Born in Osun State in 1996 and moved to the UK in 2013, Edwina has been building her modelling portfolio while laying the foundations for a business career in later life. We caught up with her at a recent catwalk training session and had the chance to find out more about her journey and the differences between fashion in Western Nigeria and the UK.
“I have always been interested in modelling and did my first shoot when I was 15”, she told us. “Here in the UK, I have had many more opportunities through my agency, Black Afro Queens. Mainstream media looks for skinny models, but where I come from women have a fuller figure and we need more representation”.
“Even here in the UK, the average size for a woman is a 16, yet so many of the images we are presented with show models that are less than a 10”, said Edwina. “In Nigeria we have many ways to make a woman’s figure look good, including personal tailoring – which is very affordable”.
We wanted to know more about this.
“Africa is exporting more and more materials to the world”, she explained. “There are some great stores in the centre of London, near Liverpool Street, and also in South London, near Woolwich. If I need something special, I can go and see my mum’s tailor and she will help me sketch it out. Then it’s a question of finding the perfect material, getting fitted and having a unique garment produced, just for you”.
This level of bespoke tailoring can prohibitively expensive with Western clothes, but quite normal for Africans. Another thing that Edwina mentioned was ‘family designs’. We asked her to explain.
“Aso Ebi identifies wearers as belonging to a particular family or group”, said Edwina. “This is a trend that Nigerians are taking with them across the world. This is how I source most of my fabrics and gele”.
How much does it cost to create a bespoke item of clothing like this? For example using Ankara – the vibrantly patterned, rich and colorful designs that are so typical with West/Central African clothing.
“You will need up to 5 yards of material and this could cost up to 40 pounds for Ankara or as much as 200 pounds for lace”, she told us. “The styles will vary from north to south in Nigeria, for example Yoruba head wear is purely for fashion and can be quite outlandish – whereas in the north it will often have religious significance”.
We can see the huge impact that these clothes have had on the West, but what’s next?
“Shoes!”, she exclaimed. “Back home we have so many talented cobblers and they are able to work with any material, any kind of hide. Not only do they use a wide variety of materials, they also use many different dyeing techniques to create a multitude of colour options”.
“Igbo people have a reputation for business and clothing, they drive the shoe business”, Edwina told us. “I really think that there is a market for hand made, affordable shoes in the UK and other countries”.
Lastly, we wanted to know about food.
“I’m sorry to say that most of the Nigerian restaurants in the West would not be able to exist back home”, she revealed. “They just aren’t good enough. The exceptions are places like Eko in Homerton”.
Edwina is studying business studies and hopes to eventually be running a group of companies that donate a significant amount of their profits to charities back in Nigeria.
“For me, increasing the number of schools and creating new ways to distribute food to poorer areas is crucial”, she told us. “I also think that opening counselling centres for teenagers is crucial. If you haven’t grown up in a West African family, you won’t understand. Sometimes these children just need to speak with someone they can trust – in an open, honest and safe way. I’d love to help that happen”.
Edwina is a charming young model with great insight into fashion and an ambitious path for her own future. As you can see from the shots in this article, she has true chameleon capability – able to adapt to a wide variety of looks/styles – essential for models in the modern world. We wish her well.
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