Farah Ouediat’s The Up Market is the Lagos Stylish Yummy Mummy’s best kept secret, and we are about to blow it’s cover, call it civic duty to all our Bella Stylistas, including those who have been blessed with a little person or two! The chic boutique in the heart of Victoria Island has, by word of mouth garnered a following of fashion conscious mothers who are not willing to diminish their style game due to having a growing family.
At the heart of The Up Market’s launch and growth is a love story. Relocating to Lagos from her native Lebanon to be with her entrepreneur husband, Farah immediately noticed a gap in the market: “While pregnant, I started shopping for my son in Lebanon and abroad with a joyful and exciting feeling that I cannot describe.” However, returning full time to Lagos once more brought shopping challenges: “The idea for me to enter into the retail space came from my son first, and secondly from the fact that in Lagos there are so many events and kids outings, so you always have to have a ready nice outfit! Try as I might, I couldn’t find the kind of shops in Lagos that could cater to this, so I always had to ship everything back to Lagos! So I decided to open an e-shop for only stylish outfits for kids via Instagram and pop-ups.”
However, Farah did not content herself with either keeping her business entirely online or daring to expand its remit. Success in children’s wear made her think about women’s wear, especially women who were experiencing her own specific challenges: a space that catered to both her sartorial needs and those of her child. And thus The Up Market was birthed. Farah is equally passionate about the fate of the ‘invisible woman’ which will have a woman cease to tend to herself after children, or mute her fashion choices to a reflect a new life-stage, she elaborates:
“I refused to be that old fashioned Mom, and I refused also not to take good care of my physical appearance. I have always loved fashion and style but at the same time I was trying to adapt my wardrobe to my new ‘post partum’ body and I took up the challenge to show that Moms can continue to wear whatever they wanted and birth doesn’t stop them from looking their best!“
She is a perfect advert for such, and the shop features a clever edit of easy separates that can take in all manner of occasions from school runs to beach days to glamorous evenings out. Pressing her further about the specificity of whom she engages with, she is professionally mysterious adding: “I wouldn’t name brands that I stock at the Up Market, because I always change brands during my buying trips. While buying I follow the trends, the looks and my mood! I think stocking the same brands every collection is not evolving and whilst every brand has a history my aim is to have many histories in my shop.” However, one thing she will concede is that the shop edit is very much in keeping with her own life change of starting afresh in Lagos. She explains:
“Since I started a family with the love of my life, I have decided to follow him anywhere he is on the planet…Lagos turned out to be the perfect place to live as a family and specially as a healthy one with outdoor activities that are perfect for the kids, as well as vibrant restaurants and a club life that my husband and I enjoy. However, most important of all are the genuine people that really live as one community and help each other no matter what difficulties faced.”
Visiting the store one is immediately charmed by the space, which is on an upper floor (hence the name) and opens with the baby and children’s wear section, full of quirky and original pieces that will ensure your child never has an aso’ebi moment on their play-date. In fact, Farah ensures this is the case by not carrying the same style in multiple sizes. She also has an adorable model in son Ali, who often pops up in her instagram feed showing off the merchandise with great élan.
The women’s section includes a rack of Balmain jackets (I know, we were excited as well) and pieces from designers that Farah has connected with on her travels. When asked of her own personal style she rattles off a list of designers who are known for their conceptual and ground-breaking aesthetic:
“Currently I like a lot Maison Martin Margiela, because it is inspired by the artisanal. I also consider Balenciaga and Stella McCartney being two of the top brands of this year as they bought the 90’s back to life with their statement pieces! [Furthermore], I am always interested in brands known for being deconstructive and avant garde in terms of design, especially when we see unconventional material.”
This is not to say that she is only a fan of international super-brands as she counters: “Lately I’m so in love with Nigerian ethnic prints, including the famous Ankara! I have included it in many of my current outfits! Nigerian fashion is being seen internationally and living here is also affecting my beauty look, like the hair, the nails, make up etc. braids have become my personal fave! For me, the idea of wearing luxury brands from head to toe, is not being fashionable and stylish. You can wear a very nice outfit with a specific budget and make a wonderful statement and that is the concept of The Up Market ‘ affordable luxury’.”
Indeed in a city where shops tend to sit on one distinct end of the divide it is refreshing to enter a space that dares to embrace the high-low concept and offer shoppers a genuine mix of the two. Speaking of the future Farah is modest stating “one shop with a future as a fashion destination is enough for me!” When I point out this is already the case she adds that her role as a retailer is one that is rooted in finding solutions rather than dictating trends and opening endless emporia:
“The Up Market is all about being a trustful fashion destination. [We] believe you should be able to have the guts to try new and daring ideas, to mix and match, to display, to dress up and not to follow any rules BUT create your own. I see myself as a style architect who can guide you through your styling and fashion journeys and this is my passion!”
Bidding her farewell, one is left with the impression that her innate ebullience for life, family, fashion and her new home in Lagos, makes her a fantastic new addition to the African fashion family. And if you are either a Mumsie of Life or know of one, The Up Market is definitely a style destination to visit.