Meet Ebun Oduwole and Winnie Awa, the spirited co-founders of London-based womenswear label AndVerv

“I'm thinking about naughty girls; I'm thinking about fun girls. The next collection is going to be an ode to the naughty girls around the world. I’m researching the naughty girls of the past; I want to tell their stories and give them a moment to shine.” Ebun Oduwole, designer and co-founder of new womenswear brand AndVerv, is talking to us about what’s pinned to the moodboard for its forthcoming collection. “Yeah, naughty girls don’t get enough credit,” chimes in Winnie Awa, her partner in crime.

This exchange is typical for the duo. Entirely in-sync, they finish each other’s sentences and are each other’s cheerleaders. This comes in handy because while AndVerv is primarily a contemporary womenswear brand – think deceptively simple silhouettes with unexpected cut outs and interesting textures crafted from delicate fabrics – Awa and Oduwole are also crafting a philosophy. The name means, ‘with spirit’ and it’s a description that’s as fitting of this pair as it is their brand.

“Naughty girls don’t get enough credit”

Both born in Nigeria - Oduwole is from Lagos and Awa is from Aba - the long-term friends met when both were at university in the UK. Seyi initially studied engineering at Nottingham. A masters and short-lived career in finance later, she could not fight her first love of fashion any longer and enrolled first at London College of Fashion and then Ravensbourne. After graduating, she cut her teeth at Peter Pilotto, Christopher Kane and most recently, Regina Pyo. Awa studied management and technology at Manchester before working for Ernest & Young in the city. But craving a more creative work environment, she found herself at Net-a-Porter, followed by stints at both ASOS and LVMH. She also established Antidote Street, an online boutique catering to afro hair needs.

The idea for AndVerv was born when Oduwole decided she was ready to strike out on her own. She approached Awa with the idea, who jumped at the chance. “I feel like I always wanted to wear Ebun's stuff and seeing all of these key moments in her journey, I just wanted her to create,” says Awa. Oduwole laughs, “This whole thing is Winnie’s scam to get clothes!”

AndVerv’s brand values run through everything they do, whether it’s the way that interns are properly mentored and compensated, their insistence on mindful manufacturing in the UK, or their ability to create a positive studio environment. “It’s holistic, we think about everything and sustainability is definitely a part of that,” explains Oduwole. “We want to make sure that we have oversight on everything and that extends to how we treat our staff and the kind of fabrics we source. Paying interns changes the narrative because you have people who can now afford to be part of the conversation. If it's the same heiresses that gets to intern because they can afford to work for free, then you're just going to have the same conversations.”

AndVerv also take a stand against seasonal trends in order to ensure a design can slot in and out of your wardrobe for years to come. “It goes to the idea that of the confident woman who is at the forefront of our brand,” says Awa. “If she decides she wants to remix a piece in five years time, she can. It should be able to move seamlessly with her and not become out-dated.” In the same spirit, the duo also have a real aversion to waste, which means that when a piece proves popular, they’ll simply continue to manufacture it. “If people want it, they can always have access to it. We’ll just keep making it until the fabric is finished,” says Awa.

Try to pin AndVerv’s appeal down in terms of geography and you’ll struggle. The work of two globally minded women, it’s a brand that’s for and from everywhere. “It's not a Nigerian brand and in some ways you can argue it's not a London brand,” says Awa. Oduwole agrees, “We have an ongoing conversation about the idea of home. It's difficult. I feel Nigerian and I also feel like a Londoner. At the same time, I don't have to think about the fact that I'm Nigerian. I don’t have to perform it for anyone, and it’s the same for the brand.”

This international mindset is reflected in Oduwole’s intellectual approach to inspiration. For the debut collection, she began by looking at US cults from the 1970s, before her research took her through the work of Russian sculptor Naum Gabo and Scottish artist Karla Black. “It's rare that I take things literally. I started thinking about cults as a form of escape in terms of having someone else in charge of your life, which led me to look at the ideas of surrender and tethering, duality and oscillating between being in control and losing control.” The result? Beautifully delicate garments that have the power to shapeshift their way through your style journey for decades to come.

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Published on 28/02/2019