Desirée Iyama was one of the very fortunate fashion designers whose works were found worthy by GTCO Fashion Weekend. Desirée did not just find herself in the fashion world, she is one of the very few whom fashion runs in their family DNA. Her mum, grandmother and great grandmother, who were all accomplished fashion designers in their time, made sure that the talent was passed on to their young generation. For a 26-year-old, who owns a fashion brand that is already six years running, Desirée is not just living the dream, she is upholding a family legacy. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, Desirée speaks about her fashion brand, her latest collection DESIRÉE IYAMA FW23 Bridal Collection “Wildflower” among other things
You were introduced at the GTCO fashion weekend as a superstar designer and one of the most talented out there. How does that make you feel and where are you from?
Wow! That is great. I am from Nigeria. I am from Delta State. I like to say that I am a bit of Delta State and Osun State.
How did fashion start for you?
My grandmother was a fashion designer. My mum is a fashion designer and my great grandmother was a fashion designer too.
So, it is like in our DNA. I started designing clothes since I was 12 but I have been making clothes, putting pieces together ever since I could remember. I used to dress up my dolls, pick up pieces from my mum’s cuttings and make stuffs for myself. I officially started my fashion brand, ‘Desiree Iyama’ in secondary school.
I was making stuffs for inter-house sports, then moving to university, I made clothes for friends. Ever since then, I have been designing since I can remember.
You never thought of going into another career that is not fashion?
I had thought of another career at some point. I wanted to do architecture, and that was because I felt there was no good fashion and design school in Nigeria. I also like technical drawing.
Did you later offer architecture as a course in the university?
I read sociology. I actually got into the university to study architecture but my dad said he wanted me to do something that is less serious. His argument was that it wasn’t fashion and I would not be serious with architecture. So, I picked sociology, which is an art course and I would not just draw. It was interesting because it helped a lot with life and socializing. From sociology, two months after I graduated, I moved to get my masters degree in Fashion Business in London. I came back and started my business again.
You never did any 9 to 5 job before settling for fashion?
I did. In fact, I worked a lot. That is the interesting part. Every summer of my university, I always interned for Thisday Style, Complete Fashion. So, every summer of my university, I always interned. When I was doing my Mas-
ters, I was working and going to school. I wanted to get retail experience. So, the jobs I did was on those.
You said Thisday Style and Complete Fashion. Did you become a journalist at some point?
Not really a journalist but a fashion writer. I wrote fashion. I did fashion w r i t i n g , f a s h i o n retail. I interned in a make up studio. I am a hands-on person. A n y – thing I can do with my hands, I will want to learn it.
You look young. You must have started your fashion brand quiet early?
I will be 27 years old in few months’ time. I officially started my fashion brand, ‘Desiree Iyama’ in 2016. So, we are six years old.
What kind of design would one see in ‘Desiree Iyama’ brand?
There is an interesting word I use to describe my pieces. I use the word ‘joyful’. I make joyful, expressive, voluminous but fitted pieces. I like to use the word ‘joyful’ to explain it all.
The kind of fashion and style out there is glamorous, sophisticated and sometimes they are uncomfortable. How key is comfort in making your designs?
I am very particular about comfort when it comes to fashion. I go for comfort, I go for inclusivity. I am very keen about the female body. I like sculpting the female body. It’s not going to be tight and it’s not going to be uncomfortable. I have one interesting comment from one of the models that showcased my pieces. She said she wore a corset from a designer that was really tight but she wore my dress, which is very snatched yet very comfortable. That is the kind of feedback I like to hear.
Your mum, grandma were all fashion designers. Are there things you have learned from them that you are adding a modern twist?
I have watched my mum cut clothes, her dresses for sewing. I’m around her a lot, so I’ve watched her cut for many years. I relocated to London for Masters in Fashion Business for two years.
So, asides those two years, I’ve always been around my mum and observed her. That’s how I learned how to make clothes, not formally. In those years, I’ve picked up everything with my observation.
How much is your family’s designer skills influencing your fashion career presently?
I’ll say a lot because I have no formal education in fashion design, only in fashion business. Yet, I cut almost everyday of my life, make designs in my head and bring them to life, without a single pattern. All freehand.
How much would you say that the social media contribute to growth of your fashion brand?
If your mum had the same internet opportunity when she started, do you think she would have been world class like many fashion designers now? Social media has contributed a lot because of its global reach. Fun fact is that my mom is a British trained designer and has the formal education in fashion design itself.
I don’t think it’s a case of the internet for her. I think it’s the niche she chose and her preferred clientele because till today, she designs for a wide range of customers both local and international. Best out this way, she has her long term clients and she’s happy with them. She’s not into runway like I am.
What do you like most about making pieces that would be showcased on runway?
Interesting! I like seeing my ideas come to life. After making the clothes, I don’t exactly get to see it until it’s been worn by the model. And that doesn’t happen until the fittings day, even sometimes the show day itself. I love that I can put styles together to form a collection which tells a story.
What is your opinion about the Nigerian fashion industry so far?
Nigerian fashion industry is evolving, growing and getting the global recognition it deserves.
If you had the power to change something about Nigerian fashion industry, what will that be?
I would love to improve the level of fashion education we have in the country. The quality of it, the standard, the accessibility, the appreciation. Everything about it.
When you got a call from GTCO fashion weekend that you will be part of this year’s show, how excited were you?
Hmm, I was more confused than excited. I was wondering why? I hadn’t done that many runways and I was just about to show at a different fashion week. After they confirmed I could to do a bridal collection (as I requested), the excitement kicked in. I had written in January that I wanted to drop a bridal collection this year and I am glad it was a success.
Have you ever missed being in any other career, aside fashion?
I actually still love architecture, even more so, interior design. I know I will delve into that in the future. Fashion business, design and education are my favourite. So, I’m happy with my career path so far.