Who’s HauTe: Interview with Amy Iheakanwa and Shetu Simone of SheKudo
Amy and Shetu
Bubbling under and finally making its big debut at the end of 2012, SheKudo is no stranger to the world of fashion and the arts, and co-designer Amy Iheakanwa, who feels right at home with her HauTe Fashion Africa family even though she’s a million miles away in Australia. It is very exciting, thrilling and somewhat nerve wracking to be interviewing our very own wild child without getting so carried away as to forget her super partner Shetu Simone. They’ve been friends since childhood and these are the type of fashion partnerships that get the HauTe mark of approval because it has passion, love, style and depth all wrapped in one and metamorphosed into what we all know as “SheKudo!”
HFA: So we’ll start with the awkward bits of getting to know you. So let’s pretend it’s a date and my first ‘courteous’ question is, tell us a little more about yourself and your ethnic backgrounds.
Amy: (Laughs). Well, I’ve grown up in Sydney, Australia – and I’m of Nigerian (dad) and Australian (mum) descent. I am a Health Science student by trade and I’m also a part of a Roots Reggae band called ‘Upright Sounds’. I love travelling, swimming, politics and Egusi Soup… And fashion of course! Did I mention Egusi soup?
Shetu: I’ve also grown up in Sydney, most of my life anyway. I’m West African (Ghana and Nigeria reppin’) but Australian born, studied a Communications majoring in Journalism and love everything involving music, dance, fashion and art; sunny days, late night movies with lovers and large doses of anything potato make me a very happy hippo.
HFA: (Lovers with an “s”. Hehe!) Have your backgrounds had any influence on your career choices or on the label?
Amy: Most definitely! For myself anyway. I’ve had one side constantly pushing for a career in medicine (3 guesses who) and the other side being happy with whatever I did. Being part African, it seems the older generation in particular seem to have a strong held belief that creative endeavours usually don’t count for actual professions.
HFA: Shetu, after some internet stalking (hehe) we found what we may believe is a very apt self-description: Full time student, part time journalist in the making, casual creative soul. A casual creative soul, we want to know more!
Shetu: Well, casually I like to make or alter things like part of the denim range we have. I love finding things and making other things out of them whether it be clothing, trinkets, oils and scents, hair dye and so on. I also love being around creative people like other designers, musicians, dancers, photographers – just being in the same atmosphere as people that make the world beautiful through what they love to do.
HFA: So you’ve been friends from childhood. I’m sure you go around completing each other’s sentences in conversation. What’s it been like over the years and what do you love and/or the most about each other?
Amy: funny you say that, because we’ve been catching each other out recently saying things at the same time – like twins. Yes we’ve known each other since we were 7 and it’s been a great 16 years of friendship so far. I love that Shetu shares my sense of adventure and trusts my ideas or plans when no one else seems to.
Shetu: Haha! It happens too often now! Or I’ll say something that Amy was thinking like that scene out of White Chicks. It has been a crazy ride so far, we’ve both grown so much and still remain tighter than ever and I really cherish that. It’s gotta be her optimism that keeps me coming back.
HFA: Australia is very far off from all else with a fashion and style culture to die for and I’m guessing you sometimes long for a little bit of ‘African-ness’, for lack of a better word. How accessible is African fashion, food and culture?
Amy: Well Australia is still a young nation, so still has some growing to do, particularly in regards to cultural fusion and acceptance. African fashion is slowly on the come up here and we have some great designers such as Francis Kwamee and Suzan Mutesi, who have an increasing amount of support for their collections. Food is not as readily available, there are only 2 prominent African food restaurants in Sydney although quite a few in our neighbouring state of Victoria.
Africans in Australia are still quite a minority, so it’s really dependant on our growth, establishment and innovations. We’re getting there.
HFA: Anyone have a professional background in fashion?
HFA: What’s in the name “SheKudo”?
Shetu: SheKudo is a fusion of our Nigerian names. ‘She’ is from the Hausa name Shetu and ‘Kudo’ is from Amy’s Igbo middle name Akudo. We thought it would be quite catchy…
HFA: And it is indeed! You both are very artistic young ladies, and we know the SheKudo brand covers reaches farther than fashion. What else are you dabbling in?
