Chic and approachable, high fashion; Nigerian fashion designer, Emmy Collins sells clothes that defy categorization. With a studio in London, he speaks with FUNKE OSAE-BROWN on the methods behind his designs and more.
Our interview that sunny Thursday morning is billed for Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Victoria Island. At one of the sitting areas overlooking the calm Lagos Lagoon, fashion designer, Emmy Collins sits typing quietly on his laptop. Dressed in a checkered double breasted-pocket jacket on a pair of blue jeans with a matching turquoise blue hat, Emmy, as he his popularly called stretched forth his hand for a hand shake.
Emmy can be described as an avant-garde designer with a unique skill “for sitting on the sharpest of edges in fashion excellence” as he describes himself. His creations are creative, fresh and daring with cutting edge style.
His love for colours is revealed in his collections as he does hold back anything when trying his hands on bright colours. One of his iconic creations include signature retro wide-lapel jackets and drainpipe trousers reminiscent of styles that epitomized the spirit of 1950’s rock and roll. His expertise cuts across classic jackets with great fit, the use of polka dots linings and colourful pure satin trims including a biker jacket made of bleached blue denim mix with a silhouette cut to fit like a second skin. His recent play with accessories resulted in items like skinny silk print ties and chunky bow ties that come in an array of black, plaid and neon colours which will add elegance to any outfit.
Little wonder he defines elegance as: “elegance is what people have from the inside. Some people think that when you put on all this expensive clothes or wear some nasty clothes that you are elegant. I have some nasty people that think they are elegant, elegance is inside and it’s about people being themselves, people projecting themselves being original in their dressing. Wear what suits your body frame, what projects your personality in case you don’t go out there trying to look at other people. So for me that is elegance, it’s about attitude.”
It is this attitude that has put Emmy in the eye of the storm when he started his eponymous blog a few months back. On his blog, Emmy has criticized many local celebrity on their sense of style especially the clothes they wear on the red carpet.
In his criticism, Emmy’s taste for the finest of fabrics, design and colours is obvious. His introduction of pieces in shades of black, grey and earth tones thrown into the mix makes him a unique designer. He has proven he can make neutral coloured garments exciting, tasteful and wearable. With the added choice of more subdued colours, the wearer has the opportunity to define his own style – whether toned down or colourful.
Emmy says his journey into fashion began as a student at Federal School of Science. At the time, he was living with his brother, an engineer, in Lagos. Then he used to sneak out in the night to go watch Fela Anikulapo-Kuti perform at the Shrine. Aside the music, Emmy was fascinated by Fela’s sense of style. He was endeared to Fela’s sartorial penchant for smart, well fitted clothing often embellished with afro centric embroidery.
“Most people watch Fela for his music but there was something a lot of people could pick up on and that was his style. His style was original, he kept control of his body and everything he wore you know appeared like a second skin on him. So you know he had the original style, when I decided to launch my label he was one of the people that inspired me and other similar artist that inspired me like, Jimmy Hendrix, Al Green and Lenny Kravitz and Marvin Grey.
For Emmy originality and quality are very important. These two words define his sense of style. “When it comes to style am like a chameleon. I change like every other days, there could be some months when you see a guy on suits or a top and all that. There are days I might try to funk it up, so I cannot tell you exactly what style I have. I would like to say it is a fusion of funkiness and elegance.”
His label, Emmy Collins was launched in London in 2002 but he has been designing since high school. “I used to be this kid you know who goes to school and my mum gives me money to go to school and then I spend everything on clothes and by the time I get back to school I have no money or at the same time I am not going to starve so I literally design clothes for other kids and they give me a couple of box to you know, and that’s how I took that on myself in high school.”
Today, Emmy has grown since 2002 with a studio he calls Emmy Collins London located at 87 Great Eastern Street Shoreditch, London. He plans to take the label to the next level. “At this point of time I am actually at the level where I really have to eject a whole lot of fund of our duty to a certain level, the quality has been established no one is doubting so I am glad of the quality, I am glad of the designs am glad of everything. So now is about taking it to the next level, now is all about getting an investors to inject their money. Personally I believe I can go out there and take the world, I believe.”