A Fort Saskatchewan woman has found a way to give back through fashion.
Jibs Abitoye designs her clothing line in Fort Saskatchewan, but the items are produced in Nigeria.
Abitoye immigrated to Canada from Nigeria eight years ago. When she went back to visit family a few years ago, she said her former home had changed.
“Certain areas looked really poor compared to five years before when I’d visited. I thought, ‘I have to do something about this.'”
Abitoye, who’s also a Fort Saskatchewan city councillor, began hiring Nigerian contractors to help bring Divineity Fashion to life.
“Nigerians are very big on fashion and colour. I thought this would be a great way to empower women and bring business to them,” Abitoye explained. “There are multiple people that create one outfit. Someone does the detailing. Someone puts in the buttons.”
She said it’s important to her to have a business that is socially responsible.
“You’re not just buying these clothes to look good; the other part is that you’re doing it for a good cause. You’re putting food on someone’s table,” Abitoye said. “It’s not just about being profitable.”
The small businesses impact is already being felt in her former home.
“[People in Nigeria] are always asking me, ‘When are you bringing more business?’ I tell them, ‘Don’t worry, we are still trying to grow here [in Canada]! We’re going to get there.'”
A portion of profits has a local impact, with money going towards organizations supporting victims of domestic violence.
“I’ve been a victim of domestic violence as well. I know what that’s like. Ten years later and I’m still shaken by the incident.”
Abitoye recently returned from New York Fashion Week where she showcased her designs. She launched her business just a few months earlier, in November 2019.
“It was amazing. I honestly didn’t see myself there. I thought I would be going next year, not this year. The opportunity came up and I thought, ‘I’m so not ready for this!'”
After some consideration, she decided she would make the trip work.
“I put the collection together in less than two weeks. It was eight pieces. A lot of work… but it was worth it.”
The designer will be hosting a pop-up shop at Country Chic in Fort Saskatchewan on March 7.