THE CHANGEMAKER

Meet Akudo Iheakanwa, founder of Shekudo

How did your journey in the fashion industry begin?

I began to dabble in design during my time in Sydney, Australia where I worked whilst attending university. I began creating pieces with my best friend and soon after, Shekudo was born. We relaunched Shekudo in 2017 with a fresh new look and aesthetic. From there, we went from a team of four to 14 artisans and master craftsmen in just over a year. 

What’s your biggest business accomplishment so far?

Being featured at Paris Fashion Week’s Made in Africa presentation was a huge achievement for us. Seeing Shekudo featured alongside brands that we have followed and admired for years was truly amazing. In 2018 I was awarded Best Emerging Shoe Designer in Africa which was another big moment for me and pushed me to give even more. 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in your work?

When sourcing sustainable materials for our products, I learnt that Nigeria is one of the main exporters of goat skin leather for famous brands such as Louis Vuitton who use the leather for both garments and bags. This discovery also came with some difficulties as most of the leather is exported and sold in huge quantities. Producers have minimum orders which local designers cannot meet so we rely on remnant leather or tracking down those few sellers who will agree to sell to us directly before exporting. 

In your personal life, what do you do to be more eco-responsible?

I do my best to always use reusable tote bags when shopping. Plastic bags are handed out so liberally in Nigeria and the way in which it’s discarded would make your stomach turn. We don’t have access to safe tap water so a lot of people rely on bottled or plastic wrapped water. At my home, we always try to use large reusable water dispensers which we exchange at the shops whenever we need a refill. I also carry my own reusable bottle with me so I don’t have to buy plastic bottles when I’m out. 

What do you do to disconnect?

I love to write. Stopping and writing in my gratitude journal or a notebook allows me to recenter and feel at peace. It gives me space to disconnect and unload any thoughts that might be crowding my mind. I also love to read and I am currently reading “The little book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking and “Untethered soul” by Michael A. Singer. 

Your favourite place to be in nature?

Growing up in Australia means I love everything about nature. I am a huge fan of camping although it’s difficult here in Nigeria. I spend a lot of time walking in conservation parks and taking the time to breathe and appreciate nature. I also love spending time in secluded spots at the beach. The sound of the water is incredibly soothing and reminds me of my time road tripping around Australia. 

What are your go-to sustainable brands? 

I tend to design most of my clothes myself and we will actually be launching a Shekudo clothing line soon. There are a few ethical and sustainable local brands which I love and whose values align with my own: AAKS, NKWO Official, Abiola Olusola and Orange Culture as well as international brands like Mara Hoffman, ADAY.

If you could share any advice to someone looking to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle? 

Stop and examine your day-to-day activities. From the way you brush your teeth to how you drink water, wash plates and host parties. It’s often the smallest things that can make a huge difference to your personal environmental footprint.

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