Last week, we attended Hub of Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You know the place where civilization is believed to have begun, where all the most beautiful women are thought to reside, and home to the African Union. It’s the ideal place of where old world is slowly catching up to the new world, but preserving their culture and beauty all at the same time. So in ode to Hub of Africa Addis Ababa, each day we’ll be posting a Designer to Watch, showcasing the talents of Africa, spill the beans on the places to go while there, and of course, places to stay. Our first story begins with designer, Obe of ROOOI.

He’s a London based, Nigerian designer that is on a mission. He’s committed to his craft, holds his works in high regards, but will be the first person to tell you something he created was “absolute shit”. He’s aware, he’s honest, and most importantly he’s hardworking. This season, his collection entitled “Scarlet October” was inspired by that power player in the room. You know her, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks because her work speaks for itself. She makes no excuses for her mistakes, and rises like the sun after a major fall. The person that comes to mind when I think of ROOOI’s collection is Rihanna.

What’s the inspiration behind your collection?
It comes from the fabrics I work with and music. To be honest, I’m a believer of good music. This collection has been inspired by the music of Whitney Houston. It took two me two weeks to really get this collection ready, and Whitney Houston lifted my spirits the entire time.

A lot of your pieces have been worn by Nollywood actresses, tell us about that.
(laughs) Yes, I’ve been so fortunate to dress some of the biggest Nollywood actresses and musicians like Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Yvonne Nelson from Ghana, and some African royalties. I’m really proud of working with them as they’ve really supported my brand.

Wow… those are big names. What’s your take on traveling from west to east, and being a part of Hub of Africa Fashion Week?
Ethiopia IS the Hub of Africa. Being London based this is definitely the beginning of ROOOI’s expansion into Africa. In as much as my designs can be a bit European with an African twist, I still know I’m an African designer.

It seems like you’re on this journey where you are committed to what you do. Is fashion your background?
No, fashion isn’t my background. I started my education as a medical student, but I dropped off and didn’t know what to do next. So I decided I needed a degree first, just for a sake of a degree, and went back to university to study business management and accounting. At the same time, I was prepping my brand ROOOI. It’s a passion that needs to come deep down in you. You don’t need the formal training if it’s something you really want.

So you’re self-taught in a sense?
Like I said, it comes from deep down. I don’t even know where, but it did. I always knew I had a passion for it. I come from a family where my parents and siblings were all fashion conscious, but none were ever designers. My first collection wasn’t on point, I’ll admit that, but when they saw the designs they knew this guy was on a real journey

What do we have to look forward to in the coming seasons?
You have to wait for my AW15 to see what ROOOI is all about. That’s all I’m going to say. (laughs)


Photo Credit: Hailemaria Segewokalabi of Abi Photography and Abiy Solomon