panda head interviews...ugoseven.
jaja nwokeabia has been designing her line, ugoseven, since 2004. focusing mainly on swimwear and dresses, her use of bold colors and designs combine with strong craftmanship to produce truly unique, well-made pieces for the 'ugoseven woman - fresh, fun, elegant, and envelope-pushing.' jaja chronicles the ins and outs of being a designer in the district on her ugoseven blog; you can catch up with her there or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
what inspires you to design?
I am inspired by nature, art, music and icons of style--Diana Ross, Josephine Baker and Marilyn Monroe, Jackie O. For my line this year I drew inspiration from 60s icons Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot. They embodied an effortlessly fun, carefree sexiness that I hope to capture in ugoseven swimwear. As a Nigerian, I am also inspired by modern Nigerian designers such as Duro Olowu and Deola Sagoe, who have brought African aesthetics to the global stage. Many people don't think of Africa when they think of fashion or art, but I hope that will soon change.
what's the philosophy behind ugoseven?
I don't think fashion necessarily requires a philosophy. I don't think there is a standard right or wrong when it comes to fashion. Creatively, there should not be any calculation behind it. For example, nature is so phenomenally perfect, colorful, unique and abstract, yet never boring. A puddle never spashes the same way twice and no rain drop or zebra stripe is alike. Fashion, to me, should be as unpredictable and personal. The same garment should mean something different to each person who wears it. That is what makes fashion so artful and aspirational. That’s how I approach every piece I design. My rule to live by is: Do you. It’s that simple.
what's your favorite piece that you've made?
Around three years ago, I visited my mother in Los Angeles and wore a swimsuit I designed to Venice Beach . So many people stopped me to ask where I bought my swimsuit. A light bulb flashed in my head and I realized fashion design did not have to be just a hobby--it could be a business, too. I still have that swimsuit today. That was how ugoseven began. Last year, my final semester in college, I was flat broke and sold ugoseven swimsuits to pay the bills and put food in the fridge! I'm really focusing on swimwear design right now because I love it and believe I have something new and fresh to offer in that market.
how can people purchase ugoseven?
Right now I handmake and sell my pieces to order--swimsuits and dresses--with a focus on craftmanship, quality and finishings. Word of mouth has been very good to me. Business is picking up. People will see my stuff at a fashion show and contact me for various projects. Because I am an independent designer, I love being able to work very closely with clients to create truly one-of-a-kind, special pieces. This year I plan on traveling, attending tradeshows, "micro-manufacturing" and distributing my pieces at retailers.
what's your take on DC fashion and style, in general?
DC fashion, in my opinion, is extremely safe, convenient, mainstream and colorless. I've noticed that many people dress more for comfort and to blend in rather than for style. Maybe that is due to the District being a heavy commuter city. As far as trendier neighborhoods, I love style-watching around Georgetown and the local universities . I would love to see more Washingtonians taking risks and investing more in their clothing and style choices as an extension of themselves.
what do you like about being a designer in this city?
In DC I have discovered that there's a wealth of underground fashion talent and tight-knit community for us with Unsung Designers and the DC Fashionista meet-up group. Also, there is a market here—people genuinely interested in new fashion and art. DC is not yet on the map as a fashion capital, but there is a lot of room for growth and as a rising designer, I find it exciting to come in on this level and help grow the movement.
interview: morgan. photo credits: jaja nwokeabia.