Zizi Cardow

Based in Lagos, fashion label Zizi Cardow blends bold Nigerian prints and elegant materials with a progressive sensibility

When Zizi Cardow landed her first job at the age of 17, as a sales assistant in a boutique, little did she know that one day she would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of her own label, and hailed as a pioneer of Nigerian design.

That first taste of employment sparked a love for fashion, and Zizi bought a sewing machine and set about teaching herself the skills she needed to produce her own creations. Without any formal training, but plenty of what she describes as “dogged perseverance”, her eponymous brand was founded in 2000. Since then, she’s won awards (including Designer of the Year at the Nigerian Fashion Show), dressed political figures and celebrities, and featured on runways from Paris to Milan, from Cape Town to Tel Aviv.

Designed and handcrafted in Lagos, Zizi’s collections feature bright Nigerian prints, sophisticated lace and sumptuous sequins. Her pieces are cut in sleek, flattering, feminine lines, as well as in bold shapes and avant-garde, asymmetrical silhouettes. “Fashion for me is a way of life,” she says. “It emboldens, liberates and empowers. It’s a powerful sociopolitical tool for change.” This is far more than just rhetoric: Zizi is using her brand to bring Nigeria’s rich heritage and fabric traditions to a global stage, to build bridges between the divided, fight for gender equality, and boost the country’s home-grown economy.

“I wanted to establish a distinct identity for Nigeria; a contemporary fashion look with a view to globalisation, that would help to bridge the gaps between multiple ethnic groups,” says Zizi. “With this we created an appreciation for our cultural heritage, not to mention the wealth generation that came from more global awareness and recognition.” She is also proactive in fighting for women’s rights. “The Zizi Cardow woman is a strong, confident woman who is not afraid to challenge the status quo,” she explains. To this end, Zizi serves as an ambassador for Project Alert – a charity that supports abused women and children – and speaks at events organised by the Women
In Africa initiative.

 Her brand isn’t just about stunning fashion – Zizi Cardow champions what a woman can achieve with determination. As she says: “My drive and passion come from loving what I do.”