Andrea Iyamah, the visionary Nigerian designer, has reached another milestone in her career with the opening of a second brick-and-mortar location in the heart of New York City. This expansion is a testament to her impact on the fashion landscape as she designs fashionable pieces that truly speak to women. The store felt like a Nigerian getaway destination with modern printed chairs to rest on and plenty of open space throughout to browse the clothing and accessories. Guests were already buying items and trying on clothes for future events and trips, and everyone’s main comment I kept overhearing was, “This is amazing.” The lounging area towards the back of the store featured a large woven rug in a beige colorway with speckles of gray surrounded by mannequins wearing swimwear, artisanal fringe, and plissé sculptural dresses.
The smart business decision to open a second store in New York City, a global fashion hub, signifies Iyamah’s rising influence in the industry and her strategic, intentional way of running a business. She notes that a majority of her online orders come from New York, which is why it was an excellent decision to open a storefront right in Manhattan. The city is constantly bustling with artists and art-adjacent creatives who have a strong appreciation for brands with a similar authentic ethos. Her first love was the medium of painting so, I think that speaks to the young up-and-comers of the city. The designer was so intentional she and the team even researched the best places to open a store. While this is a huge feat for a Black woman to open a storefront in a large city, Iyamah is already thinking about the next steps she wants to take.
Iyamah started the brand in 2013 because she wasn’t seeing brands in department stores in Canada where she grew up by African designers. Many were European so, she decided to launch her own. With a passion for art and design innately running through her, Iyamah fearlessly embarked on a mission to redefine contemporary fashion by designing charming pieces, she started off by creating swimwear. Since then she’s blended modern styles with traditional African elements, creating a fusion that is captivating women all around the world. Aside from her own online shop, Iyamah’s designs are currently stocked at Revolve, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Moda Operandi.
“I don’t take for granted all the women that wear the brand for all these years,” Iyamah says on a chilly fall afternoon. “I think for me this is just the first step to what I know is even bigger.” She goes on to share that she’s thinking larger than New York City. She has hopes of expanding to Los Angeles, Miami, and later Europe. “[My team and I] feel the brand is something that we want people to touch, feel, and actually experience inside the space that we have designed. Fashion is not just about building a brand or about e-commerce. So I’ve always felt that brick and mortar was a good strategy, you just have to do it with intention.”
Andrea Iyamah has grown exponentially since its earliest phases. Keying in on ready-to-wear that her audience purchases excitedly online looks like well-crafted dresses and vacation separates created to fit women’s curves seamlessly has worked tremendously well. The latest storefront is an extension of the brand, it also marks a new era for the designer.
Inside as we walked through influencers Jeneé Naylor, Ash Forde, and Simi Muhumuz each walked through wearing pieces by Iyamah. These women admired by many for their take on personal style are examples of distinct customers who have an affinity for colorful and adventurous prints. The uplifting energy within the store also speaks to the unique feeling evoked by the joyful and pleasurable clothing the Iyamah has become known for creating. Afrobeats and traditional Nigerian food were served providing a well-curated experience for all attendees of the store’s opening evening.
Intention is a continuous topic with her team as she says each fabric of her pieces tells a story through intensive research on African cultures and her market. She’s always going to design with her Nigerian roots in mind by telling actual African stories, for instance in her recent resort collection, her team researched Eastern Nigerian celebrations and weaved those facts from colors like deep green into the very fabric.
Longevity in the ever-changing fashion industry is of deep importance to Iyamah. Years ago she was filling a gap in the resortwear market–but now, she’s able to continue creating pieces that resonate with her, but also her customers. Growing her business has taken time and she’s ever the wiser for sticking it out.
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