Rendoll, a fashion brand owned by Reni Abina is creating clothes for women who want to have fun and look their best doing it all summer long.
Against some vibrant backdrops, greenery and the blue skies, we see dark skinned models of different sizes all adorned in bold colours, prints that remind us of the coast and euphoric beauty looks, all while “Pine and Ginger,” a song by Amindi, Tessellated and Valleyz, plays in the background. The models, all clad in summer-inspired outfits by Rendoll, a Lagos-based fashion house owned by Reni Abina, looked resplendent as they showcased looks from the fashion brand’s upcoming Spring Summer 2021 collection in a promotional video. The bold colours, beautiful prints and striking designs do not come as a surprise as Rendoll is associated with these features that make them a unique brand.
Rendoll is the fruit of Abina’s desire for clothes that appeal to her style. When she left Nigeria to England years ago for her university education, she gained some sort of purchasing independence and exposure to new styles. On her return to Nigeria, she found that clothes that match her fashion aesthetics were not in the Nigerian market. This birthed the idea of Rendoll. Abina started her fashion brand to fill the empty space in the Nigerian market for people with taste similar to hers. The idea was to make clothes for her and her friends. The Nigerian designer has turned scarcity into a label making clothes for women across different generations globally.
Inspired by the world’s slow crawl back to normality, Rendoll’s SS21 collection is for women who want to have fun and look their best doing it all summer long. Last summer, people stayed indoors in a bid to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Thanks to a breakthrough in science, this summer will be spent outdoors. This reason inspired Rendoll’s first ever swimwear collection. “I wanted something that was really holiday-y. Because of this pandemic, we’ve all been cooped up at home and like traveling isn’t how it used to be anymore and things are starting to open up,” she tells us.
Within this collection, there are colour block linen sets, swimwear sets that remind us of the coast, dresses for a variety of occasions — none of which would look out of place this season. All the prints are custom-made and the fabrics sourced internationally. For Abina, fashion is about identity. This is why she’s very intentional about the process that goes into making every single Rendoll piece.
Ahead of the collection’s release, we spoke with Reni Abina about her brand and the new collection.
Can you talk to us about your brand? What is Rendoll about?
Reni: So let me give you some perspective. I went to school in England from the ages of 16 to 21 and that’s the age people gain some sort of independence and freedom to do certain things. All the while I lived in Nigeria, I was in secondary school, I didn’t buy my clothes myself. I reached an independence where I could buy clothes myself and I started buying my clothes abroad. When I moved back to Nigeria, I noticed clothes that match my style were not available here. I had to pay outrageous international shipping fees to get clothes I purchased in the UK down to Nigeria. And I just thought to myself ‘you know what? I’m going to start my own brand and make the kinds of clothes that I like.’ If I’m being honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to become as big as it is getting. The initial plan was to make clothes for myself and my friends, and see how that goes. Which is why at this stage, Rendoll has a certain style of clothes that we make right now, and it’s because I’m making my style of clothes. But I guess eventually, the bigger we get and when we get a bigger design team, then you have a lot of people’s opinions coming in.
Can you tell us about what your design process is like?
Reni: So, right now, I currently do five collections a year, every two and a half months. Sometimes, I get inspiration from social media. In terms of prints, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest looking at paintings and art. I look for inspiration a lot but the first step is to determine what I want the collection to make people feel. With my Love Riviera collection, it was Valentine’s season and people always want to feel loved and seen. I wanted the prints to be very bold and vibrant. My process usually starts with deciding what fabrics to use: plain fabrics, prints or a mixture. After that, I make the designs I like. Sometimes I make a sample of the design I like and if it doesn’t work out, we make several adjustments until we’ve gotten a style that I feel people would like. I also work a lot by asking my inner circle what they think because sometimes, when I absolutely love some things, the people I ask might think it won’t be market-friendly. If it is something I genuinely believe in, I’m going to put it out either way.
Are Rendoll prints custom made?
Reni: Yes, apart from one we used early last year, it has been custom prints for Rendoll. The reason why I decided to do custom prints for rendoll is because of an incident with a dress I made last year. I didn’t know it was a dress that was going to do so well in Lagos. By the time I wanted to restock the fabric, it was no longer available in the market. Also, I had seen another brand use the same fabric to make a dress. I didn’t want a situation where I make a dress with a type of fabric people attach to Rendoll and then other brands use that same fabric. So I wanted something exclusive just for me. Something that I own the rights to so I can use it whenever I want, however I want and as many quantities that I like.
This new collection, can you tell us about it?
