We had the good fortune of connecting with Emeka Ukaga and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emeka, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I was formally trained as an architect and civil engineer but have always been interested in fashion and from a young age, I was surrounded by entrepreneurial parents, West African design aesthetics, and a childhood love of drawing, design, and creativity.
Growing up as a Nigerian-American I always had a deep appreciation specifically for the West African aesthetic tradition. From sculpture to visual arts, textile patterns to architecture, I was always captivated by these designs growing up and they influenced much of my artistic development during my formative years.
My fashion brand SENTI borrows heavily from my West African roots in order to produce fabrics and silhouettes for my brand which call back to these influences. Sourcing fabrics predominantly from West Africa, SENTI is extremely mindful in ensuring that the clothing we produce remains true to the legacy that has come before it. Additionally, everything from the logo, branding, to the textile printing of the brand also borrows from West African design, artistic, or logographic motifs.
SENTI makes frequent use of the visual artform of Uli in its work and we have made this a key pillar in the design of our clothing. The logo for SENTI is based on the Uli design for the kola nut. To understand the significance of this, one would have to understand the importance of Uli body art and the kola nuts in Igbo society. “Used in cultural traditions of the Igbo people, the presentation of kola nuts to guests or in a traditional gathering shows goodwill.” —Wikipedia. Additionally, Uli are “the curvilinear traditional designs drawn by the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. These designs are generally abstract, consisting of linear forms and geometric shapes. Traditionally, these are either stained onto the body or painted onto the sides of buildings as murals. Uli is not directly symbolic but instead focused on the creation of a visual impact and decorating the body of the patron or building in question.” —Wikipedia.
SENTI, at its most fundamental level, is a West African and Igbo brand. But its stated goal is to take these honored traditions and share them with the entire world. Much like our ancestors have done for years, SENTI hopes to break the proverbial kola nut with all those who wish to experience and share in the West African design tradition with us.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Whenever I have family or friends visit I love to take them up to either Sedona or Flagstaff for a day trip. There’s amazing hiking, sightseeing, and it has an entirely unique vibe apart from Phoenix.
In the Phoenix area, I love to check out exhibits at the Phoenix Art Museum as well as hangout at bars and restaurants downtown. Some highlights would be From the Rooftop, Sazerac, as well as Chico Malo.
Instagram: @sentidesigns ; @ukagaemeka
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OVTtC3saceAbNGnYC3CTE85h1MMXfWwq/view?usp=sharing Natalie Howe of NatalieHCreative Jenny Kaufman of Xposed Capture Photography