APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs.
Ugonna Hosten: UGO is a design-led fashion accessories label; our priority is quality and innovation. We are market leaders offering limited editions of oilcloth bags made from traditional African fabrics.
APiF: When and why did you start designing with African Prints and Fabrics?
Ugonna: A trip to Nigeria in 2007 reignited my love for Ankara fabrics, it got me thinking of ways in which you could carry a piece of Africa around with you. I began experimenting with African fabrics to see how far I can push the boundaries. Some results were successful, others where very labor intensive but all in all I ended up with lots of interesting products.
APiF: How do u feel about the new African Prints/Fabric trend?
Ugonna: I’m hoping it is not just a trend and it has some longevity. The last couple of years has seen a peak with fashion designers using African fabrics in unique and exciting ways.
APiF: What inspires u?
Ugonna: I’m inspired by a melting pot of things like art and literature, but I’m mainly inspired by music. From the likes of old school hip-pop artists like Tribe Called Quest, Black star, The Roots, Slum Village, Common as well as African music from the late great Fela Kuti. I’m also into Indie music and listen to Vampire Weekend, Bombay Bicycle club and Mumford and Sons. They are usually blurring in the background whilst I’m working.
APiF: Fashion Finds: What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection and why?
Ugonna: My favorite fashion find is this necklace I purchased at a festival; it’s a reminder that we are all here with a purpose. My goal in life is to continually explore my gifts, nurture and share it.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Ugonna: Being online and using social networking mediums such as facebook and Twitter makes my label accessible globally, we also ship internationally. We have taken part in a few festival and design shows in the UK so we get to meet most of our clients face to face which I thoroughly enjoy. In the near future we intend to approach some retailers abroad to ensure we have a physical presence also.
APiF: What are the challenges of offering designs via an online shop?
Ugonna: As an online independent retailer a real challenge is visibility. Once you’ve overcome that hurdle, the next step is about finding a way to retain prospective customers that visit your site.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Ugonna: Write a business plan. No matter how small the business is, the act of writing your ideas and goals down makes it a lot more concrete; it helps in staying focused and it’s easier to assess your progress.