Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Meet Nneka Onyenakala, the designer behind some very fabulous handmade leather clutch bags with definitely some twists...or three!

I had the chance to speak to this very multitalented young woman and here below is the end product.

Long live Africa!

FS: How did you start making these bags?
NO: I own many bags and one day said "I'm gonna make myself a bag". I started off with a scrap piece of leather using my sewing machine at home. Admittedly so my first attempt was a shamble however I was determined to 'get it right' for me so I persevered, sought advise from friends who made their own bags and used sewing machines from people I knew who made bags. A few months ago I bought my own industrial machine, thread, zips, etc and just kept going and here I am!

FS: Did you have to take a bag making course?
NO: Not at all! If so I studied at the 'School of Life' lol! I actually have a first degree in Biomedical Science.

FS: What have you been inspired by in your life in general?
NO: I'm inspired by the unusual normality of things. In general I'm inspired by un-sung success stories. You know, the people whom have been dealt a difficult hand yet despite it all strive to become a success. The people you never see on the news or in the papers. If you tell me something cannot be done, I'm inspired to do it.

FS: And in your bags?
NO: To be honest, it is within my head. I don’t follow a template or look at something and think I want to make that. Usually, if I see something I like then I try to tailor it to what is in my head making it look abstract yet beautiful.
FS: Do you make them yourself?
NO: I sure do!

FS: What is your signature?
NO: Abstract shapes, curves, folds, contrasting yet complimentary colours and textures.

FS: What does Africa mean to you…..(in 4 adjectives)
NO: Beautiful, resilient, colourful, creative.

FS: You just launched a website, how hard was that?
NO: Launching a website was not particularly difficult for me as I have set up a website before for my photography. The most challenging aspect of launching was in balancing home life and work to sustain a passionate venture such as N'Damus bags.

FS: What response have you gotten from the public?
NO: The response I have received has been humbling and overwhelming to say the least. In a matter of weeks I've received personal commission requests from celebrities, peers and the general public which has added to the creative stance of the N'Damus collection. It's amazing to see how people are determined to show the passion for their heritage from the design requests, i.e. National flag designs since launching the 'World-wide clutch' range of N'Damus bags.

FS: Were you surprised?
NO: Most definitely. It's one thing to love what you create and another for others to love it.

FS: What do you hope to achieve with your handbag designs?
NO: To be recognised world-wide in terms of uniqueness and quality. To get people talking positively about N'Damus.

FS: African designers are slowly emerging from their hiding places, what do you think is the cause of this?
NO: I don't believe that African designers are 'slowly' emerging. We've always been here. One of the unfortunate things within the fashion industry seems to be what's 'hot' at the moment, usually not governed by the African designers themselves in the eyes of the mainstream.

FS: Where do you hope to be in 5 years time with N’damus Bags?
NO: It would honestly bring me joy to walk down the road and see people clutching onto an item from my N'Damus range. I'd also love to have my goods stocked in local and international shops as well as being featured in magazines, etc. Oh...I will also be sitting on my yacht off the coast of Capri surrounded be those whom have supported me. The N'Damus range is growing. Bags are just the beginning.
FS: How supportive are your family and friends in your creative venture?
NO: My family and friends are one of the reasons I continue to believe in myself and the ability and the growth of N'Damus. Their support is second to none to me and they do not tell me what I want to hear but rather what I need to hear to grow, develop and improve.

FS: Would you be moving into anything else or just focusing on handbags?
NO: Most definitely. I shall soon launch the N'Damus range of accessories to accompany the bags.
FS: What advice would you give to someone wishing to follow your footsteps?
NO: I often read what other entrepreneurs say when asked this question and understand fully their answers. Hard work, passion and belief in yourself first as well as knowing your venture is of paramount importance. Surround yourself with people you can learn from and be prepared to share your learnings and experience. Nothing in life is without challenges but it's important to remember "a challenge is just another achievement waiting to happen".

FS: Financially speaking, how hard is it to turn creativity & passion into a business?
NO: This is where planning is important. My father always said 'cut your coat according to your size'. Now is an obviously difficult and financially challenging time to start a business venture however if you have something that people are interested in, that's one step further along the road of financial productivity. It's definitely been challenging especially because I've completed self funding N'Damus. I've learned to cut back on things which are not important to fund right now in order to feed my passion.
FS: What is the best thing of being Nigerian?
NO: Knowing that it is in my BLOOD to succeed.
FS: If I were to ask your friends to describe you, what would they say?….in 5 words.
NO: Determined, ambitious, business-minded, loyal and feisty.
To get your hands on one of these clutches or to inspire your own, please contact here via her newly launched website:
Thanks for stopping by!


Gidan Nodza said...

Great looking pieces. Trust my Naija babe represent'g.

Yayemarie said...

very nice and detailed oriented line..great interview:)

Fah-schyonysta said...

Thanks Gidan & Yaye for your comments. Thanks for checking my blog too!
Much love

*Diane* said...

these purses are gorgeous!

Nneka aka N'Damus said...

Many thanks ladies!

Nneka aka 'N'Damus'


Women Leather Blazer said...

nice post love it