Wana Sambo: The Wana Sambo story (30 Days, 30 Voices)

Most times people tell you what they think is best for you/your dream but you need to listen to your gut. It’s the only driving force you need.

Its 3:02am. Insomnia. Deadlines and the girls from the WS team haunt me. They’ve reminded me daily to get this article done. I know they think I’ve been making lame excuses but in actuality, I’ve been seeking the right moment of sanity and clarity to write an honest and true article about my brand and myself.

It’s been a long ride from when I birthed my brand until now. It all started in 2008, born out of a frustration for the lack of availability of a ready-to-wear/fast fashion brand like Wana Sambo in Nigeria. I decided to create one and be the messiah thinking it’ll all be ‘as easy as eating cake’ because I had the drive and ‘some’ talent and I had my allowance which if I saved would be enough to start up something whose success would then grow and spiral out of control in less than six months. I was right and I was wrong.  I almost quit right before I started! Getting into tailors shops and having them say “aunty, one dress will take two weeks before you collect it” when I had a two months holiday! How do I make a 12 piece collection with one tailor?  Yikes! Light bulb moment! I’ll spread the collection amongst several tailors in the area and get it just in time, I.WAS.WRONG. They screwed me over so bad. I even got kicked out of one lady’s shop with her screaming, “This na my shop! Take your material! Don’t pay, you want a perfect garment, go sew am for London!”

I cried several times because of how easily they ruined the simple styles with imperfect finishing and bad attention to detail. I kept wondering, “How do I sell these items with these insane errors and what would people be willing to pay for this?” I remember getting home to my sister every time and she always thought they were just beautiful. I concluded she was insane after the 3rd time and I decided to pay daily visits to the tailors instead of waiting two weeks so they don’t ruin all my fabrics. I became a tailor. I played with their kids and always brought them sweets and they loved me. All six tailors who had no idea I had the same routine with each of them.

Holiday was over. It was my final year. I took about 30 or more pieces to school set up a retail rack in my room (I shared with my friend at the time) and it was sold out in two weeks or less. I was ecstatic. It was all worth it. But soon, I had to learn about debtors. Some of them still owe me until date.

Lesson No 1: do not entertain debtors.

I got back the next semester with more pieces but I made sure they made a deposit and I held onto the pieces they craved until they paid in full. Still my some of my friends screwed me over.  Friends!

Lesson No 2: don’t mix business with pleasure.

I started sewing in school, with no training. It was difficult. I regretted not paying attention to how tailors worked when I visited their shops, but I made clothes for my friends and myself and I wore them to school daily. They were sometimes hideous but I wore them regardless.

I got nominated in the ‘Best Designer’ and ‘Most Stylish’ categories at the Dynamix Awards in same year, 2008. It felt great.  But my dream was short-lived by the reality of NYSC after graduation, so I stopped designing for two years.

I felt the longing for my passion while I was working a 9-5, so In December 2010, I officially launched the Wana Sambo brand at a sample sale. The turnout was great. Thanks to my brother, Terence Sambo. It was covered by Thisday Style amongst others. I wanted more. I needed to set up my own atelier where I can control production and tailors. I spent all my money renting an apartment, and because my dad did not approve because he really wanted me to work a 9-5 (the cliché Nigerian parent syndrome) it was a mess. But I kept pushing. Tailors came and left, others drove me crazy. My staff disrespected me even in my own atelier. I sent them away but didn’t stop. I kept trying to find good tailors. I was on the street every other day going from shop to shop asking for tailor details. It was insane. But I can say it was all worth it.

Now, I’ve sold more clothing than I can count. I’ve done fashion shows and most of all, my dad approves. He see’s my drive. He understands my intention.

Although production is a major obstacle to expansion, I’m slowly building a strong team of good tailors because I really need WS to be an indigenous brand Made in Nigeria by Africans for the world. I will own chain stores around the world. It’s all I live for.

Most times people tell you what they think is best for you/your dream but you need to listen to your gut. It’s the only driving force you need. I’ve hit walls, I’ve been critiqued, been misunderstood but I wont stop designing because this is all I want to know, I am self taught, so I keep learning new ways in designing and its various facets as I grow.

It’s impossible to tell my story in 600 words, trust me, I still get frustrated by a lot of obstacles but I’ve learnt a very important lesson: “when you hit a wall, you push through it.”


Wana Sambo  is a designer and the brain behind ‘Wana Sambo’. Wana Sambo pieces are androgynous, fresh and unpredictable. Her pieces have  been featured in prints sold within and outside Nigeria such as Thisday Style , Mania Magazine, Complete Fashion Magazine and various online media sites including but not limited to Bella Naija.com, OneNigerianBoy.com, StylebyQueens.com etc. The ‘Wana Sambo’ brand is an exact replica of the woman Wana is, the woman she has been and the woman she wants to be. Just as she is am constantly evolving, so is the brand.


30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians to share their stories and experiences with other young Nigerians, within our borders and beyond, to inspire and motivate them.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (2)

  1. "Most times people tell you what they think is best for you/your dream but you need to listen to your gut. It’s the only driving force you need" … “when you hit a wall, you push through it.”


  2. Inspiring piece. I just thought about it. Any relation to VP Namadi Sambo?

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