Exotique Boutique

by Terry Watson | March 15th, 2018
Lola Olufolabi (Photo by Jerry Barbry)

Lola Olufolabi (Photo by Jerry Barbry)

Nestled along the bustling and enchanting district of downtown Durham, Exotique Boutique and Art Gallery showcases African and Non-African clothing, fabrics, arts, and handcrafted gifts made by artisans, both locally and from around the world. Exotique is dedicated to promoting art and creativity through economic sustenance and self-sustaining entrepreneurship. They offer clothing, jewelry and fabrics, and also have a variety of shea butter and oils.

Owners Yemi and Lola Olufolabi Exotique opened their doors in the spring of 2006 with an intention of showcasing art and the beauty of creativity from different parts of the world. Lola’s background is in physiotherapy. After raising children, it was more appealing for her to try something else other than medical health service. Having an extensive cultural advantage and access to a wonderful variety of clothing and art and jewelry from their native country Nigeria, the thought was simply “why not” downtown Durham. It was very affordable and very central, so they took the opportunity and the rest is history.

“We are like everyone else, seeking the meaning of it all. Having left Nigeria and England, we made North Carolina our home. Church, work, and school are all parts of our community. Our Christian faith is the fuel. Our true purpose is to put a smile on the face of others and add value to people. That is the Exotique purpose,” says Lola.

They began with Africa after having a direct access to that continent, but their travels afforded them an opportunity to find wonderful art in other cultures. Exotique therefore grew to assimilate other art work from many continents. The local artisans need a place to exhibit and sell their work, and Exotique is there for them. “We make it happen by bringing authentic and fair-trade items in at an affordable price,” she says. “Everyone visits from all over the globe and stop by Exotique. We enjoy having wonderful people coming in.”

To keep the doors of Exotique open, Lola finds inspiration in her father, who she says was a very kind man that possessed the gift of knowing everyone on the planet. “He put in all his children the ability to engage everyone, so perhaps that is the part of the reason I enjoy meeting and engaging people. As a Christian, we want to have a place where people are inspired. Life goes too fast and many folks long for engagement, just to be recognized,” she says.

Moving forward, Exotique will continue to engage with their vast customer base and travel to find more hidden artists. They also have space within the boutique that can be utilized for class and events. If you are in Durham, please stop by and see what the Exotique experience is all about.

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