by Yemi Olowu
Maryam Garba is a Harvard and Stanford-educated fashion designer, known for her simple silhouettes with bold African-inspired prints and draws inspiration from today’s professionals. In May 2010, the design house, along with 24 other designers, featured at Charity Fashion Show, the largest fashion show on the West Coast of the United States, with sponsors including Neiman Marcus and Lancôme. She was the only African designer whose designs were showcased, and her work has been featured in the San Francisco Indie, Helium Magazine and San Jose Press.
After only a year in the industry, Maryam Garba has participated in prestigious and exclusive fashion shows including some at Harvard Business School and Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. Maryam Garba has no doubt hit the fashion scene with the promise of a modern designer.
What’s the origin of your label?
My label is called Maryam Garba (soon to become House of Garba after the completion of our merger with a local firm). This label was officially launched in April 2010.
What do you take most seriously as a designer?
I take the quality and fit of the clothes I produce very seriously. My goal is for the pieces I make to both fit and flatter my clients.
What was the first piece you ever created?
The first outfit I made was a tube dress from Ankara material that I wore to a party. The dress wasn’t particularly successful and my friends were too kind to tell me at the time but knowing what I now know about fit and design, I almost can’t believe I wore that dress out.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m constantly looking in new directions for ideas but I am very much inspired by today’s professionals who are working hard to make their dreams come true.
What kinds of fabrics do you like working with?
I enjoy working with fabric blends, as well as ankara, lace, and chiffon.
Who is your target market?
The challenges you face as a designer?
One of the key things I’m working on right now is figuring out how to improve the online availability of my clothes for clients.
Your take on the Nigerian fashion scene?
Very forward thinking! I was recently at a Lace fashion show in Lagos sponsored by the Austrian Embassy and it was incredible. I was particularly impressed by Frank Osodi’s collection which I though captured the essence of the glamorous Nigerian female who likes to celebrate her figure. I think Nigerians are doing a good job of looking towards the future of design and we’re not only looking at what people wear now but we’re also looking to chart the way for what people will be wearing in the future.
How can the government support designers?
Sponsorships and grants for emerging designers because the start-up costs of entering the industry are very high.
If you had the opportunity to work with any designer in the world, who would it be? And why?
A designer who has the heart to mentor an emerging designer and share the tricks of the trade. I’ve realized how important mentors are to success in this field.
Word for aspiring designers?
Being in this career takes a lot of courage and passion. The rewards don’t come instantly but stick in there and good things will surely happen.
In the next ten years?
Maryam Garba (House of Garba) will be a global brand.
Contact Maryam Garba: