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Zizi Cardow On The Practicality, Versatility Of Her Designs

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Zizi Cardow On The Practicality, Versatility Of Her Designs

Zizi Cardow

For about two decades, Nigerian designer, Zizi Cardow has been creating designs that some people called wild. In this interview, she tells, FUNKE OSAE-BROWN the staying power of her brand.

Zizi Cardow
Zizi Cardow

Standing Out Of The Crowd

I will put it down to originality being organic. With the advent of social media, there has been a lot of in quote ‘designers’ because we don’t have a regulatory body. A lot of them do designs without anybody asking them any questions. There are many copies and paste. They copy other designers’ designs. I just feel that we are all looking at all these and getting carried away by the social media hype. Everybody is making noise. It is all about the number of followers you have. How many people like your posts and things like that there are a few who can translate all that noise into money. My still being here is because I don’t believe I am in competition with anybody. 

I have always stared out being a voice of my own propagating this whole Made in Africa using Africa prints like Ankara. My brand is not something I say: ‘I borrowed or copied from anyone.’ It is all inherent. I will say over the years I have had to restrain myself in terms of creativity for commercial purposes. And so, I think once you understand who you are what you are doing that it is not: ‘I got into it because everyone is doing it.’ I will join the bandwagon. Over the years, I have been able to remain true to my signature. I believe what every other designer should have that. It is what actually differentiates you having your own signature. I think over the years, we have had clients who will say: ‘I saw this outfit somewhere’. People identify my cut, my style for what it is. It is just the whole organic nature of it. The attention to detail, customer service.

Staying Power

If you don’t have all these, they are paramount. In the fashion world, it is all about consistency. You need to be consistent. It is the perseverance in the sense that this is what I do. Fashion is creativity. For me my sustenance has always been the fact that this is a career, it is a business, it is not something that I do because it is in vogue. For some reasons, vocations are in vogue in Nigeria. There was a time it was hairdressing, cyber cafes, boutiques. People just wake up to so many things as this is what is in vogue and the will jump at it. That is not what it is for me. It is something I have always believed in. 

Working with Different Fabrics

Zizi Cardow design
Zizi Cardow design

I think lately I love to work with Chiffon. I do Afro-Fusion. Over the past, we have worked with Ankara and lace materials, satin. At the moment my passion is with Chiffon because it is fluid. Also, many of my clients are on the older side and they like designs that easy. If the weather is hot it works perfectly. My clothes are all about practicality and versatility.  I put all that into consideration. Top on the list is the fact that Chiffon has a global appeal.  I don’t really restrict it to an African look I just want a fabric that wherever whoever you are you can feel comfortable. You can go to the Bahamas or anywhere and feel comfortable.

Market Appeal

Over the years, everybody wants to put my designs into that box of eccentric and crazy. I have no idea why. When you go back and look at it, we are even more conservative. There are many people who have even now. At the time I came up, many people didn’t understand fashion for what it was. And understanding fashion is knowing that fashion is art. That is why it is part of an art form. It is called creativity. It is thinking outside the box. I will say back them many people did not realise the runway was just the designer’s canvass. Where you see, interpret and express yourself. The runway is not the same as what you have regularly. You have Avant-Garde, couture and ready to wear collections. They are all different pieces. They have different appeal and functionality. Our clients at a time over ninety per cent of them were northerners. They are conservatives in their dressing. If you look in-store right now, you will see that all the ready-to-wear pieces are long flowing dresses. The runway is the platform for me to express myself. It is sad we cannot see beyond that. There is a difference between runway and reality. I have had people say because I am always wearing shot dresses, I cannot make anything long. That view for me is ridiculous. When you look at it now, pout me against any designer I am sane. Considering what you have out there now.

From The Older Generation to Millenials

Zizi Cardow design
Zizi Cardow design

It is about understanding your market and your clients. I have had clients who have been with me for 15, 10, 5 years. It is all about understanding what their needs are and tailoring it to suit what they are going for. I am one of these designers that is not very loud, I am a very private person. I am one of those designers who believe if this look does not go for the individual, don’t buy it. It is not about the money for me. I’d rather you don’t buy than buy something that doesn’t look good on you. At the end of the day, it comes back. Understanding the client is understanding their bodies, individual characteristics of personality. So far, so good, all over the years, I have never had a particular age group, it has been a mix.

Ready-To Wear

We were one of the first shops that opened and started selling read-to-wear clothes. It has always been like that our brand was geared towards that purpose when we started. Zizi Cardow is brand. And for the first five years, we didn’t accept any fabric. It is what you see on the rack you buy. We started taking in fabrics when we have regular clients that say: ‘can you help me to do something with this?’ We do weddings. We do a lot of ready-to-wear.

Future for Zizi Cardow

I think it is sad that we look at a business and think after a generation, it should fold up. That is sad. When you look at our colleagues abroad, Chanel, Christian Dior, they have been there for years. You are paying the kind of money you pay for them because they are vintage brands. It is like red wine, the older it is the better. It is sad, that in Nigeria in the creative industry, you are expected to hide your face somewhere. You only grow better with age. It is painful when I see all the empowerment skill and you want to teach a skill in three months. You can’t teach anyone a skill under three months. It is learning every day.  You have to come up with new ideas every day. You come up with new ways of fabrication, sewing. 

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