outfit detail of Gozi's third fashion collection

Gozi: Nigerian fashion design now from Tokyo

The other day, when visiting SuperDeluxe for Pechakucha Night again to get a feeling for what is going on in Tokyo, I “discovered” Miss Gozi Ochonogor. This very energetic lady impressed me with her elegant coolness in her collections paired with a love for Josephine Baker. Here are some of her designs, her story about how she made it to the Paris Fashion week on schedule as the first totally unheard of designer ever – plus – why she now lives in Tokyo!

Written by Uleshka

Gozi, sorry to say that, but I can’t think of any famous Nigerian fashion designer…?

Well, same here, unfortunately. Which is one of the reasons why it was so hard to convince my parents, that after I completed my masters in science engineering I wanted to switch to fashion. They sent me to London’s Imperial College as an international student when I was about 20 to become an engineer. That is what you do when you are smart in Nigeria: you either study engineering or law. (laughs)

There was no Nigerian person I could think of to live up to – so that was quite hard.

elegant street wear outfits from Gozi’s beginnings

elegant street wear outfits from Gozi’s beginnings

How did you get from being an information scientist to a fashion designer?

I started out by being unsatisfied with the kind of fashion I could find in the shops, since I always had a very clear idea of what I wanted to wear. So I made my own skirts and felt, that this would actually suit me much better. I found a job in the Anthony Reynolds Gallery, worked for some other designers to gain experience and since everything always seemed to fall in the right place, I continued.

part of Gozi’s first collection

I sold at Portobello Market and Spitalfields Market in London for quite some time. People thought my stuff was really cheap and bought it like crazy! So every day, I went up a little higher with the price and they were still buying (laughs). People came up to me and wanted to borrow my clothes for shootings all the time and although I went through this unorthodox way, I slowly gained some confidence.

Gozi flipping through her portfolio

Fashion is quite a tough market! It must have been hard to get your foot in the door?

Well – because of the route I chose I was always questioning myself, but then always something good happened and things were moving slowly but surly. Whenever I needed to get into somewhere people looked at my degree and thought: she must be a smart girl! So the engineering degree was actually good for something (laughs again)!

Tell us about your show at the Paris Fashion week you briefly mentioned at SuperDeluxe. How did you get in there as a totally ‘unheard of’ designer?

Looking back it is actually funny to realize how naive we (my small team & I) were, but I guess two things worked out: making good fashion and not being afraid to ask. I think if you don’t ask nothing will ever happen and the worst anybody can say to you is ‘no’. I can ask the queen: “Can I spend the night with you in your room?” and she can only say ‘no’!

I called the lady from the Fashion Week so many times and finally she said:”You girls are really persistent!” and gave us the spot!

Your theme of your collection at the Paris Fashion week was inspired by Josephine Baker. How did it all happen?

I remember the first time I told people “I will have a show about Josephine Baker with dancers in some kind of big theatre” – and everyone laughed! I still don’t know why I had her in my head, but I just went ahead with that idea. Later it turned out, that people in France all really love Josephine Baker and I got lots of support and sponsorship: Swarovski sponsored my main costume, Park Hyatt helped… and I got in touch with Erickson and Beamon – a jewelry maker based in London and coincidentally their collection was based on Josephine as well, so they collaborated and made various pieces for my show.

dancer in Swarovski crystal costume at the Paris Fashion show

detail of the costume (noticed the small bananas?)

To see the costume sparkle, here is a little movie of Gozi’s fashion show in Paris.

What was the reaction?

I got some really good responses from the people who watched my show. Selfridges, Harvey Nichols,… everyone seemed to want it, but they all also said that it was too expensive. If someone can afford a 200 pounds skirt from Gozi – who nobody knows – they might just as well pay a little more and get it from a famous designer. I produced everything in London at that time, which made it impossible for me to bring the price down!

other outfits of the collection – Gozi related her designs to famous dresses Josephine used to wear, paired with Josephine Baker’s humor (I guess those bananas speak for themselves…)

other outfits of the collection – Gozi related her designs to famous dresses Josephine used to wear

dancer in Swarovski crystal costume at the Paris Fashion show

detail of the costume (noticed the small bananas?)

So what happened then and how did you end up in Tokyo after all?

I decided to think it over, maybe move back to Nigeria for production. Payed off my bills and everyone I owe, made one more small collection and then suddenly something happened!

part of Gozi’s third collection inspired by African queens

Which is what?

I suddenly remembered, that I wanted to go and live in Japan ages ago. I already took lessons and everything back then until someone reminded me of my Nigerian passport and I lost all hope. At that time I said:”I will go and live in Japan as soon as I get an English passport!” – and finally I did, remembered and here I am! (happy grin)

The strangest thing ever is, that when I got here for the first time, it felt like coming home!

What are your future plans then? And how long do you think you will stay in Japan?

Gozi close to the PingMag office

I feel like staying for a long time and going with the flow. There is a good wind coming, I want to restart again, this time I am closer to China for a cheaper production, and I get new inspirations every day.

