Welcome to the month of February and our first post on Business of Design. This month, our topic of conversation is Sustainability. We’ll be speaking to African designers that design and focus on eco-friendly sustainable fashion.
The founder of SABI MODE Chibueze Paulson Nwadiukwu is a 21 years old, his journey in fashion is not the typical "studied fashion and became a fashion designer" story, he started as an apprentice in the workshop, taught himself how to design and make fashion illustration, went through pattern making training, interned with a couple of designers and fashion shows. His experience in fashion was built from harnessing the information from books, film, and working in the fashion industry through internships.
Q: Who do you design for? Off the top of your head, do you have a muse?
A: My design aesthetic is a blend of subtle avant-garde and functionality; I design with longevity in mind. I design for an individual that isn't easily swayed by the waves of fashion trends, someone who wants to stand out and also be timeless. For me, I don't have an individual as a muse at least for now, but I draw inspiration from the environment, nature, music, architecture and people's culture, all these things are my "MUSE".
Q: What is your go-to color to work with? Why?
A: My go-to to color to work with would be black because it's clean, timeless, easy to work with and black is mysterious but also works well with almost all colors.
Q: Describe your recent collection in three words?
A: I'm yet to put out my recent collection, still in the works. But the previous collection I would say was "BOLD, BLUE AND BLACK" it was my first so I learned a couple of lessons from it too.
Q: What is your favorite piece from your latest collection?
A: My favorite piece would be the "Windscreen jeans" I upcycled deadstock jeans adding organza front panels, and floral appliques cut out from leftover fabric scraps which were then hand-stitched and hand-beaded on the jeans.
Q: Your design process is incomplete without?
A: My design process is incomplete without proper analysis of each design to see what elements and details work, cross-checking what should be added or removed to make a garment better, basically looking at the whole design process and looking for innovative ways to make the designs better.
Q: Which design took you the longest time to create?
A: The upcycled patchwork denim jackets took about two weeks to create because a whole lot of work is involved after a sketched design to pattern making to deconstructing deadstock jeans and materials to smaller parts, stitching the smaller parts together to form a full fabric and then fabric cutting to stitching. Its like shredding paper and putting it back together again. An example is this longline "Stepping Jacket" making the prototype took 3 weeks to complete.
Q: How do you implement sustainability in your work?
A: Sabi Mode is a sustainable fashion brand and some of the ways that I do implement sustainable practices into my work includes: upcycling deadstock jeans and garments that could end up in a landfill to create new timeless designs, using zero-waste techniques in my design process and using reusable material for packaging instead of single-use plastic.
Q: If you could dress anyone in your designs, living or dead who would it be?
A: Definitely Asa, Tiwa Savage, Tems, Rema, Adekunle Gold, and Burnaboy. I vibe to their music when I'm creating.
Q: What are you most inspired by?
A: People's culture.
Q: In your opinion, what sets your work apart from the rest?
A: We live in a very fastpaced generation and people end up creating fast fashion that isn't built to last, garments are made with poor materials that end up in the trash after 1 to 3 years. Certain brands make certain fashion items because they are currently in trend, and their consumers buy these poorly made garments that also end in the trash after these trends die out. A pattern of overconsumption is then created.
The inspiration behind the brand name "Sabi Mode" was derived from the Japanese term WABI SABI that is a concept of things whose beauty stems from age. It refers to the patina of age, and the idea that changes due to use may make an object more beautiful and valuable. For me I design for longevity, I look for ways to make my designs timeless and yet fashionable, apiece that can be passed down to someone else when you're ready to let go of it.
Q: When you think about the future of sustainable fashion in Africa, what do you envision?
A: Well this might sound cheesy but I must say that "The future is bright" for sustainable fashion in Africa. In Nigeria, for example, we have a couple of designers like NKWO, Emmykasbit, and Kenneth Ize pushing sustainability in fashion in their own way.
New designers are becoming aware of sustainability in fashion and implementing it into their design process. And customers are getting involved too trying to know how what they are purchasing are being made. So yes Africa is on the right track in the revolution of sustainable fashion.
Q: Are there any other cultures that influence your work?
A: My work is also influenced by the African and some Asian (Japanese, Chinese and Korean) culture. From how they live to how they dress, their arts, craft, and architecture.
Q: What comes next for your brand?
A: With all honesty, Sabi Mode is still a baby, there is so much to be done, for now, I'm trying to keep putting out my innovative designs, create awareness and build an audience that understands the brand that I'm building.
Q: Who or what would you say has been the biggest influence on your work so far?
A: Martin Margiela's ideologies on design and fashion have been a big influence on my work.
Q: What part of you comes through the most in your designs?
A: I think the part of me that comes through the most in my design would be my weirdness and the way I look at things, I tend to move away from popular norms and I feel this also affects my creativeness. And I always believe that as a creative my work is an extension of myself.
Q: What was your aha moment, the point at which you decided to be a designer?
A: Ever since I was about five or six years old I've always loved to make things out of fabric, I was quite weird because when other boys go to ride bikes I would go to a tailor's workshop close to my house, pick up scraps of waste fabric and make dresses for my friends dolls. But my interest in fashion became deeply rooted when I watched fashion TV for the first and I was hooked and I told myself this is what I'm going to do, I'm going to be a designer.
Q: What would you say are your biggest fears are as a designer?
A: My biggest fear has always been if people would understand what I create, accept the story behind it and want to purchase it because it's mostly not the usual kind of garments that people as normally used to.
Q: What counts as fun for you?
A: Reading and listening to good music
Q: What is your perfect getaway from the work process?
A: A long walk in a quiet street is a perfect getaway.
Q: What's a quote that inspires you?
A: IF OPPORTUNITIES DOES'NT KNOCK, BUILD A DOOR - MILTON BERLE