Nigeria’s Zainab Ashadu making a bold statement overseas with her Zashadu handbag brand
Lately, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about Northern Nigeria? Probably it would be Boko Haram, and the distasteful kidnap of young girls by the insurgents. The insurgency stories are all over our news update on Northern Nigeria, but what you don’t often hear are the stories of people making bold statements with their innovative, entrepreneurial ideas.
The Zashadu handbags have a unique distinction from other handbags; they are modern-looking and quite colorful yet they are made using the ancient art of leather tanning and dyeing that traces its root from the ancient tradition of the Northern Nigeria people.
Speaking to AFP, Zainab said, “I think people like the story behind the bags. They like the fact that the bag has roots and origins”.
Zainab runs a workshop in Lagos’ working class district or more specifically in Festac Town. A typical day inside her workshop, one would encounter the buzzing sounds made by the Singer sewing machines. She has a staff of about six artisans who collectively make between 200-300 bags annually.
Zainab’s parents originated from Northern Nigeria, which makes international headlines for all the wrong reasons. But the regions has a rich history for producing high-quality leather that is used by designers to make top-notch handbags and purses which are then sold overseas at prices ranging between $180 to $980. The leather comes from Northern Nigeria’s largest city, Kano, goatskin comes from Sokoto and snake farms in the region produce python skins.
Unlike fashion houses found in Europe that import raw leather from Nigeria then tans and dyes it, Zainab has chosen to utilize the centuries-old knowledge of the Kano artisans.
“It is very important for me to work in a sustainable way,” Zainab says, “I work with small families of tanners, the animals are traceable, we use vegetable dyes and other environmentally friendly dyes, and also the dyers work all together to save energy.”
Zainab says she gets her inspiration from the hours spent in the big Mushin market located in the suburbs of Lagos, where she goes hunting for bargains. Inside the market, one is bound to come across leather off-cuts and rejects, particularly from the Italian fashion houses.
“It’s so vibrant…there’s so much leather available and sometimes the sellers have no idea of the quality of what they sell. There’s antelope – that is very soft – there’s goatskin, sheepskin…”
Once the leather is bought, her team back at the workshop makes them into handbags and purses. She says that all of her team members have received specialist training from leatherwork school located in the northern city of Zaria.
You can read more on this Nigerian female entrepreneur making bold statements overseas with her leather handbags by visiting AFP by following this link.