In this exciting interview, Zainab Ashadu sits down with Omenka’s Ladun Ogidan to talk inspiration, fashion, business, and branding.

Can you tell us a little about your background and when you discovered you wanted to venture into the fashion industry?

I have a wide and varied background. I trained as an actor, have worked in art and architecture, but the very last field I thought I would end up in fashion! It just seemed too obvious, what little girl, if asked, wouldn’t consider fashion designing a career? So I stayed away, and focused on my other interests until my mid-twenties when I realized I had a talent for design. I’ve loved handbags since I was a little girl, and as I grew up, the desire to express myself through this medium just kept growing, till I couldn’t live with myself except I made it a reality. So I did.

What has been the most difficult thing for you since the inception of Zashadu?

I always find that a difficult question to answer. I enjoy what I do so much that it’s hard to pick out one area of difficulty. Perhaps, the most challenging thing is acting as both Creative Director and CEO; right now it’s challenging enough to keep me interested and motivated, but it is not sustainable in the long run.

You once said a thing of beauty must be a thing of comfort. This is rarely the case for most designers, as beauty and aesthetics are of prime importance. How essential is comfort to your clients and how do you ensure you achieve this in your work?

I’ve always been a selfish designer, and even as the brand grows, I consider the needs of our collectors, by always taking it back to myself. Do I like this? Would I carry this? That is the foundation of the brand, and that is what keeps it focused. It is such a delight to me that other people find beauty and comfort in our pieces.

Is there any particular celebrity who you would love to wear your collection?

Any woman who is hard working, fun-loving, gracious, kind and elegant is invited into the world of Zashadu.

Who is the typical Zashadu woman?

She’s aged between 27 and 60, a leader in her field, creative minded, and strongly attracted to structure and beauty.


What major brands have you partnered with?

Alara Lagos; Polo Avenue; Wolf and Badger, London; Oxosi New York; and Duro Olowu, London.

I noticed that your focus is mostly on bags. What is your inspiration behind your designs and which are the most popular?

I’m inspired by the tension between what society considers trashy and tacky, and what society considers classy and sophisticated. I like to explore these two opposites and play within the constraints.

How do your source your leather and do you incorporate African techniques?

All our leather is sourced locally from Nigerian. We work with a team of artisans that employs traditional techniques, passed down through generations and specific to West Africa with all her beauty and complexities.

Take us through the process involved in creating a Zashadu product?

Each bag exists to solve a problem I’ve encountered, rarely do they exist mainly out of my desire or that of our collectors, either from our collectors or me. The tension then arises when I try to marry our aesthetic with the solution. I enjoy very much this aspect of it, sometimes it takes me weeks to arrive at the solution; it occupies all of my time, and a great deal of my brain’s capacity. At times, I’m not much fun to be around like that, or maybe I’m more fun, depends on your perspective. I’m definitely stranger than usual, however!

You also design sandals and fashion accessories like belts. Are there any plans in place to include other items, as well as develop a clothing line?

Recently we’ve launched Zashadu Bridal, focusing on special, bespoke pieces for the bride and her loved ones. We are honoured that collectors choose Zashadu to be a part of their history.

What’s next for Zashadu?

Growing the brand steadily, authentically and with love. Training more artisans especially women, and continuing to create objects of beauty that add to the quality of our collectors’ experiences.

Ladun Ogidan is the Deputy Editor of Omenka Africa’s first art, business and luxury- lifestyle magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication from Covenant University, Nigeria. Ogidan is also Operations Manager at the Omenka Gallery, and Chief Operating Officer at Revilo Company Limited, a leading art publishing company in Lagos. She has co-ordinated several exhibitions at home and abroad.

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