I am currently doing pattern cut for some designers in Tokyo, but am planning to set up a little denim label from here. Not really “jeans”, as such. My plan is to design pieces which are really cool and powerful, so people don’t really need any extra styling on top of it! Some kind of casual – cool street wear but with interesting cuts, elegant, sexy and easy to wear. Something similar to what I wear today. That is where I see me!

Thank you so much Gozi and good luck for your new label!

  • http://www.almyravilla.com/world.php irina

    Thank you very much for such an interesting information in the field of the world fashion!!! You know, this kind of question interests me highly, for I dream to be a modeller too and Gozi’s carreer and her ideas helped me greatly to answer many questions of mine!!! Thanks again and good luck to you!!! :)

  • http://www.myspace.com/felixbuilding F_Building

    i saw her at pecha kucha night too, her clothes are pretty nice and I have to say the girl is quite charming too.

  • mark

    i heard something along the lines of “sex sells”… anyone know anything about that?

  • http://www.nakaochiaigallery.com/ Nakaochiai

    I missed your piece at PK night. So super to see what you do Kozi! Now I know…WOW! And thanks for coming to the opening the other night! Fun times.

  • Honor

    You’re creations are hot, yet elegant. Sexy and super stylish. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Keep an eye on this one people!

  • NickS

    Good on ya Gozi. Really impressed!

  • kellah

    u’re not different from a prostitute

  • http://www.slonig.org Fred A. Uduma

    Hello Gozi,
    The association of Nigerians in Slovenia is organising a fashion show called Black&White Fusion on the 24th of may 2007.
    As a reputable desginer, it is in our interest to invite you to this event and and your acceptance to particepate will be highly honored.
    plsease contact us asap for more detail at info.dns@email.si, info@slonig.org or f.uduma@yahoo.com

  • bukola

    beautiful…u’ve got amazing stuff.

  • Pingback: CoolDigest » Gozi: Nigerian fashion design now from Tokyo

  • gloria

    such talent and inspiration is hard to come by. You go girl.

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  • evon

    impressive!! i never thought a nigerian fashion designer can be popular in asian countries !! way da go !! i like the clothe where she get the inspiration from nigeria queen….i think it’s a good masterpiece!!

  • Shola Oduneye Osibona

    Went to school with Gozi, i am very proud and impressed with her work.
    Go girl!!

  • Ngozi Nzeka Adebiyi

    Gozi! Sola sent this link… u are making fabulous outfits! Well done dear and keep the flag flying!!

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    hi this is sutharson.

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    hi this is sutharson.i am from india.

  • http://bele295hotmail.com adeju

    hey gozi,im adeju and i tink ur designs r it!dey r full of life, sexy and very youthful…im nigerian,why dont u think of setting somting here …fashion is risin of rapidly in nigeria and getin very competitive …der r some crazy fahion designers here 2 but still some shit one present .lol.tink about my advise …have u visited lagos recently come see d new changes ..logos is developin come develop wit us…dont fashi ur country..

  • caroline

    im from kenya pretty much in the same situation as you. i was sent to business school rather than do what i really wanted, design! anyhow you’re an inspiration to me. thanks

  • agbome

    Sooooooo proud of you gal! you really did go ur way.

  • http://mona5.com ming

    you can see the womans breast!

  • Mariam Tijani

    Hello girl,i’m envious and i think you are my inspiration.i wanna do fashion,but my parents wants me to do a degree in accounting.Ilove desingning and fashion is my passion.any advise.You can reply on ,please I dont wna lose ma passion likkletij@hotmail.co.uk

  • http://lilianofforyahoo.com lily offor

    Ngozi hi, my name is lily, Nkechi Okwechime’s cousin. am sure you don’t remember me but your design are fantastic, fresh and all you. I’m in New York and just started studying in Parsons new school of design. Ur story is an inspiration to future designers like myself. You go girl.

  • linden

    you’ve got nice stuff but could you really go walking around with no shirt on?

  • Gozi

    haha we have the same name!
    Im very impressed by your work uve got so much talent.. i was just wondering Why you dont have any black models?? i mean shouldnt you be representing your country a little bit?

  • tonia nwanze

    infact ng really dont know why i decided to search 4 u on the net 2day, but i’m glad i did. i’m impressed and i know ur just being ngozi ochonogor of fedben.

  • http://www.egodesign.ca bia@egodesign.ca


    I send you this email from http://www.egodesign.ca, canadian magazine on global design. We would like to write an article on Gozi Ochonogor. Can we have her Web site or her email address ? Thanks a lot by advance.

    Domingo Bia, publisher

  • http://www.bentographics.com Benjamin Thomas

    Hi there Domingo Bia,
    coincidence, Bentographics.com just happened to finish setting up her website. It`s this one: http://www.gozi.co.uk.
    Have fun!

  • Olusan Rewane

    Keep doing what you love. I wish you all the best, darling. You are very creative and courageous and an inspiration to me.

    from your old friend.

  • dellon54@yahoo.co.uk

    Trying to start of a new denim line from scratch and not sure which path to take …….any advice

  • http://www.ninartz.com Nina

    It takes a lady with a lot of guts to break out from the norm on a quest for the passion that fuels her!!!! you’ve got guts and its working for u…. well done

  • dude

    what a sexy bitch

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