Ugonna Holsten tells us all about her luxury brand Ugo's Boutique
Designer and Entrepreneur
Please describe your label in a couple of lines
The name of my business is Ugo's Boutique. At Ugo we offer vibrant oilcloth bags made from traditional African fabrics which are beautifully handmade in the UK.
Our guiding principal is to provide customers with an exclusive, high-quality, statement piece that gorgeously accents their outfit and that's where we come in with our innovative bags.
Our promise is ownership of a bag that is durable unique and transeasonal; a bag that has a story that represents innovation, excellence and acts as a metaphoric preservation of the African heritage.
Where were you born?
Where are you based now?
London, United Kingdom
How did you get into fashion design?
In late 2005 my family and I travelled to my hometown Nigeria. It was the first time I'd revisited since I came to England in 1989 and the one thing I was instantly inspired by was the visual feast of the fabrics. Reminiscing back to growing up in Lagos, I recalled that whether it was the rainy season, harmattan or in the blazing sun.; there was never a time we locked our vivid fabrics away in anticipation of a brighter day to unleash them.
I returned from my holiday on a mission to offer a product that could be worn all year round and that could withstand daily usage. My journey into fashion design began the and after learning Pattern Cutting at Central Saint Martins and building a portfolio at the London College of Fashion, UGO was born. When I started the business my goal was to provide a bag that is functional yet stylish, eye catching but versatile and classic enough to be enjoyed all year round.
What inspires your designs?
I am predominately inspired by vivid colour combinations and patterns. Before sourcing fabrics I research colour trends so I have a rough idea of the direction for the season trends. I'm not always on the money with colour trends but I make sure that my collection has at least one thing in it that is editorially suitable so when my bags are called in for fashion shoots I know my bags have a place if there is a theme/direction. Tassels are really popular and our Bucket Bag is a very classic shape but it's also on trend with the added tassel detail.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your own label?
For me it has to be 'hat switching' by that I mean continuously changing my role; sometimes I go from designing to PR to admin to accounting to model scouting in a day. As much I'd like to believe I'm good at multi-tasking, when I can I try and avoid doing that. Instead I try and plan days at a stretch just focusing on one aspect of the label and I find the results a lot more effective.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I had a customer based in New York who was on vacation in London. He came along to a pop up event I took part in earlier in the year and told me the story of how he found my label. He spotted a bag he liked, took a picture of it on his phone and Googled a keyword I'd attributed to my website. He found my website and came along to one of my events.
He showed me the picture he took of the customer wearing my bag in New York and explained to me the lengths he went through to track my label down. He was happy he was able to find my label, come along to the event and purchased a rucksack. Call it serendipity but i was really chuffed to discover the great lengths people go through to have something they really like.
What are your hopes and dreams for your business in the future?
I'm in this for the long haul so in the next ten years I hope to have successfully scaled my business; supplying to a handful of really good boutiques and retailers. My goal is to also collaborate with artists and designers worldwide; I have a list of exciting people in mind, it's a very sweet clash and visual feast of cultures and styles.
What is your favourite outfit you have designed and why?
There is a story behind every bag I design my favourite design changes on a weekly basis. Back in the day I grew up on the hip-hop scene listening to the likes of The Roots, Common, Talib Kweli and Mos Def. As well as being practical, stylish and durable I guess having something in the collection like the rucksack is a sentiment to my youth.
If you could design an outfit for one person, who would you choose and why?
Santigold I think would really appreciate one of our bags on her shoulder and I think she has quite an individual style to pull it off quite nicely too.
Generally my bag would be perfect for someone who is discerning with their purchases and has a good eye for craftsmanship and appreciation for design. For me the priority of a discerning customer is uniqueness, exclusivity and durability and is educated of the price tag that comes with such an offering.
To paint a picture she/he shops in a variety of places from high street to vintage and charity shops, she is not trend driven and doesn't own everything "on trend' but they are very aware of what's going on in the fashion scene. They have a very strong sense of style and every piece in their wardrobe has a story, she's drawn to colour and is very well travelled.
What is the most important advice you would give to young people looking for a career in fashion design?
A career in fashion design in particular running your own fashion label is a lot of hard work. To make your business a success you have to ensure you either educate yourself on requirements in running a business or hire the right professionals to do it for you. Although getting a trained professional to do your PR, accounting etc, I still think it's necessary to know the basics at least.