“I Didn’t Choose Fashion; it chose me,” Deola Sagoe’s Journey to Destiny
Deola Ade-Ojo Sagoe is the perfect definition of the saying that your certificate does not define your career path. As a certified business administration and Finance professional, she pivoted into the fashion world and grew her mother’s traditional embroidered menswear business by incorporating it with contemporary styles.
By blending Nigerian and modern cultures, she created a brand that withstood the test of time. “I try to fuse African cultural style with a modern approach to design,” she says. “The dynamism of creating modernity out of something steeped in history. I think it’s what gives my collection such a cultural mix.”
Her fashion sense, combined with her exceptional entrepreneurial skill, has seen her nurture the business to what it is today. Deola’s decision to join her mother’s fashion business made her an iconic designer in her field both within and outside Nigeria and earned her several awards and recognition.
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The life of Deola Ade-Ojo Sagoe
The Nigerian-born and raised designer is the first child of her parents, chief Micheal Ade-Ojo, the founder of Elizade Group.
After completing her secondary education, she attended the University of Florida, where she graduated with a degree in business administration. It was during this period she discovered her fancy for the fashion space. Despite this discovery, she furthered her education at the University of Lagos when she returned to Nigeria. There, she obtained her master’s degree in Finance.
Girded with business knowledge, her father asked her to join the family business. Sagoe was against the idea and opted to work in her mother’s traditional embroidery business. She worked in the company and her mother’s fashion workshop at her father’s insistence.
While working with her mother, she harnessed her skills, and in 1988, she established the House of Deola.
Since what she knows how to do best is fashion, the mother of three said, “I didn’t choose fashion, it chose me…I feel I produce more intelligent clothing as a result.”
Deola Sagoe’s fashion accomplishment
Though Deola Ade-Ojo Sagoe came into the limelight in 1998 during the MNET Face of Africa, her career became pronounced when she won the MNET Anglo Gold African Design Award in 2000 after being nominated by U.S. Vogue Editor Andre Leon Tally.
The following year, she ranked 37 on the African Almanac scale of 100 most influential Africans globally. In 2004, she set the pace for the African fashion industry by becoming the first black woman to present African-infused clothing to the Alta Roma Alta Moda Fashion week in Rome.
In 2007, she received the Platinum Quality Award for her superior clothing at the 10th International Star Awards in Paris. The following year, she received the International Quality Award in the diamond category of Excellence and Business prestige at the Quality Summit in New York.
Her brand was seen as a Super Brand and received the Super Brand’s Certificate of Excellence in Fashion Design and Label category in 2010.
She was also part of the October 1 movie, directed by Kunle Afolayan. Sagoe created the costumes used for the story written by Tunde Babalola. This earned her the Multichoice – Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Award for Best Costume Designer.
Also, her designs have been used by Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, top American models Lydia Hearst and Alek Wek, and several African first ladies and famous personalities.
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