Veteran fashion designer and House of Deola Sagoe founder, Deola Sagoe, talks fashion inspiration and the documentary series,  My Nigeria by Al Jazeera, and in an interview with ELLE South Africa.

My Nigeria is a series of six half-hour documentaries that pulse with the energy of Africa’s most complex and populous country.

The six half-hour films will go out in a prime time documentary slot (date and time still to be confirmed) to Al Jazeera’s global audience of over 250 million households across 130 countries.

ELLE: What sparked your passion and interest in fashion?

Coming from a place where the African fashion story wasn’t being told in its entirety, seeing as it was being told through the eyes of European designers who would pick up on more prevalent parts of the African culture during visits for inspiration, I felt there was a deeper story within, itching to be unveiled. The popular Maasai culture was indeed striking, but the Africa I was living in, my Africa, was going through a renaissance, which was characterised by an uncanny and quite contemporary combination of Western and African silhouettes. African fabrics have a truly unique quality and I felt I had a very important role to play in changing the perception of African fashion and in economically empowering local artisans, which is why I have consistently worked with native Nigerian fabrics, such as ‘Adire’ and ‘Aso Oke’, in every collection. ‘Komole’, my own authentic answer to every Nigerian’s yearning for an original interpretation and crafting of lace, is original from conceptualisation to crafting to final creation. Komole is now justifiably associated with top-tier attire for every occasion.

ELLE: How did your involvement in the documentary, My Nigeria, come about?

I believe this selection was based on merit and on the longevity and commitment to value and quality of the Deola Sagoe brand over the years, within the wider context of Nigeria as a fast-evolving country.

ELLE: How do you think the documentary will speak to women?

I believe it will inspire women to begin to take their destiny in their own hands and to realise that they have a role, which transcends traditional moulds and norms.

ELLE: What is your specific role in My Nigeria? How so your label ‘The House of Deola being featured?

The My Nigeria series consists of 30-minute clips on the Al Jazeera channel with a spotlight on the side of Nigeria, which historically has not been portrayed by the global media. The truth is, for every stereotype of corruption or extremism you hear of, there are a million motivated and driven Nigerians who add value and impact positively in and out of Nigeria. The aim of the story is to highlight the truth about Nigeria and change false or misguided perceptions and stereotypes. The Deola brand is being cast in the role of an effective and impactful organisation, particularly with regards to Nigeria’s image, and when shared will empower the people and enlighten the international community.

ELLE: What are some of the challenges faced by female designers in Nigeria?

The challenges facing Nigerian designers don’t impact women only. All Nigerian designers have to contend with poor access to training, infrastructure, distribution, retail, a lack of funding and intellectual property theft. These are things we are hoping will change in the near future.

ELLE: What’s next from the House of Deola Sagoe?

Komole Kandids is currently in the works and should be released sometime before the end of the year. I am particularly excited about this collection and it is quite close to my heart for a couple of reasons that I won’t disclose just yet…let’s keep an element of surprise! I can, however, say this collection will unveil the ‘blue blood’ in, and speak to, every woman at any level or phase of her life and for any occasion she might have in mind. In this ‘selfie’ age, everyday has its moments and everyday is an event, which you might want to capture on camera and keep for a lifetime.

ELLE: What does #BeingFemaleInNigeria mean to you?

It means constantly harnessing and drawing upon my inner strength, in order to shape the course and direction of my life against all the odds. It also represents making a choice, a determined effort to focus on the good that is in Nigeria and not the many vices that are present in this environment.

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