Fabulous Designer: Emeka Ukaga

Phoenix Fashion Week has been the leading fashion industry event in the Southwest for over 10 years, with a mission to bridge national and international designers with retailers, boutiques, fashionistas and top fashion media globally. Meet Emeka Ukaga of SENTI Designs, one of this year’s design talents.

IG Handle: @sentidesigns; @ukagaemeka

Hometown: Imo State, Nigeria and Minnesota

What is unique about your brand: SENTI was born out of a love and deep appreciation for West African design and textile traditions. As a fashion line, SENTI is seeking to bring those traditions to a global audience. SENTI is an attire for the modern man living and working in cities around the world. Taking elements, patterns and designs that are authentically West African, SENTI is reimagining and introducing them to a larger audience to wear and appreciate a rich culture.

What is your brand’s style: SENTI borrows heavily from its West African roots in order to produce its fabrics and silhouettes for the brand. Sourcing fabrics predominantly from West Africa, SENTI is extremely mindful in ensuring that the clothing it produces remains true to the legacy that has came before it.  Everything from the logo, branding, to the textile printing designed by the brand borrows from West African design, art or logographic motifs.

What footprint/legacy will your brand leave the world with: We plan to leave a legacy centered on a unique blend of sustainability, culture, creativity and heritage. SENTI Designs is not just about a business. It is about connecting two different worlds, empowering people and telling a unique story about the modern African person and how their journey or heritage shapes our world.

First fashion job: I grew up watching my mother design outfits for friends and family, import designs from back home in Nigeria, and use fashion as an outlet of her creativity. As a child I was her assistant helping her with measurements, managing shipments and anything else that was necessary to make the vision happen. Today, I am simply continuing with her on that vision.

When did you know you had a passion for fashion: From a young age watching my mother create beauty on people from her mind I knew that I had a passion for fashion. That was my earliest vision into the industry, love for the craft, and gave me a taste for what fashion could be.

Person who has impacted your life the most and why: My mother. She was my first boss, my first inspiration and my biggest critic. But more importantly, she pushes me to ask more for myself, my family, my tribe, and from our culture. She started me on this journey and I hope I can make her proud.

Your biggest fashion accomplishment in your eyes and why: Showing in Phoenix Fashion Week, again in Tempe Fashion Week, and in Fashion Week Minnesota this spring.

The biggest fashion obstacle you have overcome: All our clothes are made in Nigeria so supply chain management is our hugest issue!

A designer who inspires you and why: In terms of fashion, Virgil Abloh for the path he paved and Kenneth Ize for the work he is currently doing. Broader, David Adjaye, Francis Kere, Kunle Adeyemi, Demas Nwoko and Zaha Hadid.

Advice to someone pursuing a career in fashion as a designer: Just start! Take the advice and criticism and learn but you will never grow until you put your vision in front of the world.

How has the Phoenix Fashion Week impacted your brand? It has given me a framework and scaffolding in order to grow and become the brand I want to be. I cannot understate how much PHXFW has helped me learn the business of fashion and build a powerful following.

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