Nigerian designer Zainab Ashadu is making a difference in the country's fashion industry with her homemade luxury handbags. As Grace Pascoe reports the brand is also beginning to make a mark in international markets.
Mulberry and Michael Kors need not worry quite yet. But there's a new designer on the handbag scene - and she's from Nigeria. Zainab Ashadu has a workshop in Lagos, making leather bags for the luxury market - including the international one. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ZAINAB ASHADU, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ZASHADU SAYING: "I have always had a passion for handbags since I was a little girl, and as I grew up I explored all my different passions but the allure of handbags was still very much present when I was in my mid twenties." Zainab trained in London but returned to Nigeria to start her business with an initial investment of $54 U.S. dollars. She makes her luxury Zashadu bags using a variety of local leathers, including python, goat, crocodile and sheep. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ZAINAB ASHADU, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ZASHADU SAYING: "I knew that Nigeria had a history in leather production that is not well documented at all, and so I was intrigued by that so I wanted to explore the leathers that we produce and see what I could fashion and create from that." Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy. Its growing middle class is buying more and more luxury goods. And Zashadu's bags sell locallly for upwards of 150 dollars. Jennifer Obbayuwana owns the Polo Luxury Group which stocks them. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JENNIFER OBBAYUWANA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, POLO LUXURY GROUP SAYING: "We are proud of the Zashadu brand. It's very original, it can play any where internationally and win, she can compete internationally and win." Zashadu's handbags are already sold in some of the world's fashion capitals, including London and Paris, proving hard work and fresh ideas can compete in the crowded luxury market.