Christina Abayomi started RE ONA with her sister Philiscia after struggling to find clothing on the market that aligned with her lifestyle and her values. We chatted with Christina about where she finds inspiration and how she made it as a female entrepreneur.
I grew up in the UK and moved to Canada in my mid-teens. After taking business marketing classes at college, I ended up pursuing a career as an analyst, which was my first “real” job in the corporate world. However, I've always known that I wanted to have my own business.
Socializing after work is a regular thing to do in Toronto. Being able to wear clothing that can transition from day to evening sparked the idea of RE ONA. The brand is inspired by the desire to wear transitional basics with considered design, quality, and comfort, which can be easily worn from day to night.
My sister Philiscia and I started RE ONA while working full-time corporate jobs. We understood from early on that we would need to make personal sacrifices, like keeping our nights and weekends free to solely work on the business.
The process of creating the company started in early 2017. We took the time to research, test samples with manufacturers, and then release very limited styles and quantities to see what customers really liked and what styles they didn’t like so much. We officially launched in late 2018 when we understood what our minimum viable product was.
Philiscia and I would shop at well-known stores like H&M and Zara and we found that clothing wouldn’t last us very long, but we loved how stylish the clothes were. We had gotten so used to the idea of just repurchasing the same pieces over and over again, not realizing that getting a hole in your basic leggings after a few wears was not normal.
Of course, we were aware of stores that offered better quality basics, but we felt that they didn’t speak to our age group, nor did they relate to us as young, modern women looking for style, comfort, and great quality.
We live in a society driven by social media where fast fashion is everywhere and we are encouraged to buy into trends. For us at RE ONA, sustainability means slowing down fashion, investing in quality transitional styles that will last from season to season—consuming less and getting more out of your clothing.
We connected with our manufacturers through a good old Google search. We are very proud to be partnered with manufacturers whose ethics and values are aligned with RE ONA. We value the workers who bring our designs to life and feel it’s important that they work in a safe and clean environment and that they are fairly compensated to financially support their families.
Our design process starts with a combination of a few things. We review our most recent collection and analyze characteristics of styles that were received well and that could possibly be carried through the next collection. We also like to look at all customer requests on styles they would like to see.
We love the ‘90s and early 2000s era—the music, television shows, and fashion. We find inspiration from the fashion of that era and we add a modern twist to make it wearable for today. Our most recent collection, Effortless Essentials, is a capsule collection that includes mini dresses and halter neck tops inspired by the ‘90s.
Our clothing is neutral, simple, and minimal and we wanted this to translate into the look and feel of the brand. We personally have always been attracted to clean and simple aesthetics, so keeping to a neutral warm palette came organically and it is the true essence of the way Philiscia and I like to dress.
Our customers really inspire us as well. Every time we receive feedback, comments, emails, and DMs about our clothing, it fuels us to work harder and brainstorm more ideas of what to bring to them.
A normal workday can include fulfilling orders, working on samples, planning photoshoots, developing strategies for growing the business, and everything in between. We are still a very small company and everything is managed by us—we are a small team of three people.
2020 has been our breakout year! More customers began to discover our brand and we were able to launch a successful summer collection, which we had no idea would be received so well. After the launch, our pieces were featured in publications like Cosmopolitan, Elle, Who What Wear, The Zoe Report, Essence Magazine, and others. This success has been very humbling for us.
This has probably been said so many times, but having passion and having a “why” for what you want to get into is imperative...I cannot stress this enough. I heard this a lot from podcasts and interviews from other founders before starting RE ONA and it couldn’t be more true.
There will be sacrifices, challenges, setbacks, and hurdles along the way to the point where you may want to give up, but if you have a strong passion for what you are doing, you won’t quit so easily. Remembering your “why” will get you through those hard times.
Another tip for entrepreneurs is to develop strategies for reaching your customer, spreading the word about your business, and continuing to build the brand in the long run.
I listen to many podcasts, specifically related to entrepreneurship and business. How I Built This with Guy Raz is my personal fave. You get to listen to the hardships and wins that these amazing founders of successful businesses faced while building their businesses. In particular, I like to hear stories of founders who are self-made—who started from the ground up, from idea to conception. This keeps me inspired and motivated for the days when I literally have no motivation.
This is something I am continuously working on. Right now, I work so much that I don’t spend any time during the day for self-care. I do enjoy simple pleasures though, a large hot coffee in the morning really gets my day going. To unwind, I like listening to some music, drinking hot tea, and relaxing with my dog. This always gives me a nice calming feeling after a long day of work.