Eva Sonaike’s vibrant home textiles and accessories brand was born out of a desire to “bring homes to life with color” and celebrate a vibrant African aesthetic.
Launched in the UK in 2009, its products have been stocked at Selfridges, Liberty and Fenwick and are now sold internationally from boutiques in countries including Australia, France, South Africa, the United States. United and Hong Kong.
She describes her interior design look as “African, specifically West African: a look of luxury modernism with a heavy dose of color” and she references how being born and raised in Germany and finding joy in her Nigerian heritage inspired her. to merge these cultural influences and create the kind of uplifting products she wanted but was unable to find for her own home.
Today, in addition to the sale of furnishing fabrics such as cushions and rugs, Eva Soniake also designs wallpaper and fabric ranges and has collaborated with other interior specialists, including bathroom experts CP Hart and the design course Domesticated to bring its colorful aesthetic to an ever wider audience. She occasionally does interior design for private clients and has another exciting but still top-secret collaboration set to launch in 2022.
From fashion to interiors
Eva Sonaike’s first career was as a journalist. After graduating with a BA in Journalism from the London College of Printing and an MA in Fashion Journalism at the prestigious Fashion College Londonshe worked with German national television on various networks, then spent a further six years as a fashion editor in print editorial for titles such as German She, In the style and Focus.
The shift in focus from fashion to interiors happened while renovating her own apartment in London’s Docklands. Eva found it difficult to find luxurious homewares with a rich African aesthetic and when she started designing her own cushion fabric, the spark was ignited for her business.
“My husband and I are both of African descent, and we longed for high-end, quality products to our liking, but there wasn’t much on the market that I found appealing. created a very small collection of cushions for my apartment and when my friends all loved them I started to think that maybe I could start a small business on the side,” says Eva. “In hindsight, creating a business was a very brave thing to do, I was young and had a fairly stable career in journalism and I was very busy, I loved my job, but I wanted to work more creatively.
Build a business
The search for the essentials for her business began during six months of maternity leave. “As a journalist, I knew how to research, which was invaluable because I had to find out everything myself.”
She found a printer to print her creations and a factory to make accessories. A sales contact introduced her to the Selfridges shopper who placed her very first order, and then came the leap of faith.
In 2009 and 2010 Eva worked hard to find other dealers. There were a lot of ups and downs. “We knocked on so many doors and I got more rejections than acceptances.”
Her tenacity was rewarded with listings at Liberty and Fenwick as well as boutiques, but as Eva goes on to explain, “then the style aesthetic changed to ‘British floral’ and I had a very difficult few years. , trying to keep the business afloat. I was doing everything myself, from blogging to marketing to design to sourcing and production management. I think a lot of people would have given up.
Eva believed that trade show attendance would be essential to success and tenaciously followed her instincts. “It was a lot harder back then in terms of finding information and getting exposure. There was no Instagram or social media to speak of, so you really had to work hard to get your work be seen.
She goes on to say, “I knew I wanted to be an international brand and see my products around the world and I knew from my experience as a journalist that trade shows were essential. My first show was ICFF in New York in 2012. It was a really interesting learning curve. I flew on my own and installed everything myself but it was worth it as I had a very successful show and ended up being stocked in many shops across the states -United. In 2012 I went to Home & Object in Paris – my dream show – and it was a really meaningful way to reach a global audience.
His instinct proved right and his range now includes luxurious fabrics, wallpapers, poufs and rugs, closely adhering to this original DNA.
“Inspiration for new collections always comes from West Africa. For me, this is the most inspiring place. I didn’t grow up there but I still call it home to some degree. When I come “home”, I feel most authentic. There is so much inspiration. It’s full of positive energy, colors, design, movement and I still feel passionate about bringing that inspiration to the world stage,” says Eva.
Eva’s business advice
Stay true to your original aesthetic
“I never follow trends, I do what I love and it works. You need to be aware of marketing trends and the language you use, but I think you should never compromise your authenticity; you should always try to be true to yourself When it comes to my design I have a very clear style As a designer or creative you go through phases but my signature style of an African story will be always the same.
Don’t be afraid to tell your story
“I was 32 when I started my business. At the time, I didn’t have the confidence levels to reach certain media outlets and buyers – I had impostor syndrome – whereas if I could turn back the clock I would reach everyone.
“I think it’s really important to control the growth of your business and never compromise just for financial gain.” I have a really great team. We are a team of three and we are very close. My superpower is my eye for design and color but like most business owners I spend 80% of my time running the business and 20% working creatively which means I have always lots of energy and ideas for the design. I’m really happy with my product selection right now and your resellers are great confirmation that you’re doing the right thing.
Base your business on your passion
“The most basic thing is to have a passion for everything you create – to live it and breathe it. I am extremely passionate about what I do; I read about interiors in my spare time. If you love a subject, there is never a stopping point.
Never stop learning
“You need to get a deep understanding of your industry…I’m still learning about my field all the time. I had no business background and had to learn everything the hard way, but now I can consider myself a businesswoman.