The Authority Icon: DEOLA SAGOE
For being an exemplary trail blazer and powerful voice for Nigeria and African fashion in the 21st Century; for leveraging her influence to campaign towards halving the number of hungry people in the world, particularly children, as a United Nations’ ambassador, Deola Sagoe is The AUTHORITY Icon.
She has been described as the African fashion designer who is “best placed to interpret our cultural diversity and artistry, our earthiness and mystery, our colors warmth and passion of the African woman in her simplicity and elegance.” Not without good reason. She has given Nigerian and African fashion in the 21st century the most radical expression imaginable, from the deeply rooted African fabrics to perfectly matched accessories. Meet Deola Sagoe.
Deola Sagoe who hails from Ondo State has entrepreneurship in her blood, coming from a prominent family of Nigerian entrepreneurs and owners of the Elizade Group, originally started by her father and late mother, and today run by her brother. She studied at the University of Miami and University of Lagos with a Masters in Finance and Management
After graduating in 1987, she returned to Nigeria to begin her Master’s degree in Finance, with her father encouraging her to join the family business on completion of her studies. When the time came for her to return to the business, her mother had in the meantime grown a small tailoring business of her own into a major fashion label in the country, producing predominantly traditional embroidered menswear. Deola asked to join her mother’s business and work on making these traditional designs more contemporary for the new marketplace.
She began designing in 1989 and has gained international repute for her lively and colorful designs. She was recently appointed to represent Nigeria in a new international campaign organized by the United Nations World Food Program. The campaign, titled “Catwalk the World: Fashion for Food.”, began in Nigeria in April 2006 and recently staged an event in Ghana which brought celebrities like Damon Dash, his wife, designer Rachel Roy, and Ghanaian-born, London-based designer Ozwald Boateng.
The campaign’s goal is to raise money towards halving the number of hungry people in the world, particularly children, by 2015. Sagoe frequently exhibits her couture collection at Cape Town Fashion Week and has been an invited guest of New York Fashion Week in the past. Sagoe has won the “Africa Designs” and the MNET/ Anglo Gold African designs 2000 awards for which she was nominated by Andre Leon Tally, US Vogue editor.
Founder of The House of Deola Sagoe, she is clearly the leading lady of African haute couture fashion. 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.
Deola had a cameo appearance in the 2014 film October 1 where she was portrayed as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. She was married to Kofi Sagoe though the couple separated due to irreconcilable differences. She has three lovely daughters, Teni, Aba and Tiwa.