Dumebi Iyamah designs her own success

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Fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah turns her hobby into a career. (Photo: Supplied by Dumebi Iyamah/Illuminessence)

Fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah turns her hobby into a career. (Photo: Supplied by Dumebi Iyamah/Illuminessence)

Dumebi Iyamah was out shopping on a Saturday afternoon. On average, the 20-year-old does that three times a week.

But she doesn’t usually bring home with her the latest line of clothes and accessories. Instead, Iyamah was lugging a bag of pastel-coloured fabrics and box of elastic.

They are for her clothing line, Andrea Iyamah, which specializes in custom couture and swimwear. Andrea Iyamah originally began as a fashion blog before it developed into a clothing line in 2011. While she had always enjoyed sewing, Iyamah didn’t think she would be able to start her own clothing line.  Iyamah came to Canada four years ago from Nigeria to pursue a degree in communication studies and multimedia.

Passionate Pursuit

“I have always wanted to be a designer. But I thought it would be when I turn 30. I didn’t think I would start at 17,

The youngest in a family of six, she fondly recalls how she would save up money just to purchase a sewing machine. She vividly remembers her first collection; it consisted of only two pieces of clothing: a pair of shorts and jacket. Her sister modeled them and she photographed her.

Now, as she gears up for the Spring and Summer season with her swimwear collection, Andrea Iyamah is selling about 1,000 pieces of custom designed swimwear online. The title of this swimwear collection, Nkwor, is inspired by her late father Andy Nkwor Iyamah, who passed away when she was 7 years old.

Edgy yet sophisticated, the pastel-coloured swimwear, some with a hint of tribalism, exude a youthful vibe. Iyamah thinks that her clothes should bring out the confidence and beauty in each woman.

“It’s like an open world for any kind of girl,” she says, emphasizing the need to be versatile in fashion.

Local and International Acclaim

Andrea Iyamah has been featured in various local and international fashion shows. From a student-run cultural extravaganza at the University of Pittsburg to fundraising for a nonprofit children’s organization in Nigeria, Iyamah has started to establish an international presence for her clothing line. Andrea Iyamah fashion has been featured in Mania magazine. Iyamah herself was recently featured as one of the 13 Designers for 2013 in Wow magazine.  Celebrities, including former Miss Tanzania Millen Magese, are seen flaunting Andrea Iyamah designs on red carpets across Nigeria.


Andrea Iyamah custom couture (Photo: Supplied by Dumebi Iyamah/Illuminessence)

Iyamah’s success is also evident at a local level; the 2011 Andrea Iyamah Fashion Show and Cocktail Party in Hamilton Convention Centre saw 200-300 people coming together to catch a glimpse of Iyamah’s latest line of clothes.

But Iyamah would be the first to admit that starting and maintaining a fashion line is no easy feat. There are many stages involved, beginning from sketching, designing and manufacturing. This is followed by the photo shot where she would select models, fit them and photograph them. The last photo shot took about 15 hours to complete, she says.

“[It is] getting things right to make things look professional. People think it’s easy. Get the clothes, put them up and go for it,” she says, highlighting this misconception about the fashion industry.

Iyamah also needs to think about marketing her products, gaining publicity through websites and magazines and promoting them via social media.

“How do you keep in touch and bring them back? Engage them let them know you understand them,” she advises.

As she juggles school and her own business, Iyamah is thankful to have her family and friends for support. She turns to her mother, who first encouraged her to take sewing lessons, and her sisters back in Nigeria.

Perspectives on business

“In business, you have to be able to make mistakes. To know what the best step is and being able to get out of mistakes,” she says.

“It’s knowing how to get back up.

Be ready to learn.”

Connect with Andrea Iyamah on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos: Supplied by Dumebi Iyamah

Alyssa Lai is a proud McMaster alumna with an alliterative degree, B.A. (Hons) in Communication Studies and Theatre and Film Studies. She asks questions, listens and capture stills showcasing Hamilton. More at about.me/alyssalai