasing information. Direct orders and inquires can be sent to me on