Dumebi Iyamah of Andrea Iyamah
Dumebi developed a passion for clothing at a very young age. Her mother owned a boutique and her father loved traveling and style, so having a sense of fashion was instilled in her early on. She began making clothing in high school and from there, her creations evolved into her label, Andrea Iyamah.
The brand largely consists of resort wear, which partially stemmed from Dumebi's inability to find fashionable swimsuits that fit her fuller figure. Vivacious, elegant, and free-flowing, her aesthetic is mostly guided by her Nigerian background. "My work always has to tell some form of a cultural story," she said. "It has to imitate colors, silhouettes, or motifs from my environment and have a burst of excitement. We also like to add modern twists through structural shapes or something inspired by nature. I'm a nature girl, so things that are breezy and natural tend to attract me. We also design all of our prints in-house, so that's a big part of our story."
"When someone else believes in your story and wants to be a part of it, that's inspiring. That's the bigger picture — women seeing our designs as a part of who they are."
While envisioning "the A.I. woman," Dumebi likes to think of a purchaser packing her colorful swimsuit with a fluid printed cover-up, ready to partake in some self-care on a relaxing getaway. "Clothing that speaks to you culturally and spiritually is important," she said. "When you take a break and go to the beach or whatever the case may be, your outfit is just as important as attending a serious event. You want to be comfortable and confident when you're taking time for yourself. That's really what we design for. We don't necessarily design swimwear for you to be Michael Phelps; we design it to make you feel good and give you that burst of confidence wherever you are. And it's for everybody of any size and any color."
The biggest driving force behind Andrea Iyamah is the idea of interconnectivity. "The most surreal thing for me is seeing everyday women wear A.I.," she said. "When someone else believes in your story and wants to be a part of it, that's inspiring. That's the bigger picture — women seeing our designs as a part of who they are." That's why Dumebi and her team created the Instagram page A.I. Treasure, which posts photos of customers modeling some of the pieces.
More than anything, Dumebi is motivated by her own passion and pure adoration for creating memorable looks. "When I started this brand, it wasn't me trying to make any political statement," she said. "I realize how doing it is a political statement for someone else, and I definitely respect that. But I never really thought about my skin color or gender as a big thing. I'm just making something beautiful for women who look like me because it's what I love to do. And I do hope to see more designers of color with that passion in the industry."
Where to follow: @andrea.oi