Getting To Know You: Chinasa Chukwu of Weruzo

Bad Blogger | Weruzo

Meet Chinasa Chukwu, a law graduate turned fashion designer with a passion for community and a drive to establish positive change in the world. At only 26 years old, she runs an industry approved fashion label called Weruzo, holds a position as fashion editor at XXY Magazine and writes poetry in her spare time - as you do! Here she shares more about her decision to switch up her career path, the mood behind her brand and why sustainability is important for the future of our planet.


“Who is this brand?”, I exclaimed moments after being shown the Instagram account for Weruzo by a mutual friend. A simple page with striking and purposeful imagery, I resonated with every squared-shaped picture shared and felt a deep connection to the brand even though I had only just laid my eyes upon it five seconds before. With London being such a small world, unsurprisingly I ran into Chinasa - the designer and founder of the brand - at a women in business event and rather abruptly confessed my undying love for Weruzo. If she thought I was a crazed fan, she was too polite to show it because 10 minutes later she kindly accepted my invitation to coffee - a guise simply to nosy into her background and influences, as well as casually force a relationship unto her. That coffee date turned into a bookshop rendez-vous - after both admitting to being HUGE book worms - turned into several whole-day catch ups in the months after, turned into a new and wonderful friendship. This is all due to Chinasa and the incredibly understanding, caring and knowledgable person she is - someone who I now call on several times in the week for advice on both private and professional matters. Her work ethic, go-get-it attitude and eye for meaningful imagery are some of the many reasons why I’m excited and honoured to have her share more about her journey into fashion here; a true inspiration to me and others alike. 

The Journey into Founding a Company…

Bad Blogger | Chinasa Chukwu

I had a nomadic childhood - having been raised between Nigeria and England - and so became accustomed to moving around a bit. As a result, I was exposed to the extreme differences in living situations within both countries from a very young age, particularly the obvious poverty. Both my parents come from big families and being the most financially successful, they were always very generous in terms of helping out their siblings. So I grew up feeling like people helping people was the norm and decided that my version of making a difference to others was by becoming a lawyer and changing the world with a court case. I undertook a law degree at King’s College but very quickly realised it wasn’t going to be the avenue that I would use to create a positive impact, so I needed another vehicle to advocate change. I was quite creative as a child, whether writing poetry and short stories under the supervision of my father or sketching traditional outfits to get tailored with my mother - a norm for Nigerians. So when a friend suggested I try interning at Max Mara - somewhere she had interned too - it felt like a natural transition. Once there, I quickly realised that I had an emotional connection to the way in which clothes were put together. There were floors with different subsections of the brand and each section had a different story, creating a new world for customers. That was the first thing that drew me to thinking about design as a career. I interned all over fashion to get an overview of the industry, started taking short courses in pattern cutting and sewing at LCF and got a position as a design assistant at Sarah Baardarani. Finally, I had some time out to think about and research starting my own brand. 

The Brand…

At the beginning of 2015, I launched Weruzo, a luxury brand transposing traditional heritage fabrics into modern silhouettes. I wanted to create a sustainable brand that incorporated the dichotomy of my Nigerian and British backgrounds.

Modern heritage is really important to me and I wanted something that made sense to who I am as an individual, capturing the nuances of the two cultures because I belong to both.

Plus design is about more than just the aesthetics for me. It’s about the construction of the pieces. I’m inspired by brands like Bottega Veneta because of the value they place on the craftsmanship of their bags. Being a tactile person, I knew my brand had to involve using your hands. Whilst visiting my mother’s hometown, I came across a trunk in her bedroom filled with incredible clothes and fabrics - and one particular piece that felt almost like molten gold. Then and there, I decided this was to be the signature piece for my brand. However, it turned out that it wasn’t widely produced any longer. I searched around for six months before a relative took me to see the weavers. At the time, there were only two women still making akwete because it’s so labour intensive and expensive to sell. Still they showed me their looms and explained the history of the fabric to me - where in the past it had been exchanged for gold bars by travellers - and I was so fascinated. When you feel that material, you can tell it has an amazing story behind it so I decided to create a luxury brand out of that and settled on Weruzo (part of my name meaning “this way”) as the label.

The Sustainability Element

When I stepped into the industry and realised how much waste fashion was producing, I was floored. I had sleepless nights wondering about the fate of the world, struggling to understand how humans could have such a negative impact on the planet - such as drying out a sea - just because of clothes. Then you start learning about labour practices and how much people are paid, which tipped the scale. Consumerism has become a comfort for people but we need to rethink the way we amass things - it actually becomes a fire hazard for your home. I couldn’t live like that and as such, my collections are purposely small because ultimately we don’t need to shop that much.

Bad Blogger | Weruzo Interview

The Audience…

It’s more about a spirit than a target audience. Weruzo is for someone a little more considered than an impulse buyer because it’s about connecting with both the aesthetic and the mood of the brand. It could be for someone that loves the way it looks and can afford to buy it casually. Or it could be for someone that has to save up to buy a special piece from the brand. Either way, I want our customer to feel like they are part of our story.

The Successes...

When I first started this journey, there were only two women making akwete. With more orders from Weruzo, there are now 6 women who live off of it. That there’s been an increase in women who are interested in getting involved - and it’s not a craft that is dying out - that is success to me.

Having people in your industry care about your work is a great boost and I’m honoured to be featured in their publications but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of developing something new with these women. 

The Challenges

While I’m big believer in working hard to get what you want, imposter syndrome has been a really big challenge for me. I’m not the best at networking, which is annoying because so much of this industry is dependant on networking. Walking into an event and feeling like I’m not meant to be there or not wanting to talk too much in case I get questioned about not having a fashion degree, put me off the idea of networking during the first few years of Weruzo. That and the ever present cash flow problem for any young business, specifically for the luxury brands. With the retail landscape changing so much, retailers are taking far fewer risks than they did before. 

Bad Blogger | Weruzo

The Advice

Just start! You’re going to fail, you’re going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, send the wrong email, be rejected again and again. Let that fuel your determination but you do have to get used to failure being part of the journey to success.

Know that success is getting up every time after you fail and trying again until it works.

Make sure you have a vision that you can hold to so that when those rejections come through and those failures happen, you remember what you’re doing it all for. 

The Future...

I’m happy that I’m no longer at the beginning. The first 2 years of starting my business was a big learning experience, mostly in figuring out my design style and the brand’s aesthetic for a stronger identity. You can definitely see the growth from my first collection to now. With AW18 coming out soon and a few collaborations next year, I’m really excited for everyone to see the hard work that has been put into Weruzo and the upcoming projects.


TOP FAVOURITE

Pieces from Weruzo… The top I’m wearing in these photos, the green suit from AW16 and the red dress from SS16.

Fashion Designers… Joseph Altuzarra, Phoebe Philo at Celine and Raf Simons.

Publication Features… The Hunger Magazine shoot looked like such a great editorial, and the Harpers Bazaar one because I had no idea it was even happening.


Keep up with Weruzo on their WEBSITE and INSTAGRAM for more.