The Nigerian fashion industry keeps sprouting new creatives on a regular basis, and we absolutely love to see it. One brand has uniquely stood out and has been on our radar for some time now. With their vibrant prints, patterns and figure-hugging fits that are bound to give you a rush of confidence and allure, JBottoms is a sustainable brand that caters to women of all colors, shapes, sizes and body types.
With designs that good, I just had to set up a tête-a-tête with Lotanna Don, the young designer behind the brand. In this interview, she lets us in on her journey so far; how she started, her plans and goals for her killer fashion brand, some challenges she faces being a new designer in Nigeria, and much more.
Lotanna Don (@lotannadon @jbottomsbyjal)
What Was The Inspiration Behind Your Brand Name?
When I started my brand, I just wanted to do bottoms. Like pants, skirts, shorts, that was the plan. So that’s where the ‘bottoms’ came from and well the ‘J’ is my second name, Jaluchi, so J Bottoms. Eventually I started doing tops because I realized that there was a demand for it, you know to go with the bottoms so I branched into making two-pieces.
What Is Your Earliest Memory Of Being Interested In Fashion?
I think when I was in senior secondary school, I used to love wearing outfits that flattered and accentuated my body, because I have a nice body and it was kind of like a hobby picking out outfits. I basically loved to look good. You can never catch me not looking good, periodt! I also have an eye for what kind of fabrics and outfits would flatter anyone’s body, so yeah that’s my earliest memory of being interested in fashion.
How Would You Describe Your Brand Aesthetic?
It’s just for bad bitches and bad boys.
You know a J Bottoms outfit when you see one, because it’s very eye-catching, when you step out in any of my pieces, you just effortlessly stand out, no matter your body type. My brand aesthetic is basically to make people feel hot and attractive, it leaves you feeling confident and assertive about your looks.
What Would You Like Your Aesthetic to Represent In The Nigerian Society?
That no matter your body type, you can look sexy.
When you order an outfit from me it’s customized, so every design you get is made to fit your body, my pieces are designed to accentuate and flatter your body whether you’re big or petite or you have a certain body shape, you can still look undeniably sexy.
Your Brand Is Barely A Year Old If I’m Correct, How Does It Feel to Get Things Off The Ground?
So I started in December 2019 but I don’t really consider that as my official kick off date.
I put out my first collection on October 1st 2020, I feel like that was when I officially launched my brand because I rebranded and made some other changes, I guess I can say my brand is a year old, as for getting things off the ground, it’s been great so far.
It can be stressful because the real work has started and all, but I’m over compensated by the appreciation I get from shoppers, to see the excitement when people get their outfits and knowing they are getting their moneys worth, it’s a great feeling honestly. Like one of my friends ordered one of my outfits and then her mom saw it on her and placed an order too, I was so hyped, it makes me happy seeing people appreciate my work.
What Aspect Of The Nigerian Fashion Industry Would You Like To Tweak?
I think its lack of inclusivity, like it’s not inclusive for bigger girls. Also, I noticed that performers and entertainers aren’t just styled right, when you watch Cardi, Nicki or Megan Thee Stallion perform, their wardrobe choices leave a lasting impression, but we rarely have that effect here when our entertainers are styled, I plan on taking up all these problems.
What Is The Biggest Lesson You Have Learnt Since You Started Your Brand?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that talk is cheap.
What Are Some Challenges You Face As A Designer?
Omo! Opor, opor, opor! E plentyyy!
First of all being a designer in Nigeria is super tough, because this place just makes things unnecessarily difficult. My tailor is just something else, having to go to the market to get some of my works done is very stressful. This year I would need to like get a tailor that would be working in-house. The way some of my designs are, they can’t be made with one type of sewing machine, I need different types of sewing machines and they are pretty expensive. Going up and down in this country to get my works done is just time and money consuming with the hectic traffic and all, also shipping abroad is a bit pricey.
What Would You Say Was A Milestone For You In Your Journey To Establishing Yourself As A Designer?
In December 2019, when Megan Thee Stallion was in Lagos (I’m like her biggest fan in the world), I styled something for her in hopes that somehow it would get to her and then her stylist reached out to me, like she was the one that reached out to me and I was so hyped. She was like she really liked my designs, so we met up and I gave it to her. She said she would give it to Megan, after that happened my confidence in my brand just climbed, it just made me feel like I was on the right track.
Is There A Future For Menswear in JBottoms?
Yes there is, I even launched it with the Street Souk that happened a while ago, I just brought out like some pants for guys, headbands and beanies. By January I want to release a gym and comfy collection, basically sport wears and comfy clothes like sweat pants, a lot of things I have coming up will include menswear.
Are You Self-Taught Or Did You Study Fashion Design?
I’m self-taught, I have a lot of friends in the fashion industry and music industry so I know that they go hand in hand, I’ve learnt most of what I know by observing and fashion just comes naturally to me.
On A Scale Of 1-10, How Is the Support You Get As A Designer?
I don’t know if 10 is a stretch but let me just be humble and say 9, the support is great honestly. People are really being supportive and fucking with my shit. It’s really good and encouraging.
Did You Always Know That You Wanted to Have Your Own Label?
No I did not, let me even tell you how it even started.
So, like when I was in university, I used to wear palazzos a lot and people really liked it and so I was like ‘I might as well start selling it’, so I used to get it from the market and started reselling in school. For some reason they just stopped selling it in the market and I thought I should start making it myself instead of waiting around for it to be supplied, I knew what a palazzo looked like and the best fabrics for it. That was how I started making palazzos, from there the idea to start making pants came, and that my friend was how J Bottoms was born. From making pants, I advanced to making tops and now I’m doing merch. I even have a luxury line I want to drop next year; Jaluchi Luxury. Some really fire and unique stuff to spice up your wardrobe.
What’s Your Advice To All New Nigerian Fashion Designers Out There?
Just start! Don’t wait for the “perfect time”. Just start something and put something out there, with time as you keep growing things would fall into place. If you keep on waiting for the right time to get everything in check, that time will never come and you would end up not doing anything about your initiatives. Once you set things in motion you would be surprised how much ideas would come up and how things would just start falling in place. Also surround yourself with people that have positive vibes and would encourage you.
What Have You Learnt About Being Your Own Boss?
It’s extremely stressful but I have to know how to balance things out, it can be a blissful feeling doing things on my own terms and answering to no one but I have to make sure I don’t slack and even if I do I have to be disciplined enough to get back on track and still meet up to my goals.
Where Do You See JBottoms 10 Years From Now?
I want my brand to be like the Fashion Nova of Nigeria but a little higher, my brand would have this reputation where people just know that once they buy JB, its worth the money spent. Internationally, I want my brand to compete with top brands like Fashion Nova despite it being an African label.
Shop J Bottoms here.