For Ugochi Iwuaba, fashion was a means of survival during a dark period in her life and a way to escape the restrictions of 9-to-5 work life. It’s especially present through her bold luxury designs filled with energy present through her use of bright colors and well-tailored yet striking silhouettes. The up-and-coming designer’s conversational pieces are a fusion of her Nigerian background and Western elements.
Born in Nigeria, Iwuaba first became interested in becoming a fashion designer when a brochure from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Diego ended up at her house. The designer, who always had an interest in well-tailored clothing, was intrigued with the idea of being able to create well-made fashion and wanted to pursue a fashion designing degree at FIDM. However, Iwuaba was unable to come to the United States to attend school and instead earned degrees in international relations, history, and real estate.
After Iwuaba immigrated to the United States, she got a job in real estate. However, after leaving her job and while pregnant with her third child, Iwuaba found out her baby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Realizing that working a 9-to-5 and being a caregiver for her child would be impossible, she hoped to find something more flexible. “It was a dark time in my life, and I put that darkness into making clothes, and that’s how I was able to survive that period,” says Iwuaba.
Ever since launching her brand, most of Iwuaba’s creations have been inspired by her cultural background. “Nigerians are the most flamboyant culture in Africa,” says the designer. That flamboyance is present through her creations that tend to be of bold colors. Iwuaba also “doesn’t shy away from anything,” and ensures that her designs reflect her as a person.
Iwuaba also values women’s empowerment, positioning it at the “forefront of [her] career.” Although she didn’t showcase her designs at any Fashion Week events in the past month, she dedicated her time instead to presenting her art at the Women’s Empowerment Conference hosted by Discover Magazines, a local San Diego magazine publishing company. “I wanted to dedicate my time to these two events because we women go through a lot, and we’re also expected to look pretty during what we go through,” emphasizes Iwuaba. “Nothing was going to keep me away from these two events.”
As of now, Iwuaba’s work has already appeared on the runways of various global fashion week shows, and the red carpet of the 2021 Met Gala. Nina Parker, an E! News reporter for red carpet coverage, wore a goddess-inspired golden caped gown paired with a matching headpiece.
While Iwuaba keeps on growing as a designer, she admits that she’s learned to not be scared in the past few years. If there is anything creative flowing through her, she lets it flow instead of stopping herself. While becoming a fashion designer can be risky, Iwuaba’s advice is, “Our minds are so powerful that they can do so many things. We have to let go of fear and let it all out.”
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