June 11, 2017

Interview with Amy Iheakanwa of label Shekudo

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Shekudo was brought to life back in 2010 by Sydney based friends Shetu Bimpong and Amy (Akudo) Iheakanwa. Drawing on their heritage, life experiences and technical strengths, the pair now offer ethically-sourced contemporary products which tell a unique story and have traceable origins through their unique brand.

How much is the brand influenced by your heritage and experiences?

Originally the brand was mainly based on the aesthetic aspects of my (and the other half of Shekudo’s) heritage which is half Nigerian – particularly the bright wax print cloth. We originally started integrating this cloth into contemporary silhouettes making sure it was manufactured in Nigeria (as now many Nigerians are buying Chinese knock offs of their own fabric). This integration of heritage has resurfaced again for the “Coming Home” 17/18 collection. For this collection I’m drawing on materials and techniques across different parts of Nigeria which are quite varied including weaving and woodwork. I’m learning even more about my heritage this time around and trying to bring some of what I’ve learnt to light through this new collection.  Most people that I’ve met on my trips to Nigeria have been colourful (personality and outfit wise), resilient, dramatic, bold and fearless. I’m adding spoonfuls of this into every piece I design.

In the past I’ve also been inspired by my other travels particularly landscapes (the “Laguna Colorada” collection was inspired by my trip to Bolivia).

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Why is ethically-made and socially-conscious clothing so important to you?

When you know where an item of your clothing has come from, the fact that one or many hands have contributed to the creation of your treasures item –  I believe you feel more connected to that piece and in turn the story behind the individuals who crafted it. You connect somehow globally.

I feel so many things in life at the moment lack meaning and it’s easy to get swept away with what’s quick, easy and gratifying but I’m trying hard to bring meaning back into my work.

When you witness, – like actually sit side by side and absorb the stories, the laughs, the hunger, the planning and time that goes into this work, you want these people to receive the mention that they deserve not fade into the background. During this journey I’ve been lucky enough to go behind the scenes and see the apparel, accessory and footwear manufacturing here in Nigeria and I’m so impressed.

Who is the Shekudo woman?

Like me personally, over time I have evolved so much and so has the Shekudo woman.

The Shekudo woman is adventurous, bold, unapologetic, self loving, authentic, charismatic, a little sassy and loves attention to detail. As I mentioned, each of our pieces have a unique story behind them and are created by cheeky, charismatic often dramatic craftsmen/women – so the Shekudo woman mustn’t be afraid to let this side of her show and she WILL be expecting comments and compliments on her style.

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How can we empower women through fashion?

In terms of women on the manufacturing side of things; I believe by providing them with options through education, training and access to funding bodies who can provide small interest free loans for business start ups. While working across Nigeria I’ve noticed that the fashion manufacturing industry (even women’s wear) is dominated by men – For various reasons. I’m working towards changing this within my brand in the future. Through education and training plus small loans, more women can take the lead in starting their own production business (be it apparel footwear, etc) along with acquiring the equipment and space to do so.

It takes a little time but this woman would now have a skill that she can always use for financial gain.

When it comes to empowering women in general, especially those we reach out to with our products; I think it’s simply about self expression. Women deserve to stand out and be noticed if they want to be, we deserve compliments and admiration. We can never be complimented enough in a day – in life – we do / have endured SO much as women.

Fashion should empower women and allow women to dress however they feel. If you are feeling extra Queeny – dress how you feel, don’t down grade your outfit (or yourself) for anyone. If you’re feeling like showing your beautiful legs or breasts – dress how you feel (you shouldn’t have to worry about attracting negative attention, that’s their business). Fashion should always allow us to express who we are and what we feel. I wrote a brief article on our blog and discussed how much is enough in regards to second guessing ourselves before we get dressed and leave the house. I believe these kinds of thoughts reflect our sense of self, how we feel about ourselves and where we fit in the world. So stop second guessing and wear that fedora.

What can we all expect from the brand in the near future?

We are pretty set on staying here in Nigeria and utilising the talents we have in the country, particularly women. Hopefully growing the team into a battalion of bold Shekudo babes and delivering more unique pieces to your doorstep. And of course a few parties – gotta throw way more parties!

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– Stephanie Riordan

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