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There is inspiration everywhere. Knowing what inspires you helps you understand yourself. In the creative field especially, this helps others understand you.
We get asked “what inspires you?”. We usually say art but we are more inspired by the artists and how their personalities informed or influenced their art. Picasso’s jealousy, Michael Jackson’s yearn for perfection and Pink Floyds’s distaste for publicity are good examples.
Similarly, Nina Simone’s fearlessness and Jean-Paul Gautier’s cheekiness have helped shape and produce extraordinary work that we know and love. In other words, we find the backstories much more interesting. This is because we can connect to the human behind the masterpiece.
Our Creative Director, Gozi Ochonogor, is most fascinated by cultural influences, and why Picasso is her favourite. In addition, he in turn was inspired by African masks.
Gozi had the Eureka moment for the direction of U.Mi-1 when she saw this painting. She had seen it many times before. However, in that moment, she really saw it. To her, it spoke of inclusiveness.
From the word inclusiveness to the concept for a fashion brand: how? “By looking around me”. Gozi was living in Tokyo at the time, a place rich with traditions, wonderful colours especially through its seasons. She had also come to be in Japan via the UK, where she had lived and schooled too.
Through living in Lagos, London and Tokyo, she has learnt that all cultures share more similarities than differences. In effect, the fashion brand was a melting pot of all cultures she had absorbed. Finding inspiration can be as simple as looking around you and trying to appreciate what you have.
U.Mi-1 incorporates elements from the three countries that our Creative Director calls home. It is a mix of Nigerian style, British tailoring and Japanese craftsmanship. With its unique style, it embodies cultural inclusiveness and it possesses enduring value.
Above all, it inspires dialogue!. We wanted that through U.Mi-1’s all-embracing concept, you, me, everyone, can connect with the heartbeat of the African continent. That was our goal and it’s our mission today.
At U.Mi-1, we want you to see African fashion beyond its patterns and prints. Nigeria alone is made up of 600 different tribes, which is a mini universe in itself. Every tribe has its unique culture and individual style.
Our collections celebrate this diversity, Locus collection for example. For us, U.Mi-1 embodies a discovery of our people as each collection starts with research. We want to forge a better understanding of Nigerians through the lens of other nations. In addition, we want you see yourself through us.
Gozi was trained by a Savile Row tailor, that at age 16 was an apprentice couturier to the King of Swaziland. He taught Gozi to pattern cut and appreciate craftsmanship.
We cut 80% of U.Mi-1’s patterns. It is also a very handy skill! However, this flaw has resulted in beautiful mistakes and new designs when the team misinterpreted Gozi’s ideas.
Gozi honed her pattern-cutting skills in Japan, where precision and perfectionism rule. There, the finishing of the inside of a garment is just as important as the design outside. She has interpreted this as a love for personal luxury.
In a U.Mi-1 garment, you discover something anew with every wear. Above all, there is a passion for the story behind the clothes rather than the materialistic side of it.
These are the building blocks of U.Mi-1. We hope this permeates our brand in every way. There’s confidence in our stride but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. What embodies you? What inspires you?