Lola Faturoti isn't one to shy away from the word "comeback." In fact, she eagerly takes to the idea. "This is my comeback collection," she says as she stands in her showroom, pointing out the patchwork brocade jackets, pleated dresses and denim leggings. "I'm back, and hopefully, I'm back for good."
This is actually Faturoti's second comeback, which may explain why she's so at ease with the term. When she first landed on the industry's radar with a small launch in 1993, everything seemed to point in her favor. She was a shop girl at Charivari, the then-hot boutique on New York's West Side, and had a fairy godmother in the store's executive vice president, Barbara Weiser, who encouraged Faturoti to start her own line. Her clothes, heavily deconstructed at the time, hung in the shop between Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester. For Faturoti's first runway show that November, famed art dealer Holly Solomon opened up her gallery space for her. The designer had supporters in everyone from Polly Mellen to the late Amy Spindler. That all came to a halt, however, in 1997.
"What I needed was a business partner," says the London-born Nigerian, now with the advantage of hindsight. "I was a one-woman show — fighting the stores for money, worrying about how I'm going to get my finances….It was very tiring and really, really stressful." So she shuttered her business and earned her paychecks by designing custom bridalwear.
By 1999, though, she was ready to give it another go. This time she did an about-face from her deconstructed tack and built on her made-to-order experience. "God, it was so coutured out," she says of that nine-piece relaunch collection, which would go on to sell in the four-figure range at Linda Dresner. One look in particular — a Victorian-inspired, boiled wool and glazed cotton skirt suit — was snapped up by the Met's Costume Institute. The following year, Faturoti made headlines for a guerilla fashion show, staged across the street from Ralph Lauren's own presentation. Critics from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times applauded her "if you don't come to me, I'll come to you" attitude. Still, the same financial struggles continued to dog her and, once again, her company folded. Faturoti relocated to Milan in 2001, where she became a freelance stylist and consultant. "When I left [the design field]," she recalls, "I thought I was leaving for good."Yet for all the roller-coaster ups and downs, Faturoti isn't dwelling in the past. Any similarities to her former collections end with the eponymous moniker and a traditional African undercurrent. Her new lineup, for starters, sells at a much lower price point, wholesaling from $125 to $375. "I'm purposely trying to bring it down," she says. "I want to make it more accessible. I want to see someone on the street wearing my things."
The clothes themselves diverge from her previous work. "I was much more aggressive and severe before," she notes. Inspired by Bianca Jagger and nights at Studio 54, Faturoti's fall offering — which will be sold at If Boutique in New York and Joseph in Hong Kong — is a kaleidoscopic melting pot of prettily pleated dresses, winter puffers and billowing chiffon tops. She's also launched a jewelry line inspired by bicycle chains — another theme in the collection — that wholesales from $35 to $50. Even her hangtag has changed this time around. The difference is slight, yet it speaks volumes about the new Faturoti look: The image, a silhouette profile of her head, is flipped to face right rather than left. "I looked at it and realized this isn't me anymore," she explains. "I'm not looking back now; I'm looking forward."
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