Gidan Nodza, is an innovative Nigerian fashion design house. It is a boutique extraordinaire, offering the best handcrafted luxury items of their kind. Each product is different and unique because they are all 100% handmade, and the range currently includes bags, wallets, wristbands, bangles and slippers, with many others in the pipeline. In addition to using locally sourced leather, they also use a variety of fabrics dyed by age-old traditional techniques like batik and tie-dyeing. Indeed, owning a Gidan Nodza item can be likened to possessing a rare work of art.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Amina Hassan, the driving force behind the brand. Here she is, in her own words.
J:Tell me a bit about yourself…
AH: I am a graduate of Law from the University of Abuja. Before Law School and 6 months before University I apprenticed in a small corner tailoring place. Fast forward to a few months before Gidan Nodza, I was sure that my calling was to crochet, I ate, slept, talked, browsed and dreamt crochet. I guess this passion was inborn because I once had a picture of myself at either 5 or 6 yrs old, looking busy with a homemade crochet pin and different strings of wool knotted to form a long piece…I swear! Sadly that picture was stolen with my wallet 10 years ago.
I love travelling, crafting (obviously) and would rather read a very good book than watch a blockbuster movie (I love watching movies mind you) or attend a once- in -a –life- time party.
J: How do you find the time for a day job, your fashion label, and blogging too?
AH: I made a deliberate decision to take a job that would allow for working in shifts such that during my off periods/days I will be able to build the Gidan Nodza brand.
J: What motivates you?
AH: Hmmm plenty, let’s see… love for what I do and the desire to make a success of it. Also, the dream of starting something that will be bigger than me such that It will still exist and be relevant long after I am no more.
J: When did you start making bags?
AH: I am self-taught soooo lets say the trial and error period started from 2004.
J: How long did it take before you produced your first item for sale?
AH: It was 2 years before I felt confident enough to sell a piece.
J: You did a series of bags called ‘Finding my feet’ a few years ago, how far do you think you’ve come since then?
AH: Ha! Gidan Nodza has come a long way particularly with navigating the peculiarities of the Nigerian market place. As per products I can confidently say that our dyeing process has gotten better, and we are more about function, detailing and of course good finishing.
J: Artists are often said to suffer for their art. Is this applicable to you and the work you do?
AH: I would say yes because I’ve had to sacrifice in many aspect of my life including my leisure, social responsibilities such as visiting, attending ceremonies and the lot. First to be able to learn and perfect the craft, and then to master the business angle.
J: What sets your bags apart from others?
AH: Gidan Nodza bags are set apart by the very nature of their creation: individually conceived and uniquely executed. Each bag is not only set apart from other brands but even within Gidan Nodza no two bags are ever the same except for their high quality.
J: In the early days, you used tie-and-dyed canvas interiors for your bag, like a signature statement, how has that evolved now?
AH: We started with that and we are still using that it’s just the technique of the tie -and-dye that is different. This particular technique of tie-and-dye we refer to as the ‘scrunching method’.
J: Nigeria is renowned for its rainy season, with this in mind, are your dyed fabrics colour-fast?
AH: Certainly! The tie and dyed method employs colour fast cold water dyes extensively processed to ensure that they do not run. Aside from that the fabrics are also glazed over with Scotch Guard Fabric Protector.
J: Your leather is locally sourced, what type do you use, and what finishes do you employ?
AH: We use every kind of available leather including but not limited to composite leather, skins etc.
AH: They are part of our drive to diversify our product base and completely accessorise and out-fit our customers.
J: Slippers in the past, is a range of GN footwear in the pipeline?
AH: Yes. As I said earlier we are in the process of diversifying our product base and ultimately we look forward to a complete range of apparel/fashion line.
J: Talk me through the life cycle of a bag…
AH: The design starts from the conception of the bag sometimes as a result of a ‘form’ attribute such as colour motif or shape. It may also be borne out of a function attribute i.e. size or purpose. Sketching comes after followed by sourcing of the materials to be used and then we put together a prototype to test the viability of the design before the actual product goes into production.
J: Suffering for your art – can you talk a bit more about your workshop (converted garage, mosquitoes etc) – lol!
AH: Apart from the stuff I wrote on the blog about the workshop I am not sure there is more I can add except for some more recent about the collapse of a number of shelves while I was away at the hospital recuperating from a brief surgical procedure. The shelves in particular are where I store my meticulously and painstakingly sorted rivets, tiny eyelets, beads, zipheads, studs, buckles and other very diverse minutiae of sorts. To give a more vivid description- a jar of tiny rivets may contain up to a thousand pieces which may fit with another jar of pieces kept atop one of these shelves such that when the shelves came tumbling down these tiiiiiiiny pieces which had been sorted by size, colour, function etc came tumbling down and broke spilling their contents which mixed together in an indecipherable morass…you can imagine the agony of sorting and putting these back together again.
AH: Yeah…about those, the initials that you see on some of the bags came about as a result of difficulties we had in getting neatly done logo embossing on the leather, since then we have become more comfortable with the tools, and the market has also thrown up experts in the field such that we have done less of those GN leather cut outs, but you should see them popping out on some bags in the future.
AH: It’s difficult to pick a favourite so I would just say whatever the customer’s favourite is I will go along with.
J: You held an exhibition in February 2010. When is the next one scheduled for?
AH: We hope to announce a date for another exhibition in the last quarter of 2011 .
J: I want a bag! How do I go about purchasing one?
AH: Yes we do.
J: Thanks a lot for agreeing to this interview, it has been very informative.