You may recognize her from Alessia Cara’s “Scars To Your Beautiful” music video or from last year’s Uniqlo Canada launch campaign. Or perhaps you’ve come across her street fashion-filled Instagram page (which is absolutely #goals) or read through her inspiring blog, Love Mirian.
Mirian Njoh is the multi-hyphenate millennial behind it all. Her resume includes fashion stylist, model, photographer, blogger and most recently, entrepreneur. In 2009, when Njoh moved to Toronto from Detroit, she recalls not knowing a single person. Fast-forward to today, and this creative has made quite a name for herself in fashion, and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry (yes — including Rihanna). She’s a total girlboss who uses platforms like her blog to empower women and educate others on albinism and self-love.
Despite her multiple endeavours in fashion, one thing has remained constant: her love of storytelling.
Her latest project is a blend of her passion for storytelling, travel and fashion. Named after the Latin word for sisters, Sororum is an e-commerce platform that seeks to unite women through one-of-a-kind fashion. We caught up with Njoh before the brand’s launch earlier this month to talk all things Sororum, personal style, and how being open to whatever life brings your way can lead to some of the best experiences.
Let’s talk about your latest endeavour, Sororum. Can you tell me how it started?
I feel like it’s kind of been floating around in my life for a while now, in bits and pieces. I have for the past couple of years now been going home to West Africa and also travelling to other places, so it’s kind of like built this little love of travel in me. And then, combined with the fact that I’ve always worked in fashion, and I always wanted to be my own boss and I enjoy working for myself. Basically it started in January. I went to Nigeria and I had some clothes made and just had a great experience and I was like, I wish that I could share this with people. Sometimes, people will be like, oh where did you get this?, where is this from?, and I’m like, oh, I made it in Lagos. And I [thought] wouldn’t it be cool if I could share this experience with other people…just the process of connecting with another culture in a way by having a piece of it.
So take that and put it aside, and combine it with all the fast fashion and everything that’s going on and kind of wanting to be like an antithesis to that. This is very much slow fashion, it’s very handcrafted, it’s very one-of-a-kind…it’s the antithesis of factory perfection and like a million people have it, this is the opposite of that. And I thought that it’s something people would enjoy — being able to experience a culture in that kind of way. It’s so much more than just the product. It’s about where it came from; it’s about the story around how I was able to acquire it to share it with you. It’s different things like that that build it on, make it more than just an item, to experience culture and fashion in a different way.
What products are you offering on Sororum?
So right now, it’s jewellery, bracelets, necklaces and bags, purses, wallets in different textures like leather and suede and also some clothing. Most of the clothing is going to be made to order because basically it’s built around my idea of all my experiences going to tailors. Like whenever I went home to Liberia or Nigeria, being able to pick a style, pick your fabric and then have it made just for you. There’s nobody else wearing your outfit. Because that’s really the way fashion works down there, there isn’t a mall. If you want a cute outfit, you go to the tailor and you have something made. And I love that experience —whatever I have nobody else has. Even if someone’s walking around in a similar style she doesn’t have it in my pattern. That was a big part of it; it was to share that experience of a truly one-of-a-kind piece.
I read that you picked some of these pieces from the market yourself, so do you know who made these products?
I have two collections, one from Liberia and one from Morocco. I think even more so in Morocco, it’s more of an intimate experience. Haggling in Morocco and Marrakech specifically is not a 10-minute situation. You will literally get to know each other cause you’re sitting there for an hour and they offer you tea and everything. It’s so not transactional, it is the opposite of going to Forever21 and being in and out in five minutes. What I love about them is that even if you leave and didn’t get anything cause you guys didn’t settle on a price, they have this thing where we’re still friends — come back anytime and it’s all-good.
Your collection also includes a few clothes designed by you. Was this your first time designing clothes?
Well, I went to Ryerson University so I have that fashion background in sewing. I studied Fashion Communication though. You do a bit of fashion design in that program. And I’ve known how to sew pretty much since nearly half my life already, even before I went to Ryerson. I used to sew my own clothes when I was younger.
What kind of clothes did you sew?
All kinds of things, I had a really interesting fashion sense (laughs). I guess I probably still do.
Well, one that many appreciate.
Yeah…so obviously, I was not a rich kid, I couldn’t just dream of couture and then go buy it. So it’s either like just dream of it or see if you can make something like it. I think because of my body shape sometimes too, I can’t ever find things that fit me the way I want them to fit me so maybe I’ll just make something that I like, and that’s kinda where it started.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with really big names in fashion including Rihanna for her “Work” music video and model and actress Diandra Forrest for her International Albinism Awareness Day fashion presentation in New York. Do you ever kind of think: how did I get here?
