The fashion industry is undergoing a groundswell of young and emerging designers challenging established norms. They are concerned about their impact on global warming, the need for diversity and the obligation to pay workers in third world countries honest wages.
Jibs Abitoye, the founder of Divineity by Jibs, returned from New York Fashion Week (NYFW) 2020 where her eight-piece collection was modelled during the Flying Solo couture show at Pier 59 Studio.
Unlike heavyweights Tom Ford, who nails laid-back glamour, or Marina Moscone’s innate finesse, the Fort Saskatchwan resident blankets her collection with strength and confidence.
“I make my clothes for whoever wants to stand out wherever they go. I’d like to try and set a new trend,” said Abitoye, who founded Divineity in 2019.
The made-in-Nigeria outfits range from suits and dresses to shorts and casual clothing and all have personality to spare. In response to trends, Abitoye also presents African designs as well as doggie getups and jewelry.
“My clothes are chic fashion – sophisticated and colourful. I like comfortable, but I also like classy.”
She started Divineity as a philanthropic endeavour for victims of violence and to help women in Nigeria where she immigrated from in 2012 after marrying husband Joshua.
“It’s about helping women provide for their children back home.”
Abitoye’s foray into the fashion industry took a circuitous route. Raised into a white-collar family, Abitoye earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Lagos and is certified as a project management professional. Currently she is an elected Fort Saskatchewan councillor.
“I like to try new things. I’m very adventurous. I’ve always loved fashion and I like variety. I’m not afraid to show up with a different outfit at work.”
A self-taught visual artist, she sketches her vision and sends it to contractors in Nigeria who source material and hire staff.
Last year, while scouring the latest on NYFW 2020, she spotted an application site for emerging designers and registered.
“I just applied to see what the process was like and when I was accepted I did not feel ready. It was a huge step of faith. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had to design and produce the collection in two weeks and I had it sent directly to New York.”
It is exceedingly rare for a designer with only a few months experience to land a runway slot at NYFW.
"The team who selected me were looking for people with original ideas who are true to their self," Abitoye explained.
Now that pressure from the Big Apple’s trendsetters is over, she is hosting a pop-up shopping event at St. Albert’s Ironstone Show Homes on Saturday, March 14, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 15 Riverside Dr.
A portion of St. Albert proceeds will be donated to the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation to support victims of domestic violence.