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Old to New: How Mazelle Studio Brings Traditional African Fabrics to Life


Nigerian womenswear brand Mazelle Studio is known for fashioning the traditional adire fabric into unique silhouettes adorned with delicate embellishments to make bold and beautiful pieces. Adire, indigo-dyed cloth made in Nigeria, is one of Mazelle Studio’s many defining hallmarks along with other distinctive elements such as delicate ruching, hand-beaded sequins and flattering drapery.

The brand’s “Irapada” collection, which is now available on The Folklore, blends indigenous, Victorian and modern elements to bring about a theme of reincarnation. The colors used are astonishingly vibrant despite many pieces consisting of a natural palette, while no two pieces are exactly alike, because the fabric is hand-dyed. The Irapada collection also includes lively combinations of denim and adire resulting in eye-catching looks with sharp outlines. 

With a variety of prints allowing for endless ensemble possibilities, Mazelle Studio’s ambitious designs are guaranteed to enliven any wardrobe. The brand’s focus on experimental design and storytelling is evident in this collection and the passion for authenticity is unmistakable in the abundant clever details.

To celebrate the arrival of Mazelle Studio on The Folklore, we spoke to founder and designer Mariam Afolabi about her fashion journey, taking risks and incorporating her Nigerian culture into her designs.


Butterfly Back Flared Bottoms Dress by Mazelle Studio

Shop the Butterfly Back Flared Bottoms Dress by Mazelle Studio

Where did your interest in fashion begin?

My interest in fashion began in high school, during vacation I would buy fashion magazines (Vogue, Elle) and I would re-sketch the pieces that interested me, I would also cut out images and make collages of interesting pieces. The passion was also nurtured, as I would design for my friends and for small events that would happen during school.

What is a risk you have taken with your designs that greatly paid off?

Moving back from Milan, after studying fashion business. I decided to take the out-of-the-box approach to things at the time, with my vintage-inspired pieces and colourful prints. This was different for the time, because people were not quite receptive to the pieces at first, but I think we’ve gotten to a point where the quality, and creativity of the pieces speak for themselves.

Mazelle Studio

Shop the Ruched Funnel Neck Long Sleeved Top by Mazelle Studio

Could you explain the thinking behind the unique silhouettes of your pieces?

I spend a lot of time analyzing and reworking the designs of pieces from the 1920s, and trying to reimagine them with a modern contemporary twist, while mimicking the same techniques and fabric manipulation of the time. For example, a ball gown with pleats that would’ve been normal at the time, I would rework the pleats and have the same core element, but infuse the modern twist on it. Kind of imagining what a woman of that era would wear today.

How do you want people to feel when they wear your clothes?

When you wear a Mazelle piece, I want you to feel important, different, bold, edgy and powerful. The Mazelle woman is someone who isn’t afraid to be different, be the center of attention and not afraid to take up space.

What sets Mazelle Studio apart from other womenswear brands?

A lot of time and effort goes into creating unique pieces that are specific to Mazelle. A lot of other brands focus on minimalism and simple silhouettes, but Mazelle enjoys the use of extravagant and exciting silhouettes, fabrics and prints. The uniqueness of Mazelle is also emphasized by the use of adire fabric. This provides a sense of exclusivity because adire is hand-dyed and there is no way to get an exact print every time unlike the uniformity that digital printing offers. The consistent use of adire allows each piece to be special and one of a kind.

Mazelle Studio

Shop the Butterfly Back Flared Bottoms Dress by Mazelle Studio

How do you think social media affects fashion in 2021?

Well, social media dictates the trends. So if you want to be relevant, it’s important to understand those trends and figure out how to make those trends work for you, or else all the effort that goes in is wasted. Prior to social media, we had magazines and had to visit stores first in order to see the pieces and see the story of the designers. This was limiting, because only the big brands could afford to feature in these magazines or have stores and run advertising. Social media bridges that gap, and provides accessibility and a voice to smaller brands. Social media also provides a sense of accountability for brands to the customers, cause of the ease of accessibility (DMs and comment sections). It also give them an insight to that the ordinarily would have had (behind-the-scenes shots and process shots) with the pieces.

What draws you to the bold prints, colours and textures you often use

I’ve always been artsy, so being in the art space the colours have always inspired me. It’s actually funny, because I personally don’t have or wear a lot of color in my wardrobe. However, I always find myself drawn to colors and prints, and to be honest, I love challenging myself and pushing my personal boundaries. The colors also provide an excitement. Things are just generally better in color. I’ve also seen the joy and confidence people feel when they wear a Mazelle piece.

Mazelle Studio

How have you incorporated Nigerian culture in your designs?

As a Nigerian, it is almost impossible not to play with colors and extravagant silhouettes, because it has always been used as a means to express status, tribe, celebration, and emotion of our people. The colors are part of who we innately are as a people. For me, it has always been extremely important to have my African heritage come through in the pieces for Mazelle.

What do you hope to see in the future for Mazelle Studio?

My hope for Mazelle is that she expands well beyond the borders of Nigeria and Africa, have various stockists and to share our story, journey, and pieces with the world.

Shop the Mazelle Studio collection here

Words by Holly Liptak