Omatu Gottschlich: Extraordinary fashion designer brings music to her Austrian brand – Fulani
Story By: Terry Check Editor: Désirée Molyneux Photographer: Terry Check (www.terrycheck.com) Models: Halie Shaw and Micaele Dietz of BMG Models (www.bmgmodels.com) Fashion Stylist: Tiffany Ellaya (www.iamtiffanyellaya.com) Makeup Artist: Carlyn Phillips (www.carlynphillipsmakeup.com) Hair Stylist: Kelli J (www.kellij.com) Retouch Artist: Oleksandr Sak (firstname.lastname@example.org) Design: MODE Studio
When a person like Omatu is multi-talented in music and fashion, how do they decide which path to take? For Omatu it was simple, she has pursued both passions and then amazingly blended them together as the creative visionary of the Austrian fashion house, Fulani. At the Vienna Fashion School in Hetzendorf Castle, Omatu, of Austrian and Nigerian heritage, continued studying fashion, and then vocals and dance at the Viennese Conservatory for Music. Music has been the inspiration of her collections with R. Kelly’s Love Letters album inspiring the collection, “Love Affair”, and genral R&B music inspiring the upcoming collection, “Quiet Storm”.
Her friendship and collaboration with R. Kelly not only inspired her fashion creations, but also caught the eye of Hollywood celebrities, kick-starting her fashion career. Check out her website at https://www.fulani.at and her music at: https://www.youtube.com/embed/a0_zqXEE4Ec
With Omatu always traveling between Vienna and Los Angeles, it took some scheduling for Mode Lifestyle’s writer and photographer, Terry Check, to catch up with her for a one-on-one interview and photoshoot of her latest collection. The fashion editorial features designs by Fulani (apparel), JF London (footwear) and Rozaliya (jewelry).
MODE: We have marveled at your multitude of talents; singing, song writing and now the creation of the Fulani fashion brand. Before we talk about fashion, please share with our readers your love of music. Are you still recording?
Omatu: Music was and still is my passion, and yes, I am still recording. There is something about music; It’s always pulling me in, and I am addicted to it. My recent single is an Aaliyah cover song. I wanted to emphasize the ’90s music feeling by singing “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number”, mixed with an afro-pop beat. I love R&B music and produce mostly in that genre.
MODE: How did you come about creating the Fulani brand? Did you have formal training in fashion design?
Omatu: I went to designer school, then became self-employed and founded the brand Fulani. I became aware of the name Fulani as a young child when my Dad would tell me a lot about Nigeria and its many different tribes. The Fulani tribe is notorious for their beautiful people, and the name stuck with me since.
MODE: The name, Fulani, refers to ethnic groups in West Africa. Were you born and raised in West Africa?
Omatu: My Dad is from Nigeria, my Mum is from Austria where I was born and raised. I am frequently travelling to Nigeria.
MODE: Do your fashion collections reflect Fulani traditional attire?
Omatu: My label is namesake with the tribe, but my collections are very “Omatu-like”, basically a mixture between Africa and Europe.
MODE: We love your recent collections. Tell us about your inspiration for Afrocentric, Love Affair and Pieces of Me.
Omatu: Thank you! Afrocentric: the name says it all; inspired by African attire, I used African related fabrics for this collection. Love Affair: this was a collection in cooperation with R. Kelly for his “Love Letter” album. Rob and I teamed up years ago and became close friends. He hooked me up with female celebrities regarding Fulani collections. Pieces of Me: inspired by moi (me, Omatu) and my music, my EP “Melancholody”. My songs are very melancholic, personal, and inspire me to design a collection for me only.
MODE: Can you describe your typical female clientele?
Omatu: The woman who buys Fulani is very self-confident and likes to show her feminine curves. My customers like to buy quality which I provide in each of my looks. Fulani pieces are always comfortable and wearable because I give my best to design something unique but also ready to wear. I design value in skin friendly fabrics.
MODE: How do you manage to have so many celebrities highlighting your fashion creations?
Omatu: Like I mentioned before, R. Kelly helped me by making introductions. Besides, I am just a lucky person in the right place at the right time. It helps that I am not shy to approach people, plus all the celebrities I worked with so far have been very humble and down to earth. Like I said I was lucky.
MODE: How would you describe your creative design process? How and where are your designs produced?
Omatu: First I sketch the designs, and then I send the sketches to my patternmaker in Vienna, Austria. She then creates a prototype made of a similar fabric as the original fabric. During the fitting we discuss the fit, length, etc. Meanwhile I contact my fabric suppliers and also travel to different fabric exhibitions (I prefer Premiere Vision in Paris) in search for trendy fabrics and colors.
I order fabric samples and send them to my tailor in Slovakia. She produces a sample collection (mostly double or triple). Meanwhile my patternmaker produces different sizes of each item. Then I produce the look book and campaign shootings in Vienna, Austria, which is needed for wholesale customers, stores and the online store. Depending on my orders I will then finally produce different sizes and quantities of each design and ship to different stores. I also produce stock to sell directly online.
MODE: You are probably in the process of creating your next collection. Please share a few “teasers” about what you have coming up.
Omatu: The name of my upcoming collection is Quiet Storm, which is a sub-genre of R&B music that is characterized by mellow dynamics, slow tempos and relaxed rhythms. I cannot tell you more for now, but as you can see music is always following me.
MODE: How do you market your designs? Online, boutiques, department stores?
Omatu: I am always travelling between Vienna, Los Angeles and Lagos. Vienna is my hometown so I mostly do my marketing by myself. In Los Angeles my PR agency and showroom is named PRB Public Relations, owned by Mrs. Piera who is doing an amazing job! In Lagos I partnered up with a fellow fashion designer who is very established and has her own store in downtown Lagos.
MODE: Is your market place in United States, Europe, etc.?
Omatu: I personally love California (Los Angeles), and I am born and raised in Vienna, the heart of Europe, so I would say both.
MODE: Looking forward three to five years from now, what do you envision for your Fulani fashion brand?
Omatu: I have sky high expectations and love to challenge myself. In three to five years I want Fulani to become a household name in the international fashion industry.