“Oh wow. Those are words I wouldn’t quite use to describe myself just yet. Still learning and growing. Don’t ever want to feel I’ve reached my full potential and relax. There’s still so much to achieve.”

That was Ogwa’s response when asked between called iconic and legendary which resonates more with her. Ogwa in every sense of the word is an accomplished fashion designer. DZYN is a brand she started 11 years ago with her sister and today its one of the biggest fashion brands out of Nigeria.

“DZYN is pronounced like Design. We thought it was an interesting name and it seems to have caught on. Some people get it and some people don’t understand until you explain. The brand was developed by my sister and I.”

“It all started with interest. Interest on my part to create pieces I had in my head and also interest from people who were interested in wearing them. Fashion means different things to different people but I think the primary goal is to create something you can call your own.”

Abuja social scene can’t be complete without Ogwa. She was one of the few people that stood by us some years ago when we first came out with our electronic lifestyle magazine. She assured us then that if we keep at it, we will one day be the BellaNaija of Abuja. Unfortunately we rested our media outfit 3 years ago. Now that we’er making a comeback with this fresh lifestyle magazine, it feels natural to start this journey with her story.

In this period and time when women are making strides in every sphere of life, Ogwa Iweze is a force to reckon with. Her story will always inspire. Despite her accomplishments, Ogwa is constantly pushing herself to do more.

“Thank you. that’s a very encouraging statement. I think expectations should always be ahead of one. I’ve never been satisfied and will always push myself to do better. Those who work with me can attest to this”

” I don’t have formal training (in fashion). I’ve learnt a lot on the job and as the years have gone by, i have realized i want more training in the business aspects of fashion. However, for anyone going into fashion it’s important to decide what you want before you go in. That way you face it squarely. If you want to focus on dressmaking then you definitely need formal training. The industry is vast and has a lot to offer”

” I sketch a lot. Not professionally though but enough to convey what i want to say. I would say i could do with professional sketching lessons. Perhaps in the near future. I don’t sew at all. Not sure i ever want to. I’ve grown to understand it a little over the years. I would pick sketching and business sense”

The accounting graduate who doesn’t do anything outside her fashion business told us she uses her accounting skills for DZYN book keeping.

” I studied Accounting and I apply it to book keeping for Dzyn. Even though the designing side of things takes the best of my time so i still outsource our accounting needs. I try to have a normal everyday life. As a mum, wife, sister, daughter and friend. I try to juggle it all”

She talked changes in the Nigeria fashion industry and Abuja fashion industry in particular.

” I can’t even begin to list all the things that have changed since i started. The resources, the courses, the advancements, the talent….. I will say anyone that started say 5 years ago till date is extremely lucky because there’s so much material out there to help with starting a business now . We seemed crazy to even dream of doing “ready-to-wear” pieces then. Everything was made to measure and had to be pre ordered. That still exists but look at how the retail potential in the industry has changed! AMAZING”

” The Abuja Fashion industry has some of the most amazing talent i have seen. It’s awesome to see fresh Ideas and things you can’t find anywhere else. I really admire E4ma design, Style Temple, Huddaya, Belois just to mention a few. Just because I can see the thought process that goes into creating the pieces i see. Excellent!”

Ogwa definitely doesn’t agree with the school of thought that says Nigerian designers are expensive.

” Any designer in any part of the world will charge what they think they are worth. It’s a combination of a lot of things but you can’t deny brand value and that reflects in pricing. I think a lot of things are said out of ignorance until one is put in the situation. There will be clients who understand this and clients who don’t. Plus in comparison to other parts of the world i would say we are a little disadvantaged dealing with high production costs. That definitely won’t stop businesses that have unique selling point from thriving.”

Ogwa doesn’t have a problem rocking other Nigerian designs.

” Yes I actually do (wear other Nigerian brands). I am actually actively involved in the “buynigerian” “wearnigerian” movement. I have worn Eve and tribe, E4ma, Iconic invanity, Grey, Ogodor and i look forward to wearing many more.”

Life outside fashion is something she can’t even imagine when asked what else she’ll love to do aside fashion.

“Hmm. Probably I actually can’t say. How could i be doing something else… Probably something in business development”

But that notwithstanding, family comes first. We know because we asked her to choose.
“Mother and Wife for sure. I would drop everything for my Boys. Nothing compares! I try to do the best I can .Its difficult but I thank God everyday that I have the most supportive husband and family. That has helped a lot”

Talking about family, she gushes over her loving husband and very supportive family.

“My husband’s extremely kind nature attracts me the most to him. Words can’t express how much support I’ve received from my husband, family and friends . I am constantly overwhelmed and pray i can repay every one of them. My parents have supported me every steps of the way”

Ogwa as it turned out is a huge fan of fashion shows and she has participated in many within and outside Nigeria. She strongly recommends fashion shows to any designer.

“It (fashion shows) has done so much for us in terms of brand awareness, exposure and appreciation. Being in the right forums and getting the right promotion definitely helps any brand so we hope to keep featuring collections every now and then. I would definitely recommend fashion shows to any designer. Regardless of your time in the industry. It can really do wonders for your brand exposure”

She also talked about her rested famous fashion show, RunWay.

“Runway is resting for now. We have a lot of things in the pipelines and will be working to let people know soon. Most importantly we need to continuously work on creating platforms to show the amazing talent we have here. RunWay was more financially tasking than rewarding. We tried to make sure the standards were up to par year after year”

She also talked about her ready to wear line, new office and DZYN ambassador.

“We launched a new collection recently alongside our new flagship store. We have been producing ready to wear pieces over the years now but we just thought it would be nice to launch a collection on the day. It was well received and is currently selling in our store and all our retails outlets”

“Dzyn ambassador was an idea that was inspired by international brands mainly. I like the fact that pick you a particular face to launch either a certain product or a season. I thought it would be nice to have that for our brand. Someone who could represent us . We intend to make it annual and hopefully encourage the person to follow and pursue her passion no matter what it may be and also increase her confidence”

On the future of DZYN, she had this to say.

“More stores, more brand awareness and an online store in the very near future”

Quick question and answer segment:

what is the biggest misconception people have about you?
“That i’m very RICH! lol” .
What do you think is your biggest strength ?
“I think resilience”.
How will you describe yourself?
“Great sense of humour, active, playful and a go getter”
If you wake up tomorrow and your husband say pack up DZYN. What will you do?
“Thats a tough one. lol”
Tell us about your husband.
“He is absolutely awesome”.
How do you relax ?
“Going out, travelling and having a good conversation”
Do you like shopping?
“Absolutely love it”
Will you describe yourself as an impulsive shopper?
“Most definitely. Trying to change that”
Where is your favorite holiday destination?
“Probably Dubai because i can be on holiday but still pop in to see one of my suppliers”
Describe your style?
“I think Im SLIGHTLY edgy. I like to try new things. I don’t mind a little discomfort. i like clean lines and a smart look”
What’s the fashion item you spend the most on?
“I would spend a fortune on skin care. That way i can pull of the simplest dress. After that i’d say shoes”
Whats the most you’ve spent on a fashion item?
“emm I’d rather not say”
Any final word?
“Waiting to see how Blue Ink grows . I can already see that it will be huge. All the best!”

Make up by Solange
Photography by George Okoro
Styled by Richard Akuson

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