Originally founded in the UK in 2007 by designer Nkwo Onwuka, the eponymous label relaunched in Nigeria in 2012 with a focus on the preservation of traditional craft. Onwuka’s love for design sparked from her childhood obsession with dolls, and sewing. A psychology major, her early affinity toward fashion design compelled her to start her own line that celebrates Nigerian artisanry. Creating pieces that are free-spirited and nomadic is central to the brand, and NKWO’s collections are inspired by the lives of the wandering people of the African deserts and the Great Plains. Each piece brings forth a modern interpretation of traditional West African craftsmanship such as weaving, beading, hand-dyeing, and embroidery—all of which are done by local artisans.
The label continues to educate and employ small scale manufacturers and producers to enable the growth of sustainable businesses. Sustainability is the brand’s key mission, and their dedication to waste-reduction led them to create a new strip weaving technique, made by using innovative cutting patterns and recycled fabric manipulation. The result was the invention of a new kind of cloth, which they dubbed “Dakala”—it holds the appearance of a hand-loomed fabric and has a distinctively West-African feel.
In 2018, the designer was selected to represent Nigeria at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange Exhibition at Buckingham Palace—a testament to her work and vision. With a devotion to innovation and heritage, NKWO’s unique interpretations of the history, traditions, and cultures of the continent have positioned the brand as a forward-thinking champion of the emerging African renaissance.
Commonwealth Fashion Exchange Exhibition, Nigeria Representative, 2018
Kulture2Couture, Phoenix Award, 2007