Cutting Edge: Uyai

by Yemi Olowu

Uyai is a design label jointly owned by two remarkable friends, Amanda Etuk (20) and Ngozi Elendu (23). When they met, it didn’t take too long to discover they had the same passion; not just for fashion but also for affordable clothing – hence Uyai was birthed. Their lovely designs are all priced below N10,000 and their dream is to become the biggest affordable retailer in Nigeria and Africa. Ngozi and Amanda are both students of pharmacy in the University of Lagos.

What is the origin of Uyai?
Amanda: Uyai means ‘beauty’ in Ibibio, and it was created out of the need for affordable high street clothing, made in Nigeria for Nigerians.

What was the first piece of clothing you ever designed?
Ngozi: Our first design was my sister’s prom dress in 2000 .

What are the fabrics you work with?
Ngozi: We love working with chiffon,cotton, damask and stretch satin, and recently jersey.

Which international designer would you like to work with?
Amanda: The partners behind Marchesa, I love the clothes.

How long have you worked as a designer?
Ngozi: Just over a year.

What matters most to you as a designer?
Ngozi: Choosing the perfect fabric and the outcome of the dress.
Amanda: Client satisfaction.

What are your accomplishments as a designer?
Ngozi: We designed the traditional attire for some of the contestants at the 2010 Miss Nigeria.
Amanda: Every time I make someone happy with an Uyai design is always a great feeling for me.

What inspires your designs?
Ngozi: Colours and a woman’s curves

What are the problems you face as a designer in this part of the world?
Ngozi: Craftmanship and communicating the designs to the tailors from sketch to finishing.

How would you rate the nigerian fashion industry?
Ngozi: The industry is evolving rather quickly and in a very impressive manner.

Amanda: We are not there yet, but we are well on our way. It’s up to us really, we need to patronise local designers.

If you were not  designing what would you have been doing?
Ngozi: I’d be your average medical student!
Amanda: Maybe a cartoonist.

What do you have to say to aspiring designers?
Amanda: Avoid competition, your destiny does not occur at the expense of another person’s.

Who are your favourite designers locally?
Ngozi: I love JBL and Nkwo
Amanda: Nkwo, LDA

How do you think the government can support fashion designers?
Amanda: Government should encourage the ‘buy Nigerian’ campaign.

Where do you see your label in the next ten years?
Ngozi: I see it being a global brand with 1 out of every 10 people owning a piece of Uyai clothing. (Laughs) I’m serious!
Amanda: The largest high street brand in Nigeria, and then Africa.

Contact Uyai: 08167689540, 08139552494, [email protected]

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