Yarns, Knots, and Divine Timing: A Conversation with Keme on the Gaea Lumi Journey

Some argue that crochet fashion is exclusive to the alte community, but for Keme, the creative force behind Gaea Lumi, crochet transcends boundaries, serving as a vibrant canvas for personal expression and cultural celebration. In a captivating interview, Ayakeme Udokang reveals the inspiration behind ‘GAEA LUMI’—a profound fusion of her personal identity and cultural influences.

Beyond the acclaimed ‘Okpu Agu’ collaboration, Ayakeme emphasizes Gaea Lumi’s expansive vision. During our conversation, she vividly portrays it not merely as a fashion entity but as a dedicated provider of culturally conscious clothing.

Our engaging dialogue delves into Ayakeme’s creative journey, revealing the captivating process behind GAEA LUMI’s inception. It’s a narrative intricately woven with threads of identity, self-expression, and an unwavering dedication to sustainable practices. As Keme shares her story, it becomes evident that GAEA LUMI transcends the label of a brand—it’s a dynamic reflection of her passion, values, and a commitment to reshaping the fashion landscape.

I have been very obsessed with your brand name, I know you’ve spoken about this before but just in case people still don’t know. Tell us what inspired it.

Thank you, thank you. When brainstorming names, I was going for something deeply resonant with my identity and the brand’s essence. Among several options, “GAEA” stood out, intentionally spelt but still the same as “Gaia”. The choice of “LUMI” came from my Yoruba name, “Pelumi”, a suggestion by a friend. Thus, “GAEA LUMI” was born, encapsulating a fusion of personal identity and cultural influences.

Did you study fashion? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do or did it just happen?

No, I didn’t study fashion, I studied Tourism and Hospitality Management at Uni, but the passion for fashion has been a constant in my life – since I was in primary school.

Tell us the GAEA LUMI origin story. At what point were you sure it was what you wanted to do?

GAEA LUMI kicked off when I wanted a crochet bralette but couldn’t find one anywhere, so I thought, “Why not make my own?” Admittedly, my first attempt at sizing wasn’t it – blame it on my primary school crochet skills. But as I improved, I got inquiries from people who wanted me to create similar pieces for them. It wasn’t until 2019 that I decided it was something I could pursue!

Do you think your brand is an extension of you?

Absolutely! GAEA LUMI is like my creative alter ego. It mirrors my style, values, and personal aesthetic. It embodies the cultural influences, craftsmanship, and commitment to sustainability that are important to me.

So I’d say you create really iconic pieces but beyond that, in describing GAEA LUMI, what would you say the brand is out to achieve?

Beyond just creating iconic pieces, GAEA LUMI is on a mission to redefine fashion, not just through style, but through meaningful impact and positive change. We believe that fashion can be a powerful tool for cultural celebration, environmental responsibility, and community building.

Do you think GAEA LUMI was designed to cater to a very specific demographic? If yes, can you describe that demographic?

GAEA LUMI wasn’t designed for a specific demographic. While we have designs with distinct characteristics, we offer something for various individuals seeking high-quality, ethically made, and culturally conscious clothing. 

The Okpu Agu collaboration, how did that happen? And how important was that collaboration for GAEA LUMI?

The Okpu Agu collaboration unfolded as if guided by divine timing. Had I created the first set in 2020, when I was given the initial idea, it might not have resonated as profoundly. Fast forward two years, the set was made due to a client’s order and caught Odumodu’s attention. This strategic alignment catapulted GAEA LUMI into the spotlight, providing a platform for people to witness the true creative potential of the brand. It was a pivotal moment that showcased our capabilities and resonated with a wider audience. I like to think that sometimes the universe aligns to reveal the impact of patience and perfect timing in everything I do.

How supportive is your community and how much do they challenge you?

Our community is a vital part of GAEA LUMI’s growth. Their support, feedback, and diverse perspectives inspire us and keep us motivated. They challenge us to innovate, pushing the boundaries of creativity and sustainability. This dynamic and collaborative relationship significantly contributes to GAEA’s brand evolution.

Your Instagram bio as well as your website emphasizes it’s a slow fashion brand. Why do you think it was necessary to let people know that and what’s your opinion on fast fashion?

It was very important for me to communicate that GAEA LUMI is a slow fashion brand because in the world of fashion (where fast fashion dominates) our emphasis on slow fashion aligns with a conscious and mindful approach to clothing production. Fast fashion feels fast-forwarded. It’s a quick fix, a fleeting trend, a constant churn of clothes designed to be worn and discarded. It’s exciting, sure, but at what cost? To the planet, to the people making the clothes, to the quality you’d expect? The environmental impact is undeniably not good.

What’s your creative process like? When it comes to creating new pieces?

When I don’t have a specific design to work with, I usually paint a mental picture of what I think would be perfect for a client and build from there. The whole process gets pretty detailed, with lots of measuring and calculating to make sure each piece turns out spot-on. If, at the end of the day, the outcome doesn’t meet expectations or if there’s a flaw, I don’t hesitate to unravel and start afresh. It’s a commitment to perfection and delivering pieces that truly resonate with the client’s vision.

Are all your pieces done by hand? I imagine it’s so time-consuming doing that, do you have a team that helps and what’s that process like?

All our pieces are crafted by hand. Despite suggestions to use machines to speed up the process, a machine can’t replicate the intricate art of crochet, which forms a significant part of what GAEA LUMI does. Thankfully, I now have an exceptional team, so it’s not a one-person show. Sure, it takes time, but the payoff is huge. The deliberate and mindful approach enables us to produce pieces that stand the test of time when properly cared for. It’s a genuine labour of love, and each stitch is a tribute to the skill and commitment of our incredible team.

In what ways do you believe your experience as a model has influenced or shaped the way you choose to represent the GAEA LUMI brand?

My time as a model exposed me to clothes that might look good but don’t necessarily feel good. That experience greatly influences how I represent the GAEA LUMI brand. Beyond the aesthetics, we are about ensuring every piece feels good, resonating with the comfort and uniqueness that sets us apart.

How do you view the significance of collaboration in achieving the goals and positioning of the GAEA LUMI brand?

Collaboration for GAEA LUMI isn’t just about achieving goals or positioning a brand; it’s about creating something meaningful, impactful, and beautiful together. It’s about celebrating diversity, sharing knowledge, and amplifying our voices for a better future. I believe that’s truly what makes a brand stand out.

Random but, As someone in fashion, What are some of your favourite trends, and conversely, are there any societal trends you believe we should adopt or abolish?

I feel like I’ve said this so many times already, haha. I’m drawn to trends that celebrate individuality and sustainability.  I love styles that reflect a blend of cultural influences and modern aesthetics. As for societal trends, let’s adopt more eco-conscious practices in all aspects of life. Sustainability shouldn’t just be a fashion trend; it’s a crucial mindset for a better future. On the flip side, trends that promote fast fashion and contribute to environmental harm should be reconsidered. It’s essential to prioritise mindful consumption and embrace trends that align with responsible and ethical choices.

Can you share any insights into the future plans or aspirations you have for GAEA LUMI?

Looking ahead, I envision GAEA LUMI evolving into a hub for unique, sustainable fashion that resonates globally. I’m excited about expanding our product range with more designs, including our upcoming capsule collection – ISONG, and exploring collaborations that amplify our brand’s cultural narrative. As we continue to grow, I am also open to exploring strategic partnerships and potential investments to propel GAEA LUMI to new heights. Ultimately, I want GAEA LUMI to not only be a fashion destination but a platform that celebrates diversity, creativity, and conscious living.

Written by Neone Adebayo