Funmi Odeniyi learned to sew by studying her family members cranking fabric through machines—just like the Italian master of glamour and the bias-cut, Gianni Versace, learned the craft from his dressmaker mother. Odeniyi launched her label, the Dartmouth-based Michnat Fashion House, while pregnant—just like Paris’s 1970s queen of knitwear Sonia Rykiel. Her favourite things to design include dresses and blazers—a fixation she shares with the late Coco Chanel, arguably the first designer to cross over into pop culture icon. Odeniyi’s work is as aware of the body as Olivier Rousteing’s designs for Balmain baddies. She creates a deft mix of formal wear and streetwear, a combination that helped designer Virgil Abloh become the biggest name in fashion this century while reviving Louis Vuttion’s pulse from a decade-long flatline.
But the best part of Odeniyi’s story? The fact she’s creating a look no one else is. “I realized that Afrocentric clothing is not contained in Nova Scotia. I feel like fashion should be more diverse, so that was why I decided to make that my area of focus,” she tells The Coast, speaking by phone. “Focusing on that is me helping Africans connect back to their roots; helping people who are not from Africa appreciate the beauty of the culture and prints.”
After over 10 years in the personal finance sector, “pregnancy was the pause” for Odeniyi to jump into fashion. And while it’s an industry that’s notoriously tumultuous, she says that “the changing face of fashion” is her favourite trend at the moment: “The change is really dynamic. Right now, a lot of things are online, which I love. You don’t have to be restricted to your zone.”
A strong sense of shape is the ever-flowing undercurrent at Michnat, with a riot of colour and print creating a more-is-more aesthetic. This translates into gigot-sleeve, graphic print blazers with notched lapels; and floral print, bishop-sleeved corset tops that lace up the back. A focus on fit (many pieces in Michnat’s line are bespoke to the client’s measurements) keeps things wearable.
Just like the fashion greats before her, the clothes keep calling Odeniyi. Whenever she has butterflies of doubt, “the next minute I’m on my sewing machine or fixing something. So, my passion keeps me going.”
Find Michnat Fashion online or at Lady Luck Boutique (5519 Young Street).