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From Pharmacist To Fashion Designer

After working for a few years as a pharmacist, Mfon Ogbonna, head designer of the Lagos-based contemporary womenswear brand IDMA-NOF, decided to go back to school to study fashion design. In 2016 she launched IDMA-NOF.

Ogbonna talks to Elle South Africa Fashion Editor Dimeji Alara about her first break and what it takes to be a designer in Africa.

Chimamande
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wearing one of Mfon Ogbonna's designes. Credit: Instagram

Ogbonna describes the look of her designs as urban and expressive and says the label uses graphic, vertical stripes, offset with leather panels and simple shapes.

Her brands, she says is contemporary. "We like to blend art, fashion and craftsmanship in telling our stories." 

The Challenges

Our goal from the onset was to establish a brand that would be on par with other international brands, both in quality of design and garment finishing. Being able to do that from Nigeria poses a challenge, being so far from everything and because of the fact that the structure of the fashion industry here is not as developed as it is in Europe, America, Asia and other parts of the world. We don’t have access to the same resources to aid the design process that yields this type of result, so being able to achieve that standard from here has been an uphill task. The other challenge would be breaking into the international market as an African-owned and based brand. I would say our first break came when we started stocking with Temple Muse Concept Store, a luxury store based in Lagos. Another moment had to be when we sent our first look book to Not Just A Label (NJAL),an international platform for contemporary brands; NJAL told us that they loved the collection and gave us a space on their platform.

On The Next Generation of African Designers

We need to encourage young designers to train and educate themselves in the industry. If this industry is going to reach its full potential in Nigeria, we need to do something about fashion education. We can also help with good mentorship from more established brands.

On The Industry and Sustainability

The fashion industry here in Nigeria is growing very rapidly. If we stay committed to establishing structure, building consistency, establishing standards and quality control, then there wouldn’t be any need to produce abroad. 

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