Reni: I wanted something that has a holiday feel to it. Because of this pandemic, we’ve all been cooped up at home and traveling isn’t how it used to be anymore. However, things are starting to open up. So I wanted outfits that no matter where you are in the world, you would know that’s a Rendoll outfit. I wanted something really bold, things that have their own identity. So, I worked with seven different prints in this collection. For the clothes, three different prints. For the swimwear, four different prints. The reason I did swimwear is because, of course, it’s summer and everyone has kind of been in their countries, not being able to travel. I really wanted to see people on vacation in Rendoll, which is why I decided to do swimwear this summer.
We noticed the colors and prints used for the upcoming collection seem a bit rebellious. Was that intentional?
Reni: Definitely. The first print we created for Rendoll called the Riviera print, was first made in green and then it came in blue and then it came in red. This time around, we introduced an orange. I didn’t want to make a plain swimsuit that looks brandless. It’s nice but it has no identity because I can’t particularly match it to any brand. I wanted to make sure that the first swimwear collection Rendoll is coming up with is something you can always identify with the brand because you can always identify our prints. And then it’s summer. Who doesn’t want to wear bright colours in summer?
What was the process like for this new collection?
Reni: In terms of sourcing for fabrics, I get my fabrics internationally. I usually have to order them months in advance to enable my team and I get the collection out when we need it to be. The thing is there has been a lot of back and forth because I could order the same fabric in different weights as I’d want to use it for different designs and the designs might not work out. For this collection, I bought a fabric thicker than I usually purchase, which didn’t work out for the design I intended. So with my creative process, I have to be very versatile and allow change into my process because at that point, if I can’t find another style suitable for that fabric, then that’s a waste. So, I don’t allow myself to be too rigid because sometimes you make samples and it doesn’t work out. So, I allow myself move with the flow. Sometimes, I make something and decide I don’t like the sleeves, let’s change it. I have direction about where I’m trying to get to design-wise but I allow a lot of changes in during the process.
Do you have a favourite look from the upcoming collection?
Reni: I’m actually in love with everything I made, so it’s quite difficult to pick one. I would say the color block linen set because I generally like really comfortable clothes that I can wear to a variety of places. I made this linen shirt and trousers set that has five colours. That’s my favourite one if I had to pick.
What do you make of the fashion scene in Nigeria and how has Rendoll been able to penetrate it?
Reni: First of all, I feel like there are so many talented people in Nigeria but our country is holding us back. A lot more of us should be competing on a global scale, but there’s no ease of doing business in this country. One has to find a way around so many things. We have a lot of talent here and I just hope that in the near future, we can share this talent with the world. In terms of penetrating into the fashion industry, I don’t really see myself as a fashion designer. I just make clothes that I like. I never really thought I’d be going into the fashion industry per say. I’d say everything that has happened has just been me taking one step after the other.
What would you say appeals to a Rendoll customer?
Reni: I’d say good customer service. I’ll tell you why. If your brand is a ready-to-wear outlet, you’re making standard sizes and in reality, not everyone has the same body type. So, it’s not really going to fit everybody the same way. You can have a scenario where a customer reaches out to you saying they ordered a size 8 but it’s too tight on the hips, bust etc. I could say the regular “I’m sorry but we sell standard sizes” but because I’m someone who falls into a variety of dress sizes — I fall into three different dress sizes — I’m particularly sympathetic to that problem. So, I would go out of my way to please the customer. Even if we have to make adjustments for the customer, we would. I don’t know how long we can do this because the bigger the brand gets, the more difficult it is to do custom-made attires for everyone. Good customer service is very important to Rendoll. Even if I can’t solve your problem, I’ll make sure my interaction with you is an experience you enjoy. It is the first step to any sale. If a potential customer doesn’t have a good experience speaking to you or a representative at first, it is very unlikely that they will buy from you. There will be mistakes here and there but the way you communicate with customers and the steps you take to rectify that mistake really makes a big difference.
Who would you say Rendoll is for?
Reni: I struggle with this actually. I struggle with this because I’ve seen people I didn’t expect to like the brand wear the brand. So when I first started, we targeted women aged 18-30 but now, I have women in their 40s wearing Rendoll. I’ll say the general theme across everyone who wears Rendoll is that it’s for the bold and confident person. Even if you’re not confident, I am certain wearing Rendoll makes you confident. So generally, I’d just say it’s for the bold person.
Rendoll’s SS21 collection drops online today, June 10, at 6pm WAT, with a plethora of colourful clothing items. You can shop the looks on the Rendoll website.