Not all outfits have the power to command a room as soon as someone enters, but L’AVIYE is no ordinary clothing company. Paying homage to African culture while also appreciating contemporary Western fashion, L’AVIYE crafts their clothing for millennials in the diaspora to wear their culture with pride.
Created in 2012, the lifestyle brand was determined to provide clothing for men and women to have an outfit for all occasions. From everyday casual outfits, gym clothing, and nighttime looks to dazzling evening gowns, L’AVIYE covers every base with style.
Each outfit is made with vivid colors and vibrancy to ensure that there is never a dull day. Plus, their clothes are affordable for those that aren’t looking to break the bank but still want a breathtaking African-style dress.
Nigerian owner Abiye shared the story with BGN of how the company got started, and it’s pretty magical.
She started by explaining how the name L’AVIYE came about, “So, it’s actually my name. Abiye — L’AVIYE. It’s me not wanting to be in front of the brand. Initially, I was going to name it after my name, although it wasn’t my idea, but because my name is Nigerian and I wanted the whole cultural aspect to be within the name. But I was just a bit shy.”
Abiye decided changing the name to L’AVIYE worked for her because it’s not only unique but also because the “L” with an apostrophe was French. It complimented her vision for the clothing to be “Western meeting African.”
Her inspiration for the clothing line goes back to her upbringing in Nigeria. She explained, “So, I grew up in Nigeria, and Nigeria is Nigeria. It’s colorful, vibrant colors. This is our culture. This is what we know. This is how we dress. These prints are very much the equivalent to jeans. It’s an everybody’s-wearing-it type of thing.”
However, when she moved to the UK at the age of 16, the fashion was very different.
“Everything is so gray and brown and very dull. Coming from knowing color and vibrance to extremely the opposite, it was a huge culture shock. One thing I remember was just thinking: Boring. But it is a new culture, I had to learn, I had to go to school here, I had to understand the way people think,” she said.
While her UK school usually required students to wear generic uniforms, one day they were allowed to choose their own outfits. While most of her classmates wore jeans and more Western clothing, Abiye came to school looking a little different.
Her auntie dressed her in an African boubou, which she described as “like a very unflattering long dress.”
While her classmates noted how colorful her outfit was, no one complimented it or found interest in ever wearing something like her boubou.
That’s when Abiye got to thinking that perhaps if the beautiful colors of the outfit were designed and fitted to be more fashionable, people would really love it. If it was “a bit more fitted and stylish and cropped,” maybe it’d at least get a compliment.
The youth of her generation, and even now, were all about crop tops and rompers, so Abiye had the clever idea to combine the African prints and Western style to create clothing unlike anyone has seen before.
Abiye noticed that for most people, the only way to get custom-made African clothing was to call an auntie from Nigeria or Ghana and send measurements so they could get the outfits made abroad and then send them back. It was a lot of trouble that many people either wouldn’t go through or didn’t have anyone to help them with.
She wondered why there were no ready-to-wear African clothes that were vibrant and colorful for young people, so eventually she decided to make it happen herself.
At first, it was a bit of a tough sell to her Nigerian family, as ready-to-wear clothing was not their culture.
Abiye expressed, “Trying to explain it to my family back home, they were kind of like, ‘This is a bit weird,’ but I was like, ‘Yes, but that’s because you don’t live here. You don’t understand the culture here.’ This is why with the blending of the two, you have to live here to understand what the needs are of both cultures, and then actually merge the two.”
When the powers of these two cultural influences are combined, there’s no questioning how illustrious they are. The proof is in the beauty of each and every clothing item that L’AVIYE offers.
People sport these clothing items to weddings, formal events, photoshoots, everyday style, dinners, and even some of the swimwear for a day at the beach.
We’ve yet to see a clothing line that can instantly take someone’s look from ordinary to royalty quite like L’AVIYE.
Although creating this clothing line seemed like destiny for Abiye, she wasn’t always on the path to owning her company.
Prior to starting L’AVIYE, Abiye shared, “I never thought I’d do this. I never thought that because I actually studied to PhD level in cancer research. So, my background is very much science and numbers. That’s where I’m comfortable — in all this vaccine research. That’s what I know. So, this is very much a passion that’s turned into this massive thing.”
Abiye even shared an emotional moment she had when thinking of how much her company has taken off. “The other day I was at my warehouse and I was shedding tears. I said, it’s growing faster than I ever thought. It just started off as something on the side while I do my PhD. Now, it’s just like, I left my job and I’m doing this full-time, and I have people who work for me and I have a great team and I have a loyal customer base. This is so strange. I never expected this.”
Over the years, her loyal customer base has grown exponentially as people deeply admire the clothing, appreciate the 3-day world-wide shipping and the fact that the business is Black woman owned and made for Black people in mind.
“People have come back to me and said, ‘You know, I didn’t really know much about my culture and just wearing these clothes kind of gives me that connection to my roots.’ I think I didn’t even realize how important that was to a lot of people who didn’t know anything about their ancestors or the words or anything like that. So, it’s a thing of joy and pride that we’ve been able to do that,” Abiye told BGN.
There’s a true feeling of home and belonging that comes over those who wear clothing from L’AVIYE. Every time someone is seen in one of these gorgeous outfits, it seems there is a celebration and recollection of the power and resilience of African and Black culture that will never stop glowing with soul.
Visit L’AVIYE’s Instagram for some of their latest designs and don’t forget to check out all of their amazing collections.
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Danielle Broadway is an English Literature MA student at California State University, Long Beach. She has been published in Black Girl Nerds, LA Weekly and Medium, is a writer for CSULB’s the Daily49er, is a managing editor for Watermark, her school’s academic literary journal and is an assistant editor at Angels Flight • literary west. She’s an activist and educator that is inspired by her family to make social change both in the classroom and beyond.