Sagoe's remedies for an African woman's body

WITH the Nigerian culture deeply embedded in her, the soft-spoken yet world renowned designer Deola Sagoe has brought her magic to the South African fashion runway.

Featured in the Fashion Week Africa at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, Sagoe, 46, will showcase her Komole collection, inspired by Nigerian Yoroba's culture of dance.

Sagoe also manufactures some of the fabrics she uses on her garments, with lace being her favourite and has led her to creating a new material for the collection.

With this range, Sagoe has created an African lace, a first for the continent, which she calls lasque, a mixture of lace and baroque.

"Lace is high class, feminine and evokes romance."

The other special element about her collection is the oriental Asian culture she has also included.

"I have an affinity with Japan. In fact Yoroba and Japanese cultures are very similar," she said.

Though the collection is specially for women, Sagoe has clothing for men, but her passion lies in women's curves.

"I am more passionate about women. African women need to be represented and heard more, even if it's through their dresses.

"We also cannot avoid curves. The world made us believe something was wrong with us, instead we just had to drape our curves in a beautiful manner," she said.

Unstructured tops with bell sleeves and wrap bottoms are Sagoe's best remedies for an African woman's body.

"It helps make the curves appealing."

Her definition for modern African fashion, as the trend she has set, is a hybrid fusion of the West and Africa.

"Over the years, we have adopted colonialist dress and incorporated our own culture and style for global appeal. The African essence is always there and we cannot divorce our culture (from fashion) which makes us unique," said Sagoe.

One of her biggest achievements lies in her brand Bespoke which keeps evolving from haute couture to ready-to-wear garments with detailed quality a priority.

Still based in Nigeria, Sagoe aims to promote the African fashion industry and also boosting the economy.

"Some designers find Africa challenging and react differently. A lot felt that the environment was hostile and fled. They feel they need accreditation from overseas. I would rather be a local champ first before exporting.

"Africa is my passion. It has taken about 25 years for me to draw attention to the continent, but I am happy," testified Sagoe.

About her relationship with South Africa, Sagoe said she owes her recognition to it.

"SA discovered me. It was on this platform where I achieved world recognition. I am surprised that people do not refer to pioneers of fashion from this country," she said.

Plans to set up shop here are in the pipeline but she said that it is about what she can give as much as what she can get from SA.

Being a mother and mentor to her three daughters who have established Clan, a label for young Africans, she is proud of their work.

"Clan is my pride and joy. The girls realised an opportunity in high fashion and decided to fill the gap. Their lines are different with a lot of detail and sophistication in their designs and being surrounded by so much quality they have turned to perfectionists," said Sagoe.

Clan was meant to showcase with their mother at Fashion Week but decided to pull back as they felt they were not ready.

Sagoe began in business and finance before rebelling against her father into fashion.

Apart from sharing the creations of her talent, social development is close to her heart using authentic material woven by village folk to support their wellbeing.

She was also a United Nations ambassador against hunger and mentioned that she is also love orientated - a valuable strength in her life.

"(Nelson) Mandela is one of my favourite people in the world. He proved that there is nothing love cannot do and one can give peace that people cannot comprehend.

"My work is not all about money and commercial, it is a calling for a bigger purpose."

- monnakgotlam@sowetan.co.za

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