Carpet design

I don’t conceive thinking of Nigeria – Zizi Cardow

Meeting the ever-elegant and stylish Ngozi Cardow on the AMVCA black carpet was like stepping back in time when fashion designers were few and her fashion brand Zizi Cardow was one of the most powerful. With a portfolio and brand that has been around for over two decades, Zizi Cardow is still iconic with an intriguing personality that captivates. She represents a wealth of experience in the fashion industry to be reckoned with. With a new fashion boutique in London, presented at fashion weeks in New York, Milan and Paris, Zizi Cardow realizes the dream of bringing African print and design to the world. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, Zizi, as she is affectionately known, explains why it seems like she is missing from the Nigerian fashion scene and why many Nigerian fashion designers are yet to measure up to the competition. in the international market.

You are one of the few who pioneered ready-to-wear fashion in Nigeria and if we are correct, you have been seen in the fashion world for a long time lately. Tell us how it went?

Everything is fine. It was quite an experience and a challenge. At the same time, it has been rewarding. I’m happy to see that what I started over 20 years ago, when people didn’t understand what I was doing, now suddenly everyone, the whole world is doing this kind of fashion.

How did you manage to stay relevant in the fashion industry? Now, a lot of people are doing the same type of ready-to-wear that you’re known for?

It’s about knowing yourself and staying true to yourself. Have their own signature. I’m not interested in what other people are doing. I do me. I have always been avant-garde. I’ve never been one to follow what’s trendy. So, I’m still me and I’m still pushing the limits.

At the AMVCA, were there any celebrities who wore your brand?

There were one or two wearing dresses made by me but the thing is, I haven’t been to the country for a while now. I came back for a few dates and was invited to the AMVCA. I have another fashion store set up in London and I’m focusing on that.

What about your fashion store in Nigeria here?

He is always there. It operated like a boutique it has always been. We have always run it like a boutique. It is a brand and not a sewing workshop. It’s an independent brand where you walk in and choose what you like. The clothing line is entirely ready-to-wear.

How easy is it for you to break even in today’s fashion industry?

It’s a lot easier because it’s something I’ve done over the years. I’ve been doing international fashion shows for a long time now.

I did New York Fashion Week; I did Paris fashion week and Milan fashion week and many others. I don’t do much of the Nigerian fashion scene. I do more of the international fashion scene. That’s why it’s easy to break even and that’s also why it seems like I haven’t been there.

Why did you leave the Nigerian fashion industry?

I did not do it. Funny enough, the Nigerian fashion industry thinks I’m not good enough. Some of the organizers of the big fashion shows in Nigeria turned me down. Twice I tried to apply they said “better luck next time”. Another told me that I was not qualified.

In your opinion, as a designer who has stood the test of time, what type of design do you think they are looking for?

I do not know. I think they’re happy for people to copy and paste other people’s creations. As long as you can copy correctly, you’re good to go. That’s what they’re comfortable with and that’s what they get.

This should not discourage you from getting more involved in the Nigerian fashion scene…

It didn’t discourage me anyway. As I said, I created my fashion line in London. I also plan to settle in New York. To begin with, my designs were not created with Nigeria in mind. It’s always been for global appeal. I never thought of Nigeria when I design. I really don’t care if I get accepted here or not. The fact remains that I have my clients.

My brand is an acquired taste. My brand is for women who know themselves and have self-confidence; who want to make a statement and those who want timeless pieces. Not for those who follow everything that’s trending. So I’m not afraid of not being accepted. I am confident that my brand has stood the test of time.

Do you still have budding fashion designers calling for advice?

I get that a lot. It is the pro-bono part of our fashion house. We welcome interns for about three months. We work with Faith Foundation and we used to work with the British Council and also with schools to improve their skills acquisition programme.

Take us back to when you discovered fashion was your dream career?
At the time, my parents were my biggest supporters. My parents didn’t care what you do; all they cared about was you doing something positive. Just like my daughter is an artist. She paints and I support her as much as I can, even though she read psychology.

So you didn’t have parents who insisted that you go into medicine or become an engineer or a lawyer before you could be someone?

Everyone has their God given talent that they are born with. Bringing someone into a business you’re in just because you’re their parent is redundant, which doesn’t make sense. People should be able to like what they do. I love my job and that’s why I was able to flourish. Most of the time, it is not only about the financial aspect. Money is important but it’s not what motivates me. My driving force is that I want to be as good as my peers outside Nigeria. I want to be able to go on a catwalk and see my designs compared to any other designer on that catwalk.

We have had cases where some Nigerian designers go to fashion shows abroad but they are not allowed to show up because everything they have is copied from another designer. But here in Nigeria, we do it hard because no one pays attention. I say style writers in Nigeria should pay attention to these things.

We can’t have people duplicating other people’s designs and we salute them as designers. A style writer should be able to tell who owns this design from the other. You should be able to tell what’s hot and what’s not. They must be able to know the fabrics, the colors in vogue. It shouldn’t be about how much you can copy someone’s designs and copy well. And then we shout, wow! Last designer under 30!

What do you think is trending right now?

This post COVID-19, people aren’t so much interested in what’s trendy, but what can be comfortable. The goal is mainly to know how to help the environment, to recycle rather than to go buy, buy, buy. We are asked to recycle to help the planet. Nigeria as it is, I don’t think we are having this discussion about massive investment in recycling to help the planet.

Most celebrities don’t repeat the dresses they wear to red carpet events. For example, most, if not all, of the dresses worn at AMVCA will likely not be seen on any of these celebrities again. Does it have a serious effect on the economy and help the planet you’re talking about?

I think it has a lot to do with our mentality. First, we are fueled by a corrupt government and society. There is a lot of stolen money thrown away and so some people allow themselves to wear certain clothes once. That aside, the whole aspect of recycling is just to help the planet. Because we’re not big on this discussion globally, many don’t understand the importance. I don’t think repeating what you’re wearing is a big deal. I don’t think it makes sense to have such an elaborate dress in your wardrobe and you can only wear it once.

It’s a waste of time, capital and labor and it harms the planet. Many of the fashion-forward clothes you see celebrities wearing overseas are usually on loan to them from a designer label museum. Most dresses are iconic pieces that are not meant to be sold. Here you wake up and go to commission a tailor to make an elaborate dress and at the end of the day it’s in your wardrobe and you can’t wear it anymore. Really, that doesn’t make sense.

Will we ever see you again on the podiums in Nigeria?

I have my own solo exhibitions. In the history of Nigeria, I am one of the creators who had the most personal exhibitions. The last one I had was at Hotel Fahrenheit, opposite Hotel Eko, Lagos in 2019 just before COVID-19. That’s when we launched Chiffon Agbada, which is what people wear now. It was worn by Elvina Ibru for the premiere of One Per Cent. This is how the Chiffon Agbada style went viral.

Where did your love for Bermuda shorts come from?

It’s my comfort zone. I like comfort. I don’t like to wear anything I won’t be comfortable in. I don’t wear a girdle and I thank God that in my 53 years I don’t need to. I want to be able to sit down, dance and do whatever I want to do anywhere. I don’t want my clothes to wear me down. I want to be able to wear my clothes.


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