Made in and around Lagos Nigeria, Amy (Akudo) Iheakanwa puts a spin on local craftsmanship, textiles and resources to create distinctive, eye catching women’s accessories.
Amy (Akudo) Iheakanwa is an Australian born community development worker and co-founder of Sydney based brand Shekudo. She recently released her debut accessories line made in collaboration with Nigerian artisans based in Lagos. The pieces fall under ‘part one’ of a two-part series belonging to the Coming Home Collection paying tribute to Amy’s return to her fatherland.
It’s been nine months since the part-time community development officer/part-time designer decided to trade up job stability, busses that ran on time and steady light for the charismatic and chaotic whirlwind of Lagos Nigeria. Her mission? To return to her fatherland and focus on the Shekudo brand full-time, aiming to further bring to light another part of Nigeria’s identity that she felt gained minimal international recognition (overshadowed like most other characteristics of Nigeria by the common narrative of kidnapping and internet scams).
“…I kept thinking to myself [in Sydney], my job is good, this desk is good, these tea breaks (and Kingston biscuits) are good, the view from my bedroom is good, the beaches are bloody good, Sydney is really really really good! So, what’s my problem then!? – But something just felt like it was missing, like I had hit a ceiling and I needed to stop and follow my gut for a bit…”
Fast forward nine months to Amy zooming through back streets of Lagos island on a busted up keke (a yellow motorised tricycle and popular mode of transport across Lagos) heading to meet her silversmith in his two-bedroom workshop which doubles as a home for himself, his wife and four kids. After this, she will travel across to Lagos Mainland to rummage through the Markets of Mushin for the Nigerian goatskin leather used to line her shoes. Next is a drop off to her shoemaker in Surulere where she and her small team will commence work.
“…Everyone kept telling me to bring Ghanaian or Togolese tailors across to Nigeria to work with me [because they are well known for their good finishing] but it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t return to Nigeria and not employ Nigerians…”
Instead, Amy decided to help her workers up skill and improve on the current foundations that they already had. A synergistic process where Amy and her workers would each exchange their own techniques
“…The talent is no doubt there, it’s just the finishing that sometimes needs monitoring and this is due to often basic machinery, know-how and rushing the job. My biggest concern is actually the lack of women involved in this type of work, I want Shekudo to be a part of changing that, helping women discover more options and diversifying their skills, eventually transitioning over to an all-female employee base…”
Part 1 of the Coming Home Collection (Woven Ties) delivers a bold and eclectic mix of Aso-Oke weave patterns (a hand loomed historical cloth woven by the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria) that have been turned into fun, classic silhouettes, including women’s mules, slides, ankle boots, and handbags. The collection also features an array of bold statement earrings made from locally sourced 925 Nigerian sterling silver with each piece designed with certain Nigerian themes and motifs in mind. The brand intends to establish a global Shekudo sisterhood promoting a sense of caring and celebration among women across the globe as well as allowing its wearers to push boundaries, stand out and know that their Shekudo item is responsibly made with traceable origins. The SheKudo brand prides itself on being a socially responsible label as well as an advocate for slow fashion and women’s empowerment.
“… it’s been a special process for me. Stories are so important, whether it’s the story of a country’s history, or the story of the individual – we are all connected through our stories and these pieces are more than just a pretty shoe or bag. They tell stories of an individual, a culture, and a country…”
The Shekudo online store went live 1 February – customers can peruse through the conversation starter pieces now available to order. Shekudo offers separate pieces for Lagos locals and requests they contact the brand directly.