From breezy palm tree prints inspired by the Aburi Botanical Gardens in Ghana to linear repeats that stem from post-colonial era buildings such as the University of Ibadan, Eva Sonaike’s Nigerian heritage is at the heart of her contemporary West African aesthetic.
The patterns run across the range of cushions, pouffes, lampshades, rugs and fabrics – and in each instance, it was the colour palette that came first.
‘I’m completely self-taught; I don’t have a degree in textiles but I can draw and have an eye for what works together,’ says the German-born, London-based former fashion journalist, who set up her eponymous company 11 years ago. ‘I start by creating moodboards using Pantone cards and colour swatches that reflect the essence of a theme connected to West Africa.’
Past collections include the exotic flora-influenced ‘Aburi’ to which she has recently added new colourways, and ‘Eko Eclipse’, based on ‘the ancient gods of the universe, who bring rain, wind and thunder’. The ‘Ojo’ design, for instance, is taken from a childhood memory of one rainy season in Lagos, when Sonaike sat watching the sky through the geometric pattern of the veranda; another, ‘Koja’, symbolises a cool breeze the morning after a storm.
Although she had always dreamt of having her own textiles company, it was while on maternity leave that she made her first range of cushions for family and friends from Dutch wax fabrics. ‘I saw a gap in the market for a high-end African interiors brand, but it was originally going to be a little side hustle alongside my editorial career,’ she says.
That thinking didn’t last for long. Her first ‘Ikoyi’ collection of cushions (also made from Dutch wax fabrics) was picked up by Liberty, Fenwick and Selfridges.
‘It was a foot in the door of the industry, but I wanted to put my own stamp on things – that’s when I began to design my own prints.’ Fast forward to now and Sonaike has a range of wallpaper in the pipeline, plus this autumn’s ‘Aşà’ collection, which is inspired by the traditional indigo-dyed fabric produced by Yoruba women in Nigeria.
‘After lockdown, I decided to take things back to basics. Until now, all my prints have been vibrant and bold. This collection still uses strong shades but it feels calmer than anything I’ve done before. I want to show that something can be simple but still make an impact.’ evasonaike.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2020
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