Dartmouth-based designer brings diversity to fashion industry

Funmi Odeniyi founded Michnat Fashion, a Dartmouth-based Afrocentric clothing brand

A local clothing designer is bringing diversity and vibrancy to the fashion industry.

Michnat Fashion is an Afrocentric clothing brand founded and owned by Funmi Odeniyi. She lives in Dartmouth with her husband and four children. 

In her studio, a small room in the family’s basement, her passion comes to life. 

“I infuse African print into my designs to create contemporary feels,” she said.

A bright, colourful outfit drapes a mannequin in the middle of her studio. It is a custom-made design she is working on.

Gesturing to the outfit, Odeniyi said the fabric is an African print mixed with satin, but the style is a modern cut. 

Funmi Odeniyi, the founder and owner of Michnat Fashion, makes alterations to a custom design in her studio in Dartmouth.   Josefa Cameron

“I’ve always had a passion for fashion growing up. I started making pieces when I was little, about ten,” she said. 

She started making her own outfits, beginning with skirts and spaghetti tops. Her mother had a tabletop sewing machine at home in Lagos State, Nigeria.

“I think she has a thing for fashion too, but she never picked it up, so I picked it up,” she said. 

Growing up, she had a neighbour who was a seamstress and a cousin who was a tailor. As a hands-on learner, she watched and learned from them.

“I juggled between both of them, learning from watching them and picking it up,” she said.

Now she makes clothing for both men and women.

In Nigeria, Odeniyi says careers in the fashion industry, like being a seamstress, “wasn’t a thing, my parents wanted me to be something else. So I studied accounting and became an accountant and started working in the banking industry back home.”

But her passion for fashion was relentless. 

When she and her husband moved to Canada, she decided to refocus, thinking, “We are starting a new life, so why not just start all over?”  

She worked as an accountant in Canada for a while before finding the time to focus on designing. When she was on maternity leave with her fourth child, she started making clothing again and realized she had to do it full time.

“It was during maternity leave that I started getting inspiration. That is when I got the name, Michnat Fashion,” which got its title from her childrens’ names. 

Her children enjoy it when she involves them in the design. Sometimes when she makes smaller projects, like scrunchies, they help. 

The next generation motivates her, so she wants to inspire children and teenagers who might have a similar dream to hers. She says it’s one thing to have passion and another to be able to grow it. She plans to offer workshops and classes to teach designing, sewing, and stitching. 

“When you’re passionate about something, it just keeps you going,” she said.

Upon arrival in Canada, Odeniyi saw a lack of diversity in fashion and decided that Michnat Fashion’s goal would be to add colour and uniqueness to an otherwise bland industry. 

“I believe there is a need for diversity,” she said. 

The African prints in Odeniyi’s studio. A sign saying “passion” is plastered to the wall, depicting the reason she founded Michnat Fashion.   Josefa Cameron

 

So far, building her business in HRM is going well. 

“I’m so glad it’s not just Africans who buy my product … it’s a mix, which makes me feel fulfilled,” she said. 

Her product usually sells out when she hosts pop-up shops, but some customers are uncertain, “They are like, ‘Can I wear this? Is it cultural appropriation?’ ” 

She said it comes down to communication and education. She lets them know that there’s no cultural appropriation if it’s not a cultural outfit. 

“We do have cultural outfits, but this is definitely not,” she said, pointing at her own designs.

She said Michnat Fashion is for anyone who wants to stand out. 

“The good thing about what I do, some people want to look outstanding, look different from what we’d regularly see at the store. So yeah, I make their dream come true.” 

 

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