My name is Wana Sambo. I’m a Nigerian, a Bayelsa state indigene born on the 17th of April in the late 1980’s. I was born into a family of 5 siblings; I’m the 4th child and 2nd girl.
I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, went to Christland School Ikeja, Federal Govt College Odogbolu and graduated from Igbinedion University, Okada, Benin City in late 2009.
I launched the first Wana Sambo collection in December 2010, but only truly began the Wana Sambo Brands business retail operations in 2015 when the Wana Sambo flagship store was launched in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.
I began designing from a very young age. I remember turning my Jeans into bags, fixing and creating garments from worn out pieces I was allowed to play with/ruin while still in secondary school. However, as soon as I became “independent” in the university, I started buying fabric and teaching myself how to sew by creating looks for my friends and family. As a strong willed individual, who does not believe in “impossible”, you’ll more often than not read me saying “I taught myself this and taught myself that” and it’s 100% true.
In 2008, I taught myself how to drive. I remember asking every tailor in the neighborhood where I could buy a sewing machine and got several references, so one day, I got into a shift stick car (I wasn’t allowed to drive.lol) and drove myself to Yaba market to buy a sewing machine (by “watching people’s leg movements while driving” as my driving experience!) and at the market, I literally almost crushed a man’s leg. If you’ve been to Yaba market, you’ll know how heavy the foot traffic is. I was trying to turn into the car park, honking frantically and everyone else made way but this man, out of nowhere, walked right into me turning. I believe he was deep in thought as he walked because he didn’t notice the trafficator or me turning right, So basically, I hit him. Thankful for God’s grace, I didn’t crush his legs or do any major damage. The police intervened, we settled amicably and despite this, I still went into the market to get that sewing machine I went for.
On my way home, while struggling with the shift stick car, through tears, I realized; I am truly passionate about designing.
In 2009, I was nominated for the dynamics award “designer of the year category”. This, for me, was the beginning of my fashion design career.
DANG: When did you start drawing and designing?
I really started illustrating when I had my first consultation. I used a pen (and still do), imagining what the garment would look like, then I put pen to paper and that was it. Of course I came up with a lot of weird looking shapes initially, but as time passed, I got better. I have not undergone any training, even via Google/YouTube, to learn how to be illustrator. (I think I’ll do that now)
As regards designing, I’m a self-taught designer. I’m extremely grateful for my gift. As I said earlier, I began designing and creating from a young age and as a designer, I’m influenced by fabric (I see a fabric I like and several style ideas emanate). I also get style ideas when I’m praying or in my dreams or when I’m out in places. People, Color, textures, plant’s, trees, everything inspires me to create. Whenever something captures my eye and/or when God puts these thoughts in my head. I design.
I speak about God a lot because I would never be here without His grace. God has been good to me, He is awesome!
DANG: So, you didn’t go to Fashion school?
No, I didn’t. I’d applied and gotten into ESMOD, Paris and I remember my dad giving me N4million which was for tuition and living expenses for a month (or so) but due to a family emergency, when it was time to pay my fees I didn’t. I remember calling my dad, convincing him to let me use the money to set up a business instead of fashion school, and he agreed. This was about 4 years ago. At the time, I rented an apartment on Fola Osibo (same street as my current store) for N2.5million, I sold my old car and added the rest of the N1.5m to buy a more reliable car, and I had no money left. As a business savvy individual, I knew I needed an accessible location for customers and a reliable car that was durable enough to take me to & fro the market to source fabrics and go out to network and talk to people about my brand (without breaking down), So I invested in both as necessities not wants. That apartment doubled as my showroom and home. That was my real-life fashion school.
DANG: Business Ethics?
I have certain principles that govern my decisions and actions, one of them is; I work to ensure my business generates enough income to sustain itself. I believe that a business that doesn’t generate enough income to sustain itself is not a business.
DANG: Tell me about the Wana Sambo Brand
Wana Sambo is a ready-to-wear women’s wear brand handmade in Nigeria. We are minimalist-chic with focus on “clean lines, perfect fit and finish”. The Wana Sambo Woman is Strong, Sexy and Exotic.”
From its inception, the Wana Sambo brand has been a ‘see now, buy now’ brand. This basically means that once we put out a collection, all looks from this collection is available for purchase in store.
The Wana Sambo Woman is always ready to buy a garment(s) once the Look-book is released and we ensure that before each garment is put out on social media, we already have at least 10 pieces per style ready to be sold in store.
Wana Sambo garments are handmade; we do not mass-produce our garments. We produce very limited quantities per style, at most 30pieces per style. The only piece ever produced in more than 30pieces per is our signature piece; the ‘Wana Sambo Bubu Dress’, which comes in a cocktail of colors. As is with every handmade garment, its value is worth its price.
The Wana Sambo brand prides itself in handmade garments made in Africa by African’s.
DANG: Where do you see Wana Sambo going?
In 5 years, by God’s grace, we hope to expand to the rest of Africa. The only challenge is the possibility of still ensuring we stick to the “handmade” aesthetic, as I never want to stop making handmade garments.
I believe handmade garments are created with love as so much effort is put into them daily.
We hope to set up an online store and we believe this will help determine what countries respond to/love our brand the most and that decides where our next brick and mortar store will be. I feel like Africa is the future and it’s time for African fashion to take centre stage the world over.
The Wana Sambo Woman is strong, sexy and exotic, she is every woman, she is every African woman!
DANG: When you say Wana Sambo Woman is a strong woman, who is a strong woman to you? What does a strong woman embody?
Strength is “the ability to withstand great force or pressure”. As women, we are created strong. We are created to be resilient and as the body of the home, mother, child bearer, cook, cleaner, advisor, all wrapped up in one, to me, EVERY WOMAN possesses STRENGTH. We must remind ourselves, through our carriage and the clothes we wear that we are strong even if we have been deemed as the “weaker” sex. Being ‘sexy’ is in our DNA so we must embrace it and the word ‘exotic’ means “unusual and exciting” and as a woman, we are all these and more.
This is why we know; “the Wana Sambo Woman is Strong, Sexy and Exotic. She is you, She is everything you dare to be.” Read:“In 29 Years Since I Opened The Nail Studio, Giving Up Never Crossed My Mind” – The Nail Studio CEO, Mrs Tokunbo Awogboro