How Two Women Are Changing The Face Of Fashion – Forbes


Maki Oh Fall 2016 launch party at McMullen, photo by Sabrina Bot

Sherri McMullen and Amaka “Maki” Osakwe first made contact through Instagram—McMullen had noticed Osakwe’s line, Maki Oh in a New York showroom, then sought out her designs through the social media app. It would years before they connected, but worth the wait, says McMullen.

McMullen Boutique is located in a residential area of Piedmont, California, next door to an ACE hardwware and across the street from a synagogue. It’s perhaps an unlikely spot to find coveted luxury fashion brands like Carven, Edun, Ryan Roche and Tibi. But there it’s been, thriving and serving the San Francisco Bay Area’s fashion-focused population since McMullen opened the shop’s doors in 2007.

Also unlikely is the blossoming fashion career of Amaka “Maki” Osakwe. Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, there were three acceptable careers for college-educated men and women: doctor, lawyer or banker. But Osakwe went against the grain (and her father’s wishes) to become a fashion designer—and thank goodness she did or we’d never have that tulle lavender top.

“I knew there was something very special about Maki, the integrity in the designs, the message behind it and I believed my clients would respond well to the pieces,” McMullen says. “They have, which is really exciting. When they met her during our launch, they fell in love with her spirit, just as I did when we initially met.”

Had Maki become, say, a banker, we might have lost a native-Nigerian print-making technique called adire dyeing that employs natural indigo leaves. Osakwe has revived the method in her designs, employing Nigerian artisans and updating the prints with a modern take on dresses, pants and tops.

The union between designer and curator goes beyond a shared aesthetic: “Having an African designer in my store means so much to me,” McMullen says. “Supporting an African designer is a way to help create jobs there, support local artisans so that they can support their families and communities. It’s about being a part of something much much greater than just selling clothes. The voice of African designers is a voice that is not heard as frequently and as loudly as it should be and I hear the voice of Africa loud and clear through Maki Oh.”

Stay tuned for the designer’s spring 2017 collection to be available at the shop. McMullen’s favorites from the new collection?


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