I Can Only Wear Real Gold Or Diamond – Mariam Elisha | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


I Can Only Wear Real Gold Or Diamond – Mariam Elisha

Mariam Elisha
Posted: Jul 1, 2016 at 7:20 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Mariam Elisha is the pretty creative director of Rikaoto fashion label. The first black girl to win Exquisite Face of the Universe 2015. Collete Nwadike was crowned wearing Rikaoto design. Same as Silvia Nduka and Unoaku Anyadike who won the 2011 and 2015 Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria respectively. In this interview with Ifeoma Ononye, the former Miss Valentine Nigeria 2007 and first runner up Miss Abuja 2006 lets us in into Rikaoto fashion brand, her growing up and why she can only wear gold and diamond jewelry:

Your fashion brand is getting bigger; we would like to know if you have always planned to become a fashion designer?
I started as a model and later on, I won a beauty pageant and later on I established a foundation called ‘Save Tomorrow Today’. It was difficult funding the foundation. I started looking for sponsors here and there. So I started thinking of what to do that would help me raise funds to support the foundation, so I thought of fashion designing because I love fashion. My dad was not happy when I started modeling and then fashion designing. He wanted me to be a professional because I come from a family of professionals. My dad is a retired policeman and my mum is a retired medical doctor. My dad wanted me to be a lawyer and never wanted to support me but now, he is happy.

What was your growing up like?
Growing up was fun. I was well pampered as the last child amongst seven. My dad likes us to look good and he designed our clothes and put our names on it.

Rikaoto designs are mostly evening gowns and wedding dresses, was it deliberate?
Yes, we do more of evening gowns, wedding dresses, more of formal outfits and then casuals.

How did you get the name, Rikaoto?
That is my middle name. I am from Kebbi State so that is like a tribal name. Rikaoto means something that is fruitful. Rikaoto design is a work of art. They are wearable work of art.

Your label has also dressed many beauty pageants and beauty queens, tell us about that… 
We have designed a lot of evening dresses for many beauty pageant contestants and a few beauty queens have won wearing our design.  Starting from the point when Silvia Nduka won the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, MBGN, we made her costume and she won the best traditional outfit. The present winner of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria also won wearing Rikaoto outfit. Also Collete Nwadike, the first black girl to win Exquisite Face of the Universe 2015 wearing Rikaoto outfit. And that is an international pageant. So we have been able to clothe a lot of contestants and we are also very lucky to have contestants emerge wearing our designs. It’s a lucky trademark for us.

Would you say your being an ex-model helped you know what these contestants need in order to win?
Yes. It has helped a lot. I went through all the processes of being a contestant. So I know the kind of dress that is required. I know the best way to prepare the girls better. I have also been a judge in different beauty pageants so I know what the judges are looking for. So when I am designing their dresses, I want to make them look elegant; I want to make them stand out.

Do you sew or just sketch and others sew for you?
I know how to sew. I learnt how to sew before I graduated from the university. It was like a hubby and before I knew it I started making clothes. I later got a formal training on fashion designing.

You designed the outfit that Nollywood star, Ibinabo Fiberesima wore to African Magic Viewers Choice Award, AMVCA 2016 and that got a lot of critics talking. Tell us why you think the outfit raised controversial issues?
Yes it got controversial. A lot of people said it was not formal but it was her style.

How much does a pageant dress cost? Like if you really want to get something that will wow everybody…
It depends on the fabric, style and detailing. It ranges from N70,000 upwards.

How many of these evening dresses do you have in your wardrobe?
Funny enough I don’t have a lot because I rarely wear such big dresses. I am no longer a beauty queen. Now I am a fashion designer. My job is to make sure people look good.

You said you are a fashionista, what is your definition of a fashionista?
I will not say I dress more than anybody else but I know that I love to be comfortable when I am well dressed. I love to look good. I love to appear presentable. To me that is being classy. That everything you are putting on is expensive does not make you fashionable or classy. It can be cheap but you look good.

You once said you love luxury boxes and luxury items?
Yes I love luxury boxes; I love expensive jewelries like real gold and diamonds. I don’t wear accessories and when I do want to wear jewelries, I make sure they are the real thing. I admire those N1,500 jewelry on people but I cannot wear it. I feel its stress putting them on but if I must wear, it has to be the real ones to worth the stress. Maybe because I am Hausa.