Designer Spotlight: The OULA Company CEO Erika Massaquoi
Bossladies, we'd love to share our closet with you.
You’re invited to our October 3rd launch party at Marjorie Seattle
Curator and academic. Erika’s curatorial work includes shows for the Frye Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) List Visual Arts Center, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Erika has held curatorial positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of the Moving Image. She has taught new media, cinema, and contemporary art classes at Yale University, NYU and The New School. She also served as Asst. Dean of the School of Art & Design at The Fashion Institute of Technology.
Owner, CEO, & designer of The OULA Company, reflecting her effort to realize art in living forms. Equally as stellar, an accomplished and passionate wife and mother.
Her Brand’s Story
behind The Oula company
At its core, OULA is about embracing freedom and creativity. I created the brand because a friend encouraged me to! OULA’s iconography is very much inspired by vintage style from the 1960s and ‘the black is beautiful’ way of life and fashion ethos of the 1970s. It’s the way my mom used to dress: an easy tunic, a dramatic skirt, a caftan inspired dress, a bold print, a unique piece of jewelry, a scent to die for and statement hair. For me, its aspirational and accessible and an honest reflection of the woman I’ve become. OULA is a derivation of my great-grandma’s name (Lula) and it means “will” and “determination.”
Armoire x OULA collaboration
As a curator, I love Armoire’s effort to be a keeper or custodian of a customer’s closet and to help women style their lives. Also, the act of personalization appeals to me. Customization was once a luxury in fashion, but brands like Armoire are democratizing that service. In fashion it’s always key to have “options.” I’m always like, “What are my options!?” When choosing textiles, notions, shoes, a garment, a lipstick—I need options. Additionally, I identify with how Armoire identifies its customer as a “boss lady”—my grandma always called me this. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been a very take charge, lets do it, my way or the highway type—you know, its funny, I don’t think my Grandma meant it as a term of endearment, but as an entrepreneur it serves me well!
favorite style tips
Oh, I have a lot, but will keep it at twelve.
1. Dress for yourself. It is the height of chic.
2. Strong graphic statements always work.
3. If you’re fancy, exploit that trait.
4. If you’re charismatic and enthusiastic, your style should reflect this heat.
5. If you're brainy and moody, your style should reflect this insouciance.
6. Subversion always works—like wearing jeans with a dress.
7. If you find a pant or shoe that is super perfect and fits you like a glove, buy one or two more just like it.
8. Your scent should reflect your mood and emanate emotion—lately I like smelling plush and expensive and like the inside of a church.
9. Focus on the details—shoes, patterns, or the texture or volume of a material.
10. Fashion, like learning, should be FUN.
11. Every once in awhile, surprise yourself and wear the unexpected.
12. Always wear a comfortable shoe. Fashion shouldn’t hurt. Shoes that hurt are dumb.
get Sh*T Done Mode
Ha! That’s my everyday mode—working on all cylinders. If I maintain my yoga practice end eat well, I’m golden. If I skip my workout and eat junk, it’s a disaster. Hence, my get sh*t done mode is to maintain my discipline. I’m a working mama and while I prefer working in my studio, that is not always an option so I’ve had to really get used to working in my car and on the go. It’s amazing how productive I am while waiting for my daughter to wrap up ballet or choir practice.
Boss Lady Inspiration
In terms of fashion: Nina Simone’s bold and brazen style in her heyday; the iconic Pat Cleveland; fashion pioneer Naomi Sims, and of course, Grace Jones.
I work hard and I play hard. Also, I’m constantly battling panic and anxiety (so annoying!), so I usually choose something wellness oriented: two yoga classes in one day, a deep tissue massage, a detox bath—on the other end of the spectrum its international travel, and I LOVE to read and cook. All day by the pool with a stellar book and Mai Tais on tap (heaven!) or taking a full day to plan a proper menu, shop at the market, and cook a really yummy meal for my family (divine!). I usually read a chapter or two of a current book every night. Its my daily treat. I must have this—and a hot cup of chamomile tea with two teaspoons of honey.
the fashion industry
I see a return to good tailoring, elegance and ease. Also, customers are interested in the integrity of their brands—I am ALWAYS asked about this at trunk shows and pop-ups. Transparency and honesty is super important to the OULA woman, as well it should be. OULA is hand-crafted and sewn, Made in the USA, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, female designed and owned, sustainable, and we give back.