After nearly giving up, RCBC fashion design student Taiwo Adekunle earns President's Award
Thursday, May 09, 2024

MOUNT LAUREL – Growing up in Western Nigeria, Taiwo Adekunle dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. However, this wasn’t an option in her home country, which considered fashion more practical and a skilled trade than a prestigious pursuit.

She studied more conventional academic topics—sociology and anthropology—before her family abruptly moved to the United States. The move wiped out three years of education, and any pursuit of higher education would have to start over in a country and culture completely different from her home.

“After many nights of crying and facing the fear of uncertainty, I was frustrated and almost snowballed into depression. I contemplated abandoning my educational pursuits altogether,” Adekunle said. Yet, a glimmer of hope emerged when I learned about Rowan College at Burlington County from a family friend. I summoned the courage to embark on a new path.”

Adekunle decided to study fashion and chase her childhood dream, which was nearly impossible in Nigeria.

Adekunle’s renewed sense of purpose drove her to be a campus leader as part of the Student Government Association. She participated in, if not organized, many events on campus, engaged in the student research program to study sustainable materials in fashion and showcased her skills in fashion shows connected to the college as well as professionally, such as the Newark Fashion Week Festival Designer’s Competition. 

Adekunle’s accomplishments earned her the RCBC President’s Award. She will represent the college’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Division as its student speaker.

Off-campus, Adekunle is equally ambitious. An aspiring entrepreneur, she is establishing an athletic clothing line, Trybeflex, aimed at connecting people with their homeland while they exercise and feel good about themselves.

Her goal is to launch culturally appropriate attire one culture at a time – started with her African roots, of course – for people who are either homesick or looking to connect with their family’s heritage, even if they’re generations removed from that place.

For a woman who had to be plucked from her home to achieve her dream, her business model should have roots in easing immigrants’ homesickness. It’s equally fitting that a girl who dreamed of being a fashion designer in a country that doesn’t value the career path came to America to earn a degree in fashion and get her start in the industry. She plans to study this fall at the Fashion Institute of Technology.