Deola Sagoe, founder of Deola is the leading lady of African haute couture fashion from Ondo State in Nigeria. Deola has been at the cutting edge of high fashion since 1989 and became the first black woman to present a collection at AltaRoma, Rome’s celebrated fashion week, back in 2004.
Her globally appealing style has earned her an enviable clientèle that ranges from Africa’s first ladies, to society girls like Lydia Hearst, top model Alek Wek, and famous personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith.
In life, you choose certain things and sometimes, you don’t have the luxury of choosing some things, they choose you instead. In Deola’s case, she didn’t choose fashion. Fashion came calling and she had to respond to the call.
“I didn’t choose fashion, it chose me, … I think the only way I’ve managed is because I know fashion was my destiny. African designers face so many challenges, producing collections and working hard to rise above the manufacturing infrastructure problems. For me, it’s about rising to the challenge and I think it’s made me a better designer. I feel I produce more intelligent clothing as a result.” In her words.
Deola, a mother of three, studied at the University of Miami and University of Lagos and earned a Masters in Finance and Management.
She was appointed Nigeria’s representative to the United Nations World Food Program ‘Catwalk the World: Fashion for Food’ with the goal of raising money towards halving the number of hungry people in the world, particularly children, by 2015.
Deola frequently exhibits her couture collection at Cape Town Fashion Week and has been an invited guest of New York Fashion Week in the past.
The rave-maker employs a simple secret to stay relevant in the rapidly changing world of style. She pours all her heart into each of her collections, but none of them defines her. She is rather defined by her astounding ability to blend with the times, to make attires that speak to the spirit of the age.
The reinvention of her Deola Sagoe brand to House of Deola is just one indication of her willingness to tweak her identity to maintain her pride of place in each era.
As her advice for entrepreneurs, Deola said, “I just had this can-do spirit. I was just so convinced that my product was so genuine and would no doubt conquer the world. As an entrepreneur, you must believe in yourself and in your vision.”