Funmilayo Odeniyi: A Fashionable Standout

An ISANS Impact Story

Funmilayo Odeniyi is a business owner and clothing designer mixing up the Halifax fashion scene with her unique and eye-catching creations. Funmi owns MichNat Fashion House, a fashion brand founded in 2020 with a store location on Spring Garden Road, Halifax.

“This is my lifelong dream. I have always loved fashion since I was small,” says Funmi. “Basically, my focus is to help everybody stand out. For me, I feel that every individuality is unique. I feel that even with fashion, people should not be boxed in the same corner. You are allowed to be who you want to be.”

Funmi and her family immigrated from Nigeria to Nova Scotia in 2016 and upon exploring the local fashion industry, she felt it needed more diversity. So, instead of waiting for more diverse fashion businesses to open, she started her own. “I wanted to educate people about what Afrocentric is and what our line of fashion is,” she says. “I also wanted to help immigrants coming from those kinds of areas to be able to see themselves here, because I feel fashion, food, music are things that make people feel more at home.”

Educating visitors to her store was important for Funmi because she realized many had a narrow idea of what Afrocentric means and who Afrocentric clothing is for. Afrocentric fashion reflects and is inspired by the traditional and cultural designs of Africa. This can be seen in the clothes’ patterns, colours, and materials. Afrocentric fashion is worn by the people of African and people of African descent. It can also be worn by those who appreciate the beauty, meaning, and creation of the clothes.

A yellow, red and green dress on a mannequin. To the right, a yellow, red, white and black dress on the bottom half of a mannequin. A red, yellow, and green purse sits on top of the half of a mannequin
Pieces at MichNat Fashion House.

Four years since she opened her store, Funmi has stayed loyal to her business’s Afrocentric roots but has expanded into developing custom pieces that don’t always fall into the Afrocentric distinction. Having branched to the prom and wedding dress market, Funmi takes pride in creating tailored pieces unique to her customer. “When people reach out to me, I try to meet with them and understand their personality, and I’m like, ‘okay, we can actually craft you something that represents you.’”

Funmi has worked hard to achieve her dream of a career that supports her creativity and love of fashion. After immigrating here in 2016, Funmi became an ISANS client to get help updating and reworking her resume for the Canadian job market. Building on her previous work experience in the financial sector, she found a job in accounting, but she knew deep down this wasn’t how she wanted to live her new life in Canada.

“If I’m going to a new place where I don’t know anybody – where I mean, I’m already living the life I know – if I’m going to test a new one, I might as well test it with my passion, right?” says Funmi.

During her maternity leave in 2018, she took the time to plan her future business. In the spring of 2019, she returned to work, but resigned the following autumn to open MichNat Fashion House in 2020. Since then, she was named ISANS’ Immigrant Women Entrepreneur Network (IWEN) Entrepreneur of the Year in 2021.

Funmi and the other winners and finalists received a free, one-year membership with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Funmi says the membership was highly beneficial for her, but what she has found especially helpful is having an ISANS business advisor, who she says gives her a good support system. “If I need her [my advisor’s] advice, I reach out to her. Or if there are opportunities, she thinks might be beneficial to me, you know, she reaches out.”

A few things come to mind when Funmi reflects on what she is most proud of with her business so far. “I’m proud of the fact that right now I have this space, and I’m able to have people to work with.” She is proud of impacting people’s lives through her work.

In collaboration with the Halifax Public Library, she runs a program during which she teaches teenagers to sew. She says it is best to keep teenagers busy, especially through learning a great skill. As a self-taught sewer, she believes anyone can learn the skills they need to pursue their dreams.

“It’s all about you developing the passion for it, because the truth is, when you love something, you go the extra mile for it,” says Funmi.

a close-up of medium size colorful bags, as well as socks, sit on a white shelf
Fashion pieces at MichNat Fashion House, which includes accessories.

If I'm going to a new place where I don’t know anybody – where I mean, I'm already living the life I know – if I'm going to test a new one, I might as well test it with my passion, right?”

Funmilayo Odeniyi: A Fashionable Standout