A Law graduate from the University of Exeter, UK, with a diploma in Fashion Designing from the French Fashion University (ESMOD) Dubai, Wanger Ayu has always had an innate sense of style expressed through artistic sketches.
Upon the successful completion of her Law degree and after being called to the Nigerian Bar, Miss Ayu decided to pursue her passion and establish a name for herself in the fashion industry. Today, she is one of the most sought- after brands in the country.
The designer, who has an impressive, wide range of creative fluidity, secured the British Council Creative Cities grant in 2016 for her work with her marketing and networking platform, Designers Marketplace. She was also nominated as Fashion Designer of the Y ear in the ELOY Awards in November 2016, and in December of the same year, she was nominated for the Future Awards Africa Prize in Fashion.
What informed your choice of career as a teenager? From Law to fashion designing, how did it start?
I was always a creative child. My interest in fashion was formed as early as my childhood. Law, however, seemed like the practical and more realistic choice at the time. It wasn’t until I was in the thick of it that I became very sure that I would pursue a career in fashion once I obtained my law degree. As such, I flexed my fashion muscles through school, and straight after law school and being called to the bar, I moved full-time into fashion designing.
How would you describe the evolution of your brand from when you started?
The evolution has been interesting; from childhood fantasies to an assurance and awareness that is evident in the brand direction and growth. Sometimes, when I look at my old, I cringe (Laughs). Nonetheless, it is amazing to see the results of consistency and drive.
How have the experiences and innovations shaped you overtime?
Fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of what people will think or say, keep us from trying. But, it is better to try and fail, than not to try at all. It is okay to fail, but it is never okay to give up. By failing, I have grown and learnt that I want to do things better or differently.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs? How much of western influences do we see in your work?
I am inspired by so many things; culture, socio-economics, politics, folklore, architecture, art, music, and so much more. For me, it’s all about the story that I can tell through fashion, and from my perspective.
It means, therefore, that my influences are not strictly western, nor are they purely tribal. My work is influenced by humanity with an emphasis on individuality and wearability.
Who is the Wanger Ayu woman?
The Wanger Ayu woman is strong, driven, and unapologetic about her goals and desires. She is sophisticated, yet, unafraid.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
There is currently a lot of focus on the changing world systems, especially in politics as evidenced by the way countries voted for the present crop of world leaders. With Nigeria particularly, I am fascinated by how the more things change, the more they stay the same and this makes me feel retrospective and is reflected in my more recent body of work.
What is the best advice you have received as a young entrepreneur?
Don’t give up.
What advice would you give to young designers who look up to you?
Love your craft enough to study it, master it, and perfect it. Do not stop learning. This does not only apply to your art, but don’t stop learning as much as you can about every facet of your business.
If there is one celebrity you would love to dress, who would it be, locally, internationally and why?
Locally: I already did – Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie (Lol)! The interesting thing is that she is also international, and each time I see her in my designs, it is new and exciting for me because she embodies the quintessential Wanger Ayu woman; self-aware, and unafraid to speak and live her truth. From being fully expressive through her work, she has carried that over into her fashion. It is such an honour to be a part of the Nigeria fashion story she is writing.
Internationally: Michelle Obama because she is everything I envision the Wanger Ayu woman to be and more. Also, I don’t believe that in a very long time to come, there will be another black woman in such a prominent and public position with her grace.
What wouldn’t you wear in the name of fashion?
Fishnets, I hate them.
What is your motto in life?
If you spend all of your time listening to the opinions of other people, you will never accomplish anything significant in life.
If you have to advise the government on ways to move the fashion industry forward, what would you say?
Fix the power situation and revive our textile industry.