Before she established the eponymous lifestyle company, Eva was inspired by her rich Nigerian heritage to create a luxurious line of home furnishings. She has successfully carved a niche in high-end home accessories by using projecting an African theme on luxury velvet and high-grade leather. Renowned for offsetting traditional African textiles with contemporary designs, the Eva Sonaike collection is stocked in elite boutiques in Europe and Nigeria.
Amma: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Eva: My inspiration comes from many things that surround me. But I think it is important to look at my upbringing and childhood. I grew up in the South of Germany, Freiburg and am of Nigerian origin. So I was always surrounded by German traditional furniture, art and culture, as well as West African artifacts and fabric and Yoruba traditions. The combination and appreciation of the two cultures definitely shapes and influences my inspiration. Whenever I am out and about, especially when I travel and I see something, whether it is a great pattern on a wall, an exotic flower or a beautifully embroidered garment on a market, I take notice and often these images come back when I am working on my designs.
Amma: What kind of challenges do you face?
Eva: I think the challenges that every business person faces; to keep the business running and growing. My background is in journalism, so I have no formal training in textile design or business studies. The design process and colour choices come natural to me – I have always been drawn to styling and drawing. But combining this with running a commercially successful business, managing staff and making business related decisions can be very challenging. But I love the combination of the two disciplines. It keeps me on top of things and I love a challenge!
I don’t find anything. Everything is designed by myself.
What role do African designers have on the international market?
A very important one! Things have changes drastically over the last decade and more and more African designers make a name from themselves and their aesthetic on the international market. The Africa continent was associated for a long time with famine, war and corruption. And African designers were associated with floating, colourful robes or over ethicized clothing. In the last decade African designers proofs that they can be commercially successful and that our Aesthetic goes beyond what was previously associated with Africa.
Designers such as Duro Olowu, who are internationally acclaimed and people like Michelle Obama are wearing his garments. Jewel by Lisa, who collaborated with L’Oreal and is stocked by high end retailers are only a few to mention. And the interiors industry is following rapidly. We were the first African –inspired brand in London, that was stocked simultaneously by Selfridges, Liberty and Fenwick of Bond Street and our cushions, bags and furniture can now be found in top department stores and boutiques all over the world. Which means that African designer and their aesthetic go now hand in hand with other luxury designers from all over the world.
Is there a viable market for interior design in Africa?
Oh yes, there is. The property market I West Africa is booming! I go to Lagos and Accra every year and every time I come there are new luxury property developments popping up everywhere. And people ‘back home’ are very proud of their own aesthetic and are very fond of supporting their own. Especially when it comes to luxury interiors, there is a large market. We are officially launching the brand in Lags next year, despite being stocked in Temple Muse (Lagos most luxury concept store) since 2010. I waited so long, because I think now is the right time to be there.
The word ‘African’ is so broad, as the continent is very diverse. I can only comment on the West African look, in particular Nigeria. The look is very much influenced by Western contemporary design often with an Italian luxury touch. But what I love about it, is that people are using traditional fabric, such as Aso-Oke or Kente, which works perfectly as an interior fabric and are using accessories that are home-made or by designers like us. And art also plays and important role. West Africa is full of great contemporary artists, whose sculptures and paintings can be seen in many interiors in local homes.
Do you have a favourite room/place to decorate?
I love to decorate bedrooms. For me the bedroom it is one of the most important rooms in the house, as it is a calm room where you relax and unwind. It is a very spiritual space and I love to incorporate this in the designing process.
What is the best tip for decorating your favourite rooms
Your favourite room should be a reflection of yourself. Whenever people come to my house they can feel that I live here. So best is to know yourself and surround yourself with items, colours and patterns that reflect yourself. And take you time. Rooms don’t come together over night. It is an evolving process.
Our tag line is ‘Bringing Colour to Life’, which is reflected in all my work. We use a batik texture for the base of our designs and then apply colourful motifs, depending on the theme of the collection. It is contemporary, but with an African touch.
When you are not designing what do you do?
I am a mother of two and a wife, which is a great joy and blessing and takes up most of the time outside the office. And in my spare time (which is very limited) I love socializing with my friends, and I am a Zumba and Pilates addict.
See Eva’s line at www.evasonaike.com