Welcome to Goddess Directory's interview series! If there's anything you're looking to see, feel free to send over your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know on Instagram at @goddessdirectory.
When I started asking the people I interview about how the pandemic has effected their businesses, I had no idea that I'd still be asking that question a year later. A lot of things have become normal since then - staying home every day, social distancing, ordering all food to-go, and of course, wearing face masks.
While there finally looks to be an end in sight, I personally don't see masks going away any time soon, and like a lot of people, I've grown to see them as additional ways to accessorize my outfits. That's why I was so excited when Sakeenah Ashiru reached out to me on my personal Instagram and I was introduced to her absolutely gorgeous emboridered masks that were unlike any others I had seen. I love the one I have so much that it became a new brainer to talk to her for Goddess Directory, and through our interview I learned about the long history Sakeenah has in fashion design, her global influences, and her ambitious (incredibly exciting) plans for the future. Enjoy!
My pick: I have the marroon mask in Zinnia and I absolutely love it!
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: My love for fashion started as a little girl. I was always fascinated by the women in the fancy dresses on the magazines back in Nigeria. I would sit on the burgundy tile floor of my bedroom cutting up and glueing pictures of everything that intrigued me, scandalous or not. I started designing and making dresses at the age of thirteen. My designs are highly influenced by my global environment. I am mostly self-taught. I went to school to study business and design in LSU and Jiangnan University in China. I currently reside in New York. I enjoy working with each of my clients to create their dream dresses because it is a beautiful collaboration between myself and my client. It is an honor to bring their dreams to life. When the era of 2020 took place and a lot of people were having a hard time trying to balance between fashion and health, I knew that I had to do something about it. My job is not just to make people look beautiful, my job is mostly to make people feel beautiful. So, I immediately got to work in my apartment creating the most beautiful delicate and detailed embroidery designs that could be worn as face masks. People are responding to it in the most empowering way; from New York, to Paris, to Houston, to Germany, to London, to Poland, to California, and around the world. Not only are these face masks being worn globally, a percentage of the profit of each mask being sold supports low income families in New York that have been impacted by the pandemic.
Q: Was there a moment when you felt like this was something that was going to take off and become a success for you?
A: I don’t believe there was a moment when I felt like this was something that was going to take off and become a success for me. Being a fashion designer feels like breathing to me. It’s a form of therapy for me. It’s what makes me feel excited to wake up in the morning. I do not know if I am successful or not, but what I know is that fashion design is just something I cannot live without.
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting to create your brand? Were you nervous to share it?
A: It took a while for my parents to get on board with me choosing Fashion design as a career path. While we were in Nigeria before we moved to the United States, Fashion design was not really a thriving successful path, it was not a thing. People did not choose fashion design as a career; it was strictly a hobby. While I was there I knew it was something I really wanted to do but I didn’t know how to bring it up into conversations with friends or family. When my family and I migrated to the United States 10+ years ago that is when I felt like there could definitely be a chance for me to be a Fashion designer here. While I was in high school, whenever I came back home after hours I would sit on the floor of my room just creating new patterns on paper using my old clothes to create the blueprint for the new outfit I was about to make. That is how I started teaching myself how to design clothes. Whenever I created new clothing I would run downstairs calling out to my family to preview the latest piece of clothing I had just made. I was so proud of myself. Before we graduate from high school each student is supposed to create and present a huge project to a series of judges from the faculty. This is something you have to work on all semester. It was a big deal. My topic of choice was “How to