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A World With Many Patterns: Jendaya

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

When I interviewed Ayotunde Rufai, or Ayo, the mysterious maverick founder of African-inspired luxury fashion company Jendaya, he had just returned from a trip to Paris. Paris and Milan are the epicentres of global fashion, hosting some of the world’s most successful luxury and lifestyle brands. Hence, when I asked Ayo whether he had been in Paris for work or pleasure, he gave a cheeky answer, ‘well you know Paris is fun work but it’s work,’ he laughed. ‘The team had to do a presentation when we were there, so the workload was pretty heavy, but it was definitely worth it. So now back to business as usual’.

Because of the nature of the beast, with Jendaya connecting African Fashion globally, Ayo spends a lot of time travelling for the company. ‘In the last two years, I haven’t taken a trip purely for personal enjoyment. When you’re running a startup at this stage, it’s very much your baby and it requires attention. My trips are always Jendaya first, but yeah, I try to make some fun out of them.’

It was fascinating Ayo saw Jendaya as a startup seeing that the company’s success keeps pushing the ceiling year on year. They’ve collaborated with the likes of Abigail Ajobi, Davido and Puma, had people like Alex Iwobi styled by them and so on. It goes to show Ayo’s mentality and vison for Jendaya, agility and dynamism regardless of the size.

Mysterious Maverick…

Earlier in this article I mentioned how Ayo is a mysterious maverick of a founder. It occurred to me during the interview that I knew more about his company than the man himself, so I was hungry to find out more about him. He laughed when I called him mysterious, ‘I prefer it like that. I like that Jendaya is what people see first… although I do realise that I need to showcase a bit more of myself as a founder particularly in the fashion industry.’ He continued, ‘in this industry, people like to look at the personalities and the ‘packaging’ behind products, that’s what people tend to look for and it helps with opening additional doors if you have more of a public profile. People want to know; people want to see. The peacocking and showcasing, it’s part of it all’.

Source: Instagram (@ayotunde.rufai)

A Love for Fashion…

Ayo was always drawn to the fashion element in movies and shows he watched growing up. His eyes moved with the colours and the different patterns actors adorned. ‘Fashion has always piqued my interest. I’d always supplement that with reading magazines and watching shows like ‘The Fabulous Life’ on MTV that would feed into the desire I had for the finer things.’

A Slight Detour?

Before Ayo started Jendaya, he was on the path to very different things even though his interests always lay with fashion. Ayo studied Biology at Queen Mary with the intention of being a doctor. After graduating, he shifted his attention to Investment Banking, an industry he worked in for 4 years.

‘You know a lot of founders are ex-corporates.’ He started. The corporate life has its pros. You develop strong skills, it puts a bit of money in your pocket as well so, for those who start to ask questions, who have an interest they want to explore further, they can go and do it with the funds they’ve acquired.

Whilst working his corporate job, Ayo began to explore his interests and started listening to the whispers of his entrepreneurial mind. ‘The entrepreneurial itch started to kick in during my first year at the bank. Some friends and I started a fashion and lifestyle magazine called ‘Art Value’. That was my first foray into being an entrepreneur, and a fashion entrepreneur at that.’

With the magazine, Ayo finally had a reason, beyond mere interest, to reach out to figures in the industry who inspired him like Edward Enninful and Vanessa Kingori, people who he is no stranger to now. He would go to castings during his lunch time, work on the magazine with friends on evenings and weekends. They released a single issue of the magazine before discontinuing it. The issue featured Bevel’s campaign with Naz, Nyasha, a former face of Louis Vuitton, and even Orange Culture’s first campaign. ‘I’m proud of what we did and achieved although it didn’t continue. The contacts I gathered and being bold enough to reach out to people, the boldness I had to reach out to strangers, those things have contributed to where Jendaya is now.’


‘The best ideas come when you’re trying to solve a problem. Things worked out perfectly because the problem I was trying to solve aligned with my interest in fashion.’

Jendaya was conceived in the summer of 2017 when Ayo’s aunty had asked him to replace a Louis Vuitton bag for her when he got back to the UK. Without him as a courier of sorts whom his aunty utilised when he had to fly to and from Nigeria, there weren’t platforms existing for her to access luxury fashion services, and she wasn’t the only one who faced that problem.

So, he got the idea for Jendaya. But to take the step of setting aside his well-paying investment banking job, surely, he needed to have more than an idea. So, what made him take the risk?

‘I had validation from other Africans I had spoken to who had similar issues with accessing luxury fashion my aunty had and from people in the industry who loved the idea. I also did secondary research… But really it was also my faith that this was something that I was called to do, that I needed to do, that I would flourish in… I thought to myself, I might as well take the leap.’

And that’s exactly what he did.

Looking ahead beyond the horizon, Ayo doesn’t veil his ambition, and why should he? ‘I want Jendaya to be the number 1 luxury fashion platform for Africans in Africa.’ He said boldly, beaming.

Something to take away,

‘You learn that no one has it all figured out. A business cycle has peaks and troughs, the journey has peaks and troughs, it’s part of the territory you know, so it’s never all rainbows and sunshine… But despite that, you have to keep going. You have to keep going until the wheels fall off’.

Ayo has built Jendaya into an exciting company you want to keep looking at. From the brands they sell, the personalities they collaborate with, to their campaign and early believers like actor and angel investor, Maisie Williams, Jendaya is certainly thrusting itself into the luxury fashion space by wearing its African inspired ethos proudly around its neck. It’s one of the most exciting companies I’ve seen, and it has one of the most exciting founders I know at the helm. They’ve come a long way, and there’s much more to come. So, stay tuned and go have an adventure into their world of many patterns.


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