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Design Museum names Abiola Onabule as part of Designers in Residence

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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London-based fashion designer Abiola Onabule has been named as one of the four ‘Designers in Residence’ by the Design Museum, alongside Cynthia Voza Lusilu, Ioana Man and Enni-Kukka Tuomala.

The Designers in Residence scheme is the Design Museum’s flagship project to discover and support new and emerging talent at an early stage in their career, and the selected designers will form the thirteenth edition of the initiative.

This year’s theme is ‘Care’ and the all-female cohort will explore empathy training, microbial diversity, mental health in Black British communities and a new collection of clothing inspired by the stories of West African women living in the UK, explained the Design Museum.

As they are starting their residency in a post-Covid-19 environment, each designer will initially capture the early stages of their projects virtually, before creating an onsite installation, which will open in March 2021.

The Designers in Residence programme provides emerging designers with time and space to research and consider new ways of progressing their practice, as well as discuss their work with established practitioners, industry experts and residency alumni, as well as with the Design Museum's legal, commercial, learning, development, communications and curatorial teams.

Each resident is also offered a bursary, commissioning budget and the production costs required to realise their new commission.

Design Museum announces Designers in Residence recipients

Onabule, a graduate from Central Saint Martins, who creates clothing inspired by her Nigerian cultural heritage, will be investigating how the exchange of craft and skills are an act of care and conversation for her residency, through an exploration of the stories of West African women living in the UK.

Her starting point is Aso Oke, a prestigious hand-woven cloth created by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It is worn by men and women to mark major ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and important religious festivals, and Onabule will work collaboratively with West African women, to hold conversations, share stories from the diaspora and explore the role of cloth and clothing in absorbing these personal experiences.

This exploration will inform the design of a new contemporary collection, added the Design Museum, which will celebrate cultural heritage and a system for enabling diasporic communities to produce and distribute independently in the future.

Images: courtesy of the Design Museum by Felix Speller; Main Image left to right: Abiola Onabule, Cynthia Voza Lusilu, Ioana Man and Enni-Kukka Tuomala.

abiola onabule
Design Museum