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Check Out Sakeenah Ashiru’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sakeenah Ashiru.

Hi Sakeenah, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My name is Sakeenah Ashiru. I was born in Nigeria. My family and I moved to the United States 10+ years ago. My love for fashion started as a little girl. I was always fascinated by the women in the fancy dresses on the magazines back in Nigeria. I would sit on the burgundy tile floor of my bedroom cutting up and gluing pictures of everything that intrigued me, scandalous or not. I started designing and making dresses at the age of thirteen. My designs are highly influenced by my global environment. I am mostly self-taught. I went to school to study business and design in LSU and Jiangnan University in China. I currently reside in New York. I enjoy working with each of my clients to create their dream dresses because it is a beautiful collaboration between myself and my client. It is an honor to bring their dreams to life. When the era of 2020 took place and a lot of people were having a hard time trying to balance between fashion and health, I knew that I had to do something about it. My job is not just to make people look beautiful; my job is mostly to make people feel beautiful.

So, I immediately got to work in my apartment creating the most beautiful delicate and detailed embroidery designs that could be worn as face masks. People are responding to it in the most empowering way; from New York, to Houston, to Germany, to London, to Poland, to California, and around the world. Not only are these face masks being worn globally, a percentage of the profit of each mask being sold supports low income families in New York that have been impacted by the pandemic. The face mask is now a new form of expression, which will change our overall experience of wearing a mask, making it a positive and fun experience for each individual. I started thinking of the face mask as a fashionable and fun item towards the end of 2020 since wearing a mask became part of our faces and our daily attire. I needed the masks to express who people were on the regular. The face coverings I have designed have provoked quite a strong response from people globally. They are now able to see that they can confidently express themselves through their style looking better than ever while taking much needed safety measures. I encourage people to wear more entertaining masks that express who they are because it is important to feel great on the inside and out.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being an Artist is not the easiest path. You have to find creative and efficient ways to be sustainable. One of my most memorable experiences was while I was in college. I was always at odds with the structural teachings of the classrooms and the realities of the real world. “How much can you teach an artist inside the classroom?”, was the question I kept asking myself while I was in the design department in my college. That is when I decided to make a very drastic decision of taking a one year break in the middle of my college years to live in China. I needed to explore who I was as a designer. I learnt a new culture, language, food, and environment. Being in a different environment really shaped my aesthetic as a fashion designer. I was able to take risks and try new things. That experience is the most unforgettable and rewarding experience I have given myself. After college, I took a leap of faith and packed my bags and moved to New York. Finding a day job to sustain myself and finding an apartment at the same time I found was quite tasking. To me it was more important to find a safe place to rest my head and call home, so I focused on just finding the perfect apartment. The job search would resume once I landed in New York. After a year of searching I was able to find a day job as a Textile specialist at a laboratory in Manhattan and at night I am a dress designer for my private clients. When the pandemic hit New York in the year 2020, it was a tough time for me but it was also an incredible breakthrough. I thought it would be the end of my luxury fashion business because I mostly make custom tailored pieces for private clients.

Since it is COVID and no one is really going out to events or big gatherings I wondered how I would continue my business. I had a lot of time to think, reflect, brainstorm, plan, and look at my business model again carefully. I had to ask myself why I wanted to be a designer in the first place. I want women to look and feel sophisticated and elegant wherever they go. There is no reason the pandemic should change that. We can still look sophisticated and elegant while taking much needed safety precautions. The period during lock-down I had much needed time to create a collection of exciting new dresses with all the glamour that you can think of ready for all the events and parties after the pandemic is over. These dresses would all be available for rent in the year 2022. I have decided to change my business model to rentals. It gives women a chance to choose from any beautiful dress and not have to worry about the burden of not having to use it again. It is a sustainable solution to high-end party dresses.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I offer timeless and fashion-forward pieces, inspired by my travels around the world. My diverse collections are influenced by different cultures, which have developed from ideas to realities throughout my career as a Fashion Designer. My goal is to create exclusive, sophisticated, and elegant designs that represent our interconnected and global world. I am most proud of the collection I designed while I was living in China. I had this huge studio that I had access to 24/7. I shared the studio with a handful of graduate Chinese students. I learnt so much from them without even being able to communicate with them in English. When I came back to college from China I was invited to the biggest annual fashion show in New Orleans to showcase my collection, which I named “Midnight in China”. I hadn’t even graduated college yet and I was already showcasing my collection in Fashion Week. I believe what sets Sakeenah Ashiru brand apart from others is the experience that comes along with the fashion. It is a world that when you dive in you are immersed into all aspects of living. From the music, to the food, to the dresses. It is an interactive and exuberating experience. It is also solving the problem of fast fashion in all levels from the mid-priced to the high-end priced. Sakeenah Ashiru brand gives a more sustainable option with our rental program and custom made pieces.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
My favorite thing I like about New York City is that it is a place with a lot of opportunities. From the streets, to the restaurants, art galleries, and Jazz clubs. You can pull inspiration from just about anywhere, and there is always a niche of people that gravitate towards what you do. My least favorite thing about the city is the cold. I am a tropical girl so the winter has not been one of my favorite seasons. I do enjoy the winter watching it from inside by the window.

Pricing:

  • Masks – $25 + Shipping

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Taher Khakpour, Allie Appel

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