Philly Style Spotlight: Aso Damisi Blend African Textiles

From food to art and fashion, Philly is a city bursting with creativity. We love to visit whenever we get the chance, but recently Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter came to New York City (which he jokingly referred to as a large suburb of his city) along with a few talented graduates of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy's City Center.

Aso Damisi: Moriamo (l) and Latifat (r)
The program, modeled after a similar program at Macy's State Street in Chicago, is the first of its kind in Philadelphia and the goal is to support and promote emerging fashion designers from local design schools and the city's fashion community. Four designers in residence are selected each year and Macy's provides them with design and office/work space, a showroom, curriculum, mentoring and other resources.

In particular, the sophisticated African-inspired garments by Aso Damisi (in the Yoruba language "Aso" means cloth and "Damisi" means prosperity) caught our eye. After the event, we chatted via email with 32-year-old Moriamo Johnson, one half of the Nigerian-born sister design duo (her sister Latifat Obajinmi, 24, is the other half) :

Everything She Wants: How and when did you become a designer?

Moriamo Johsnon: While growing up, we have always designed for ourselves using African textiles.  We received a lot of positive feedback and compliments on the garments we made for ourselves, and we were always asked where our garments could be purchased.  About three years ago, we decided to launch Aso Damisi.
ESW: How has the Macy's incubator program helped you as a designer?

MJ: The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy's Center City helped us to gain a better understanding of the business of fashion, and the key elements needed to run a successful business. 

ESW: How would you describe your designs? 

MJ: Our line is a fusion of our origin and modern lifestyle.  We use bold and colorful textiles inspired by our African origin to create simple and chic silhouettes for women.

ESW: Tell me about the inspiration from traditional African fabrics and making your own fabrics.

MJ: We started the company using traditional African fabrics.  We have since moved into making our own fabrics, so we can have more modern silhouettes to offer.  African prints is available in 100% cotton only.  We want to be able to work with different types of fabrics.  

Me with Moriamo in New York City.
ESW: Who is your customer?

MJ: Our customer is a confident woman, who is not afraid to step out in something fresh and bold.  She is mature, and definitely has an appreciation for art.  

She travels to different parts of the world and has an appreciation for the different cultures around the globe.

ESW: How did your parents feel about you and your sister becoming designers?

MJ: Our parents want the best for us.  They were a little concerned about our choice to start a fashion business, being that it started as a hobby and we both have degrees that are not fashion related.  

I have both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Chemistry and Tifa has a dual degree in Human Resource Management and Labor Relations.  

[But] they are very supportive of the company.  They see how hard we are working, and how much it is paying off.