At Because, it's been our mission to champion the brands that may have gone under the radar in the sea of stuff available to us. In light of what's been happening globally over the last few months, we've noticed this is needed now more than ever, and have been wondering how best to continue this. 

Hence the start of our latest feature, Pass the Platform, where we'll be sharing a selection of interviews who would have been picked by the interviewee prior, starting a thread and community of brands that are doing good within the fashion and beauty worlds. We hope this will bring attention to different voices that aren't always heard within these realms, as per our pledge to do better.

Next up is Abisola Omole, a London-based creative, founder and Creative Director of contemporary lifestyle brand, arva. We spoke to Abi on navigating the landscape of fashion and design, and how she got her start before building and taking the helm of four self-started companies...

As the CEO and creative director of arva, The Apārtment and studio arva, your entrepreneurial accolades speak volumes. Could you share the early beginnings of your career?
First of all, thank you! When I was 15, I started a fashion and lifestyle blog and this was when I truly started to write and create content regularly. It really helped me to find my voice and led to a real passion for researching and curating. Whilst studying, I launched The Apārtment, which at the time (2012) was a physical, creative hub for online creators, over the years we expanded into content creation, event production, influencer marketing & digital strategy. Now we focus on the event production & styling aspect quite heavily alongside the white label content we create for our clients.

I guess I’d like to think I’ve always been a storyteller, which probably stemmed from my love for film. From a young age I was always captivated by films, and in some ways, tried to live my life as if I was in one, so whether it be the blog, my first company The Apārtment or my latest projects arva & studio arva, I always pride myself in being able to capture a mood or move people emotionally through elements like decor, music & photography.

Any advice for those who want to break into interior design & styling with little to no prior experience?
You know how you can hear a song, or smell a fragrance and you sometimes feel a wave of nostalgia? Like, something so memorable or emotional is permanently attached to that element. That’s what I try do with my spaces. I try to ensure they evoke something deeper than just a smile and hope that true sentiment can be created, so that you always picture our spaces vividly, whether you come across our signature candle scent or hear a song that was playing in the background at one of the spaces.

I would say focus on creating a feeling & figuring out who you are as a designer. Create an artist statement of sorts, then along the way, the education will naturally happen. Trial and error is important, so try to design and curate at every opportunity possible, whether its your house, your friends office or your parents shed — see the endless opportunities you have to begin and continue your journey.

How has your design aesthetic changed over the years?
I think generally in the earlier days, my style was quite trend led, then over time partly due to a lot of research and just generally being a lot more aware of my preferences, I now have go-to textures and shapes I love. In general. I'm inspired by pieces that make me feel something. One day it might be a boucle sofa from the 60s, another day it could be a suede blue chair from the 90s. Overall my design aesthetic is constantly evolving as I discover what is out there and what is possible but it’s definitely no longer trend led.

During the BLM movement resurgence, you were very honest with your experiences as a young black woman working with (mostly white) press and influencers in the fashion industry. Why was it important for you to share that? 
When I entered the industry and started attending events over a decade ago, I quickly realised that there were very few, if any, people who looked like me - be it Black or plus-size, I was usually the only one. Although I was aware of this, I didn’t really question it. I remember thinking to myself at the time that “I guess this is just how the industry is”. 17-year-old Abi didn’t fully understand that at its core this industry, along with many, is racist — and they don’t have structures in place that encourage diversity or inclusivity.

Fast forward 10 years and yes, there’s more of us but the issues are still there. What I found a little hard to comprehend and honestly just annoying, was the sheer amount of non-Black individuals in the industry who over the summer claimed to have never realised the lack of representation; and who said they didn’t realise that Black creators were generally treated differently. So in that moment, sharing some of my very real experiences seemed like the best way to respond. It was beyond unfortunate that a man had to lose his life for the conversation to happen but at least no one can feign ignorance any longer.

Have people's reception or treatment of you changed since?
Yes and no. Yes, in that brands that I’ve known for years but who never reached out for projects now have and generally the opportunities for Black individuals in the industry has increased. There was even one brand who approached me for a project back in February and offered me $200 for a project, which is very low but in July came to me with another project and the budget they came to me with, was 10x as much. It’s all so obvious but it’s time Black creators get paid their worth and have their value truly appreciated, so I hope this is just the beginning.

We love that this season you're giving back to your community, especially with your thoughtful giveaways. What does the arva community look like?
Community is everything. Community makes you stronger, smarter & all round just better. We’ve managed to grow a really engaged community filled with individuals who are creative, passionate and well, nice. They are from literally all over the world and they’re all so curious and open to new things. The arva community looks like the world we live in, there are people from all walks of life and I find myself learning so much from all of the messages & comments we receive.

More Pass the Platform:

+ Jamii

+ Mum Bub Hub

Surprise Me!