by Yemi Olowu
The YNaija ‘Cutting Edge’ series is a platform for fashion designers who are new on the Nigerian fashion scene. Our aim is to project our highly talented youth, and to motivate other gifted young people who dream of starting their own fashion label.
21-year-old Francisca Tolulope Da-Souza developed an interest in designing in high school, which became a reality in her second year at university. In this interview, the delightful graduate of accounting tells us about the journey from then till now.
What is the origin of your label?
The label name, Souza, is actually gotten from my surname Da-Souza. It means a lot to me that I make a mark with that name, not just in the industry, but in the world. My position as the only child has brought me great responsibility, and I shall not fail. Amen.
What was the first piece of clothing you ever designed?
It was a dress for myself. It was made with three different materials (satin, gele and ankara) and arranged in that order to form this beautiful long ball dress.
What are the fabrics you like working with?
I like to work with silk, lace and any brand of ankara.
Which international designer would you like to work with?
Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior and Donna Karan.
How long have you worked as a designer?
Officially, for about two and half years now.
What matters to you most as a designer?
What matters most to me is how a client feels in my clothes, which should be feelings of uniqueness, comfort and joy.
So far, what are your accomplishments?
As a starter in this business, I have made quite a number of accomplishments. I have made clothes for a number of people, I did a photo shoot for a styling company, and recently I was in a fashion show (M.A.D). I’ve had the privilege of working along side a few of the best Nigerian designers such as Ohimai Atafo and Lanre Da-Silva. I say the best is yet to come.
What inspires your designs?
My inspiration comes from my desire to say a lot about one’s personality, sense of style or mood with one dress, so you would find that my designs vary from time to time. I like to be versatile and creative in designing, while keeping it elegant, simple and wearable.
What are the problems you face as a designer in this part of the world?
Materials and accessories. Here we are limited to the same type of materials and accessories – sequins, beads and fancy stones – no real gems or variety of lycra materials or good cotton. Where there is, it’s either scarce or expensive.
How would you rate the Nigerian fashion industry?
The Nigeria fashion industry is fast expanding. Our designers are innovative and our clothes are of international standards. All we need now is a little open-mindedness on the part of our indigenes: you can’t judge a book by its cover.
If you were not a designer what would you have been?
An accountant. It happens to be what I studied in the university, and I came out with a Second Class, Upper Division, so, I’m also an accountant.
What do you have for aspiring young designers?
I would tell every aspiring designer to never let go of your talent or aspirations. It’s not an easy road to the top. A wise friend of mine once told me everyone’s story differs, but when you get there, that’s the only thing that will matter.
Who are your favourite designers, locally?
I absolutely love Ohimai Atafo, Tiffany Amber, Jewel by Lisa and Deola Sagoe
How do you think the government can support fashion designers?
By creating a conducive environment for fashion designers to obtain credit from banks through well defined policies and providing opportunities for exhibitions.
Where do you see your label in the next ten years?
In the next 10 years, Souza is going to be huge both locally and internationally. I see us having stores in every major city and appearing on all colours of carpets (laughs). It sounds all ‘fairy tale-ish’ now, but with hard work and drive it will be reality. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Francesca Tolu Da-Souza can be reached on 07085616670, 08165457244 and emailed at [email protected]
Are you an upcoming young designer who would like to showcase your beautiful designs? You could be featured on ‘Cutting Edge’! Just drop a quick email to [email protected] and we’ll take it from there.