Inside Dr. Liza Egbogah’s Closet Full of Pieces by Nigerian

Photograph by Vai Yu Law.

Her collection of shiny printed and embellished pieces keeps her connected to her roots.

Toronto-based manual osteopath Dr. Liza Egbogah fell in love with the flair of the Nigerian bandage before she started wearing it herself. “I loved looking at my mom’s old photos because everyone was wearing traditional wax print dresses,” she recalls. “I would ask my mom how I could get these kind of pieces and she would say, ‘I never thought you would be interested in Nigerian clothes.’”

This could be due in part to Egbogah’s international education; she was born in Calgary and lived in Libya and Malaysia while growing up. But she remembers that on her visits to her ancestral home – her parents were born in the same Nigerian village – she was fascinated by what women wore in the markets.

nigerian designers liza egbogah
Egbogah wears a mattress topper and shorts from Toronto-based brand Precious Threads from Abiola, founded by Abiola Akinsiku, a survivor of domestic violence.

It was while in Malaysia that she developed a love of batik – the age-old printing work typically done with wax that also appears in the traditional clothing of African nations. Attending an international school where uniforms were compulsory, Egbogah nurtured his interest in the creative potential of batik during his art classes, eventually creating a small “collection of T-shirts and scrunchies”.

As a teenager, she returned to Calgary and found herself “eager to fit in”; his style throughout this training period consisted mainly of hoodies and pieces from early adopters of the athleisure aesthetic, such as Triple Five Soul and Baby Phat.

nigerian designers liza egbogah
Fleeing the Biafran war means that Egbogah’s family has lost a lot of their belongings. A ‘desire to be connected to [her] roots ”is one of the reasons she is drawn to the work of local artisans and designers.

Her sartorial appetites changed when she was in her early 20s – when her parents moved back to their home country and her mother began bringing back vibrantly printed Nigerian looks to her family when she visited Canada . “It was a turning point for me,” Egbogah says. She began to travel to Nigeria more frequently and a deep interest in the culture and style of the region took hold.

From items her mom gave her to bespoke pieces Egbogah acquired for special events, the range of craft techniques – patterns, textures and abundant embellishments in Nigerian fashion – is now stored in a specific storage space in his house. .

nigerian designers liza egbogah
Egbogah fell in love with the Nigerian style thanks to old photos that were taken before the family was finally forced to give up traditional ways of dressing during British colonial rule.

“I can’t say I have a favorite – I have favoritesShe said laughing while mentally browsing through her collected items, including purchases.
designers like Emmy Kasbit and JZO. The pioneers include floral pieces in pink hues designed for her bridal parties and a richly detailed top, skirt and matching headpiece she had made for her father’s funeral.

Personalization is the cornerstone of the Nigerian style; Anyone who attends a social event is expected to arrive in an outfit that has never been worn by the wearer before. “You’re only supposed to wear them once,” Egbogah says of second-hand clothes. “Then you give it to someone else to wear or it is given to a tailor to be reworked for everyday use.” Let go of the couture-level wardrobe items so important that Egbogah has harassed, which is another reason she cultivates a personal collection. When she visits Nigeria now, one of her favorite things to pick up is the hand painted clothes. “They’ll start with plain cotton, then each hand paint,” she says of these handcrafted items. “I consider this art wearable. Instead of focusing on buying paintings to hang, I’m interested in wearing paintings.

nigerian designers liza egbogah
The luxurious beading of a tailored top and helmet that Egbogah wore at his father’s funeral pays homage to his refined taste. “He’s never worn jeans a day in his life,” she recalls.

In fact, Egbogah is so keen on preserving the creativity of Nigerian designers and designers that she attended Lagos Fashion Week last year (for just three days – that was all her busy schedule allowed her. ). It was her first time attending the event and she returned to Toronto ready to invest in the pieces she had seen. “It opened my eyes to so many contemporary Nigerian designers, and now I strive to collect their pieces and support them,” she says. However, this effort has not been easy. Prior to discovering West-based Africa-focused e-commerce sites such as Ditto Africa, she was unable to purchase coins in Nigeria due to currency restrictions put in place by the Canadian government.

Fortunately, Egbogah was also able to satisfy her passion for Nigerian style from Canada and became a close friend and collaborator of designer Abiola Akinsiku’s Precious Threads. Akinsiku’s vibrant print collections and the important story behind his brand resonate deeply with Egbogah, which owns more than a dozen Precious Threads pieces from Abiola. “She is a survivor of domestic violence,” she notes of Akinsiku, “and the proceeds are used to support other abused women.”

nigerian designers liza egbogah
Egbogah hopes to one day gift her collection to her five-year-old niece, whom she describes as a young fashion designer.

When she reflects on her bond with Akinsiku – who has created a three-piece capsule collection as well as shoe embellishments for Egbogah’s orthopedic shoe brand, Dr. Liza – she highlights a pervasive inclination, but rarely mentioned openly, in the creative professions. . “I don’t know if it’s because of the work I do to fix people, but for some reason I’m still drawn to pain,” Egbogah says. “I find that so much beauty comes from the pain of others.”

She also feels close to the talent she comes across on the TIFF Tour, where she hosts an annual charity event in addition to a studio set up to provide medical care to the stars. Egbogah says she’s really interested in the “joy and beauty” that comes from the trauma and sadness that many creative people grapple with.

nigerian designers liza egbogah
Egbogah is so thrilled with eye-catching Nigeria prints that she has even developed iterations for use in her line of shoes, including the Ankara print seen here. “I see fashion as an art,” she says. “I invest in things that are beautiful and support creativity.”

In the same way that she strives to turn suffering into something good through her occupation, Egbogah chooses to focus on how she can amplify Nigerian creations by expanding her collection and, of course, bringing it to life. wearing. “It is with pleasure that I feel a sense of purpose when I manage to put Nigeria in a positive light,” she said. “One of the reasons I am so active in promoting Nigerian fashion is that the country receives so much negative publicity. But when you look at beautiful fashion, music and art – things that move people… You cannot have a negative impression of Nigeria if you love all the wonderful local arts. And there is a joy in celebrating heritage. It is my blood; they are my people. They are doing great things, and I want to share that with everyone. “

nigerian designers liza egbogah
A dress by Emmy Kasbit with Akwete fabric on the bodice is one of Egbogah’s favorites. the textile is from the eastern region of his family’s home country and reminds him of his grandmother’s old aprons.

Photography, Vai Yu law; Hair and make-up, Esther Kieselhof.

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