We love to Dibbledy dabbledy doo! And once our clothing label is more established we hope to get back to our second focus which is on Australian Hip Hop. We are both massive music lovers, and feel that Australian Hip Hop has heaps of potential to grow on the International music scene. So we support it wholeheartedly and will get back to interviews and reviews on our ‘SheKudo Func’ blog in 2013.
HFA: How did the idea to start a fashion label come about?
Amy: We often got frustrated that we could never find certain outfits we wanted without patrolling 100 different stores. Particularly denim pieces – and we love denim. The typical denim staples such as jeans, shorts and button ups were quite common but nothing more. So we started revamping and recycling pieces for ourselves when going out and then this extended onto designing actual pieces and starting our own small label.
HFA: Who’s the SheKudo woman and can we look forward to having a SheKudo man in the near future?
SheKudo woman is a strong eccentric woman who loves to have fun with what she wears; a woman who will confidently walk the streets no matter what she’s wearing, and most importantly staying one step ahead of the trends.
There is definitely a SheKudo man on the come up in our next collection – we love men. Men are nice J
HFA: Sure we can all agree on that! You launched your first collection, ‘Wahala’, a few months back. What was the inspiration behind the collection?
Wahala! Meaning ‘trouble’ in Pidgin. It wasn’t the most provocative, troublesome collection, but we intended to launch with this name to introduce the ‘calm before the storm’.
Wahala draws on our love for Wax print (a bit of African flavour thrown in the mix) alongside soft colours in classic silhouettes. We took inspiration from both sides, a bit of West vs. East and vintage attitude thrown in the mix. Much of our denim range is revamped pieces. We are big on recycling and did a lot of this with the denim. Our ‘T4′ t-shirt and bustier are made from used men’s jeans.
HFA: The styling for the collection also caught our attention like there was a story to tell. IS this right?
Styling was a mash up between us and our stylist ‘Stelly G’. Not so much a story to tell but rather an interaction between our clothes and the location. We shot the promotional look book in the back streets of Sydenham, which is still quite a rundown industrial zone. We just loved that every corner had character, and that we could create something beautiful with what we had. We also believe this when it comes to fashion, creating something amazing with whatever you have.
HFA: Who are your fashion inspirations and do you have any muses?
Amy: Oumou Sy was probably the first African designer I laid eyes on. Then I fell in love with Black Coffee, Suzaan Heyns, Maki Oh, Balenciaga (my all-time fave!), Marni, and some Australian designers such as Sass & Bide, Josh Goot, Ellery and Life with Bird.
Shetu: Gloria Wavamunno, Maki Oh, William Okpo there’s so many I love. Aussie designers Romance Was Born, Life with Bird, Sass and Bide, Camilla, Kobe Husk there’s too many to list. I am very widely inspired.
HFA: If you had the chance to work with or be an understudy at any African fashion house, which one would it be?
Amy: Definitely Black Coffee. I want to penetrate his complex fashion mind.
Shetu: I would love to watch Gloria Wavamunno create her next line.
HFA: What can we look out for in the next 5 years for SheKudo?
Whether we make it big or have a small group of fashion loyalists, we hope for SheKudo to be a recognised name on the streets delivering quality, UNIQUE, must-have pieces for the wardrobe that continuously transcend trends.
HFA: Will your collections be available in Africa and the rest of the world any time soon?
That’s what we’re currently working on, although this part takes time. Our online store will be launching in early 2013 so that people from all over the world can purchase our pieces through the shekudo.com online store. We are also working on collaborating with other online boutiques to spread our reach, so keep them eyes peeled!
HFA: Amy, this one’s for you! When will you return to HFA?
(Laughs) I miss the HFA team so much! I will hopefully be back on board once everything with SheKudo is flowing smoothly. I will be more inclined if you were to make me some Egusi soup and Garri
Amy sure does love her Egusi soup, she ain’t playin’! It was great interviewing these two amazing people and you can find out more about them and their label here:
Blog: SheKudo Func
Sales and general enquiries: email@example.com
Public relations and press: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also support their efforts in becoming the next successful international African clothing brand. Further details are available here! Support your ‘glocal’ designers!
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