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Princess Debo Odutola Talks Her Bespoke Handmade Bags

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Princess Debo Odutola Talks Her Bespoke Handmade Bags

Princess Odutola


The lounge at the Oriental Hotel is busy on a warm Tuesday morning in February. Guests were moving from table-to-table looking at the creative pieces on display. It was one way to celebrate the best of Nigerian fashion and creative industry by Bank of Industry.

The acting managing director of the bank, Waheed Olagunju, was spotted among the crowd in company of renowned business of fashion expert from New York, Mercedes Gonzalez. From a jewellery stand they moved to the next where handmade beaded bags were on display.  They were pieces handmade by Debo Odutola, the daughter of late Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuade.

ethnic bag

Her label, Potters Signature, is a line of handmade accessorised handbags and footwear with an ethic touch.

Her label, Potters Signature, is a line of handmade accessorised handbags and footwear with an ethic touch. Her love for bags led her to making bags with local fabrics like Ankara and Adire.

“I am a bag freak,” she says. “I love bags and somebody actually gave me an Ankara bag and I looked at it with amazement and told myself I was going to do it. That’s was how I started. I started with my scarfs. Then, when I make ‘Bubu’ and I had the scarf left, I used it. Then my mom gave me 36 wrappers and that has been my success story.”

Her business name, Potters Signature came to be when she was studying the biblical book of Jeremiah and she saw that the potter is someone that does things with his hands, like pottery and crafts. She decided the brand will be called the Potter’s Signature.

Odutola’s pieces are made of Ankara, leather and embellishment. They are bespoke luxury items.  “I have been able to carve a niche for my products in Nigeria and beyond. People like the combinations and the details. Attention to details is what is killing everybody now. The products, as a Nigerian, I am proud of. When I do a product, I put it on the bed and I just dance. Every product thrills me.”

Her bags are named exclusively after notable Nigerian women. All her styles have names like Olori Oladunni, Adebisi Abiola, Folorunosho Alakija among other women.  Her embellished bags are very royal in outlook she named them after her late father Oba Sijuade. “Apart from Fendi who does the embellished bags, mine are the next in the market,” she says proudly.

According to her, she picked the women she named her pieces after based on their contributions to the economy and what they have achieved over the years. “Those are people who in every way have excelled in their various field of endeavour. So, they are worthy to be celebrated as Nigerians, so that’s why this bags are named after Nigerian women,” she adds.

She says her designs are inspired by God. “And at times when I look at people carrying a bag, I look at it, go home and sketch it. I create every of my designs. There was a day in Victoria Island, I saw a bag and took two glances at it; because I saw it, I dreamt about. I got up at about 5:30am and sketched it; and made it. It was a leather bag that had different colours of leathers as strands but in my case I made it on an Ankara base with leather strands and it came out beautiful and it sold out once.”

Odutola inherited her creativity from her late grandmother who was skilled in crochet knitting. “When I was also in school, I loved to crochet. I just love to do things with my hands. I stone, I know how to bead. I know so much but I never developed them until now. Most of my bags I stone them and I make sure that the final stage of my bag is done by me.”

She sources for her materials locally. They are carefully selected to make the bespoke designs. “They are sourced from Mushin. I go to Mushin, I buy my leather, and other required materials but I buy my zips from importers. We are not an exporting country yet so everything we have here are imported but we now put them together. There is also the PV leather which a lot of people use because it is cheap. The skin is very expensive but I will rather use it to make the products that stand out at the international market.”

Odutola is very meticulous about her creations hence she is a master of her own craftsmanship. She doesn’t leave anything to chance.

“I create my designs and I make sure at the point of production I am there to make sure that the squinty lines are straight. When the leathers are being cut, I am there to ensure they are cut according to measurement. We have a measurement according to dimensions. I make sure that I measure every bag, the breadth and the height from start to finish. That’s why most times I really don’t have time for social events because if I take a time out, something will go wrong so I make sure I am there full time.”

Finally, Odutola does not repeat her designs and they are tailor-made to meet the clients taste. She makes twelve pieces of every line and at every point in time. However, she can release the same  name using another fabric like Ankara so that she doesn’t repeat what she has done before. “We do the same shape but different fabric, the same skins and different colours.”

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