At Armoire, we’re casting a spotlight on some of the notable, powerful boss ladies in our community, and what being a boss lady means to them. Read on to learn all about CEO of The OULA Company, Erika Massaquoi.
Erika’s curatorial work includes shows for the Frye Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) List Visual Arts Center, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Erika has held curatorial positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of the Moving Image. She taught new media, cinema, and contemporary art classes at Yale University, NYU and The New School. She also served as Asst. Dean of the School of Art & Design at The Fashion Institute of Technology.
She is currently the owner, CEO, & designer of The OULA Company, reflecting her effort to realize art in living forms. Equally as stellar, she is an accomplished and passionate wife and mother.
Inside The OULA Company
The Brand’s Story
At its core, OULA is about embracing freedom and creativity. I created the brand because a friend encouraged me to! OULA’s iconography is very much inspired by vintage style from the 1960s and ‘the black is beautiful’ way of life and fashion ethos of the 1970s. It’s the way my mom used to dress: an easy tunic, a dramatic skirt, a caftan inspired dress, a bold print, a unique piece of jewelry, a scent to die for and statement hair. For me, its aspirational and accessible and an honest reflection of the woman I’ve become. OULA is a derivation of my great-grandma’s name (Lula) and it means “will” and “determination.”
Armoire x OULA Collaboration
As a curator, I love Armoire’s effort to be a keeper or custodian of a customer’s closet and to help women style their lives. Also, the act of personalization appeals to me. Customization was once a luxury in fashion, but brands like Armoire are democratizing that service. In fashion it’s always key to have “options.” I’m always like, “What are my options!?” When choosing textiles, notions, shoes, a garment, a lipstick—I need options. Additionally, I identify with how Armoire identifies its customer as a “boss lady”—my grandma always called me this. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been a very take charge, lets do it, my way or the highway type—you know, its funny, I don’t think my Grandma meant it as a term of endearment, but as an entrepreneur it serves me well!
Erika’s Style Tips
Oh, I have a lot, but will keep it at twelve!
- Dress for yourself. It is the height of chic.
- Strong graphic statements always work.
- If you’re fancy, exploit that trait.
- If you’re charismatic and enthusiastic, your style should reflect this heat.
- If you’re brainy and moody, your style should reflect this insouciance.
- Subversion always works—like wearing jeans with a dress.
- If you find a pant or shoe that is super perfect and fits you like a glove, buy one or two more just like it.
- Your scent should reflect your mood and emanate emotion—lately I like smelling plush and expensive and like the inside of a church.
- Focus on the details—shoes, patterns, or the texture or volume of a material.
- Fashion, like learning, should be FUN.
- Every once in awhile, surprise yourself and wear the unexpected.
- Always wear a comfortable shoe. Fashion shouldn’t hurt. Shoes that hurt are dumb.
Her Get Sh*T Done Mode
Ha! That’s my everyday mode—working on all cylinders. If I maintain my yoga practice end eat well, I’m golden. If I skip my workout and eat junk, it’s a disaster. Hence, my get sh*t done mode is to maintain my discipline. I’m a working mama and while I prefer working in my studio, that is not always an option so I’ve had to really get used to working in my car and on the go. It’s amazing how productive I am while waiting for my daughter to wrap up ballet or choir practice.
Boss Lady Inspiration
In terms of fashion: Nina Simone’s bold and brazen style in her heyday; the iconic Pat Cleveland; fashion pioneer Naomi Sims, and of course, Grace Jones.
Thoughts on the Fashion Industry
I see a return to good tailoring, elegance and ease. Also, customers are interested in the integrity of their brands—I am ALWAYS asked about this at trunk shows and pop-ups. Transparency and honesty is super important to the OULA woman, as well it should be. OULA is hand-crafted and sewn, Made in the USA, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, female designed and owned, sustainable, and we give back.
What Armoire Members are Saying about OULA
Our members have been raving about Oula dresses. Below are member some reviews:
“I can’t get enough of these OULA Pomp dresses.”
“So cute I wore out Saturday night to the Seattle Symphony concert and again to work.”
“This is an incredible dress. Also…the pockets!”
Step out of your style comfort zone with a fun piece from The OULA Company. Take our style quiz to start renting Erika’s fun patterns.
Since it’s our mission to discover great female designers for you to try at Armoire, keep checking back. OULA is just one of the many female founded brands you can try when you rent with us.