Nigerian fashion designer Deola Sagoe believes her country is leading trends on the continent and will bring that fresh style to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa (which starts next Wednesday at Melrose Arch, Johannesburg).
I asked her a few questions about her fashionable world:
Your start in the fashion industry?
Some serendipitous occurences led to working with my mother to put my rather revolutionary/contemporary fashion ideas (in the late 80′s) out there to a ready crop of Nigerian men and women on the brink of an African renaissance.
What is the Nigerian fashion scene like?
Nigeria, and Lagos in particular, is being celebrated internationally at the moment as a destination of taste and style. It is vibrant and dynaminic. Nigerians are early adopters, meaning that we are at the vanguard of embracing new trends and styles from across the globe.
What fabrics do you use? (I read that you produce you own – please tell me a
bit about this)
My preference and signature fabric is the Aso-Oke, but I also make my own tie-dyed designs on silks and other natural fibres. French lace is a huge favourite, as well as chiffons,crepes and other luxe fabrics.
Aso-Oke is hand woven on Time honoured looms that date back to the 11th century. Aso-Oke literally translates to Top Drawer clothing. They are our African Haute Couture fabrics of great antiquity and value.With this collection, I present the first African lace collection using Aso Oke which I have christened Laceq.
Do you have any celebrity fans?
International model Alek Wek, US actress Anika Noni Rose, musician Nneka, Susan Taylor, actress Lydia Hearst, Dawn French Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage and Zainab Badawi of Rendezvous with Zeinab on BBC World.
What was your inspiration for your upcoming collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa (in Johannesburg)?
Its called the ‘Komole’ collection, inspired by the work of Shade Thomas Fahm,a designer and woman’s activist in the late 60′s and 70′s. Komole in Yoruba means dance and bend down low (not the drop it like its hot type of dance) but a deliberate swaying of the hips in an elegant fashion to the rhythm. It is a celebration of our own retro Nigerian traditional styles, evocative of the more risque Nigerian party-wear. Women’s roles were being redefined and Africa was making its presence felt globally.
What has been your best fashion moment ever?
Last year in August my daughters launched their own fashion label, CLAN. For me it means that the
25 years I’ve spent in the industry has not been in vain. My daughters have imbibed the spirit of the brand in their own way. Their interpretation of fashion combined with the mentality of the high street guarantees the succession of the brand.
You have a Finance and Management degree. How important is it for designers
to really take control of the business side of fashion?
If there’s anything I’ve learnt its that ideas alone without careful consideration and planning as to how to make designs commercial is not enough. No one has respect for starving artists any more.
What do you think about the fashion scene in South Africa?
It’s grown in leaps and bounds! South Africa has played a major role in creating global awareness and exposure for fashion brands across Africa. The reason that Mercedes-Benz has collaborated with Africa Fashion International to present seasonal fashion weeks in Johannesburg speaks volumes. Wouldnt you agree?