You know what, I have to say — that’s such an interesting question, because no I never think, how did I get here, because I know how I got there. For every thing that goes right, there are like 20 things that go wrong. I put in the failure of 19 things going wrong for that 20th thing going right. So it’s like I worked on the Rihanna video…that was amazing, but the way I got there was being available to any opportunity that was coming along. Or being available when things were not coming along to have a relationship with people that led me to that point. Like meeting Diandra, I know how I got there. I’ve been participating in other social movements like Sean Ross’s #InMySkinIWin campaign. Or just networking with other people…you’d be surprised, but there’s actually a pretty decent community of black girls with albinism floating around the Internet. So I don’t have to wonder how I got there, cause I’ve been putting in the work.
You have quite a few titles to your name; model, stylist, entrepreneur. So what’s your favourite out of them?
I feel like I’m the true millennial multi-hyphenate. I think my favourite, which is one that kind of encompasses all of them in a way, is storyteller. I feel like that’s something that’s always been inside of me even before I necessarily was thinking of a job and a career. I think my first foray into storytelling was writing. When I was 10, I used to write novels, and so I’ve always loved the idea of having a message and having a voice and telling a story or creating a world and having it go from beginning to end. I feel like as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just been exploring different mediums of that whether it’s been telling a story through fashion with styling or telling a story through business with this newest venture. I like the idea of sharing a story, whether it’s mine or whether it’s someone else’s by highlighting them on my blog. It’s just the idea of being able to connect with people through experiences and through common emotions that we feel or things that we go through.
Let’s talk about style. On Instagram, you post pictures in sporty outfits and then you have these pictures of you in the gown that Beyoncé wore to the Grammys. How would you define your personal style?
I feel like that all encompasses my personal style. I think I would probably describe it as dynamic, much like my personality. It all just depends on what kind of mood I’m in for lack of better explanation. But I do love a good sporty outfit even if I’m not at the gym, or I do love to feel like a princess and put on a huge ball gown. I feel like it’s not often I find a piece of fashion that I can’t look at and at least see some interest.
Do you have a beauty regimen?
Yeah it’s very, very simple — very basic. I don’t really wear makeup that much except for if I’m on a photo shoot or something, so that’s that. And then I use any simple face wash like Cetaphil or something, morning and night. Then a moisturizer in the morning and night and that is pretty much it. Going to Morocco, I was able to go to this cool women’s co-op that was in the Atlas Mountains, they were making prickly pear oil and all those oils and I was like okay, well I’ll try that because I’m here. So I got the argan oil and the prickly pear oil. I wanna try it because all their faces were immaculate. So I have to figure out how to incorporate even that into my regime because I’m so lazy.
It can be tricky to navigate your way through the fashion industry, especially for newcomers. Do you have any career advice for those looking to break into the industry?
I feel like I’m still finding my way. I’m still struggling; doors are still getting shut in my own face so I’m still learning. But I think what I’ve learned and what I would say to anybody — it can even expand beyond the fashion industry — is to start playing as early as you can. When you are a teenager, and you live at your parents house and you don’t have any bills, your failure is just a little bit. If you fail, the biggest thing that gets hurt is your ego. I definitely think that there’s power in internships. But sometimes I feel like there’s a good side to internships and then there’s an ugly side. You have to make sure that wherever you’re interning, there’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
If you had the chance to tell your younger-self something what would it be?
That’s a tough one. I feel like I would tell myself to just not be as scared. I think especially working in the creative industries and not coming from a cushy background to where if something happens, you can just go back to your family home and live there. I recently became the only person in my family who even lives in this country. There is no family home to go back to if you’re like, oh, I don’t have any money for rent. I think a lot of life can come in and it can make you scared to align yourself with what you feel like your purpose is — if it’s more of a leap than other peoples’ are. You have to try and you have to give it your best shot because when you don’t try something, I feel like that just becomes something that you regret. And it’s so easy to get trapped in something that isn’t serving you and isn’t growing you and that you don’t even like, but it’s just comfortable and it’s safe.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I might not even be in this country, I’m so fluid; I’m just going where I feel like. I feel like right now, especially in my life with the business about to launch, it’s kind of like starting a new chapter of exploring, experimentation and my creative journey. I’m so open to wherever things are taking me like, I have another idea for a project that I wanna start, it’s a video-documentary series…I feel like being a creative personality and having tried so many different things and enjoyed so many different things, I’m not married to a specific career path or even like geographical location. More so what shapes me and keeps me going in whatever path I’m going in is the way things make me feel. So whatever I’m doing if it gives me financial freedom, personal fulfillment, the ability to travel, the ability to be creatively fulfilled, then that’s where I wanna be in five years.
Ed’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.