Designers Revolutionising the Nigerian Fashion Industry – Part 3
DIDI CREATIONS – Fascinated By Arts And Nature
Nigerian-born, UK based designer, Tina Ugo, is the face behind Didi Creations, a brand famous for its unique line of afrocentric accessory and serious craftsmanship to be reckoned with. Her luxury collection of bags and jewellery are distinct, bold statement-making pieces designed for the woman of class.
Having made a dramatic entrance on to the fashion scene with the unveiling of her women clothing line in 2013, Tina continues to excel in her craft even as she puts Nigeria in focus on the international fashion scene.
At what point in life did you discover your creative flair?
I would say my days at the University of Ibadan in the late nineties. During this time, I enjoyed painting, shredding and altering already made outfits that I bought from boutiques. Around this time also, I would travel to Lagos from school and source for tie and dye (adire) fabrics from manufacturers around Sanya area of Surulere. I would then design mini-skirts and skimpy tops for my friends just for the fun of it.
What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?
It was almost certain that I would end up in the fashion industry as a result of my lifestyle and knack for creativity. Upon graduation after my first degree, I did work in three different corporate sectors for a few years. The truth was that I never had job satisfaction, at the time, so as awkward as it sounds, I kept changing jobs every year between 2002 and 2005.
While I was still working in the corporate sector and doing my fashion business part-time, I realised that I was actually making more money from selling clothes, bags and shoes than what I earned as salary. I finally decided to make a career out of fashion because I had done it as a hobby for over ten years prior to when I launched my brand. Hence, I was certain I was genuinely passionate about it.
I also knew that I needed to give it my all to enable me grow the brand effectively so after my education in the United Kingdom, for my second degree where I bagged a Masters in Business Administration, I decided I would specialise as a management consultant and a fashion entrepreneur. This saw me launching Didi Creations Limited in 2012.
Are you self taught or did you study Fashion Design?
I would say it’s a mix of both, to be honest. Prior to when I launched the brand, I never went to any fashion school as I am creative by nature. I only designed and got my manufacturers to bring the design to life. However, in late 2012, I went to a fashion school to learn dress making and sewing. And, I have continued doing short courses in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising.
How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
The long term goal of the brand is to become a fashion lifestyle brand which every fashionista across the globe would love to be associated with. We are continuously expanding and have recently launched a kiddies’ line this year; Didi Creations Kids. I am grateful for how far the brand has come. We now stock and sell through about twelve different retailers and online shops in the United Kingdom and Nigeria respectively.
You design bags and clothes mostly boubous. Which did you begin with and how did you move from one craft to the other?
I had always loved the kaftans and boubous from my teenage days because they were my late stylish mum’s signature look. I copied my mum’s style a lot back in the days and loved wearing boubous and kaftans as well.
However, professionally, I started with designing bags and accessories in 2012. This was what I launched the brand with. Hence, most people tend to associate me more with designing of bags and accessories. I formally introduced the women clothing line to the brand in 2013 when I had my very first runway showcase, during Africa Fashion Week London 2013, Kenya Fashion Week 2013 and TABNyc during the New York Fashion Week 2013 respectively.
You live in the United Kingdom and have participated in shows there and outside the UK. How is your work received internationally?
For all the shows I have done till date, surprising as it may be, I have received positive feedbacks from all of them which is part of the motivation that has kept me going even when we have low sale periods.
I believe my work is gradually beginning to gather momentum in the United Kindgom, especially after our advertorial features in the British Vogue, Elle, Tatler, Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour magazines. The footfalls to my website increased tremendously and I’m beginning to receive loads of enquiries on my pieces, which sometimes ends up in a sale. Back home in Nigeria, my brand was well received from the onset and, the truth is, I still receive most of my orders from my Nigerian clients.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs from?
My design inspirations are drawn from colour, nature, vintage African arts and culture; hence the colourful, retro, and afrocentric themes in most of my pieces.
Who is the Didi Creations Woman?
She is that bold, stylish and fashion conscious woman who loves to stand out from the crowd.
What are you fascinated about at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I have always been and still fascinated by arts, nature and interior decor and plan to come up with something that will see my fashion designs and interior designs work alongside each other.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt since you started your company?
I have been let down a few times by different stockists and retailers who haven’t taken adequate care of my stock in their stores. Hence, the biggest lesson that I have learnt is that no one can be as passionate at your business as you.
You opened the AFWL last September. How did that make you feel?
It definitely made me feel great as I never planned to showcase on the runway this year, initially, and had to hurriedly come up with a collection just five days before the event – after the organisers rang me that they wanted me to be a part of the runway show.
Tell us a bit about your educational background.
I had my first degree in Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Ibadan where I bagged a Bachelors of Arts (Combined Honours) degree. I relocated to the United Kingdom in 2009 for further studies after I lost my mum.
In 2010, I was awarded a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Management by the London Business College. I also have a Masters in Business Administration from Edge Hill University, Lancashire.
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
I would love to have more retailers and stockists to retail my pieces in the United Kingdom then, eventually, expand to the rest of Europe and finally the rest of the world.
How does being a fashion designer influence your personal style?
Prior to becoming a fashion designer, I already had my style and this hasn’t changed a bit. My personal style, depending on my mood and destination, is best described as classy, glamorous, chic, bold, fierce, afrocentric and sexy. I love to stand out from the crowd at any given point.
Outside the United Kingdom, where would be your best holiday destination?
I’m not sure I can name just one destination, to be honest.