New Jersey designer Uchea Nwabuzor decided on a fashion-biz future after her second-grade classmate paid a visit to a designer. "The designer said she would give the girl $5 for every design she sketched," says Uchea. "I realize now that the woman was just trying to keep my friend entertained, but I was 7 at the time, so it seemed like a real possibility to me then. I was amazed that someone could actually make a living just drawing clothes."
When her mother picked her up from school that day, 7-year-old Uchea informed her she was going to become a fashion designer, and together they began planning it out right there. "I was only able to actually pursue it because she took me seriously and supported my aspiration," Uchea says.
With the support of her family, Uchea eventually made it to Rhode Island School of Design where she studied apparel design before cutting her teeth at Vera Wang and Commes des Garcons.
Today, Uchea has fulfilled the lifelong dream, designing her own ready-to-wear collection Ana Kata, so named for a technical physics term "denoting the names of the directions in the fourth dimension."
While she admits to being intrigued by the science world and the mathematical rigors of traditional tailoring, each Ana Kata design comes from a deeply personal place for Uchea, who looked to her mother's childhood in Nigeria for her spring 2012 debut.
"I imagined a displacement of space and time where Nigeria, instead of France, was the center of high fashion," Uchea explains of the explosively colorful pieces executed in vintage wood-block textiles. "I contemplated what that would look like, and used traditional African and Parisian elements from an avant-garde perspective to realize the collection."
The results included a sweeping low-back gown in a cobalt and gold print, as well as a draped cocktail dress with a dramatic, wing-like sleeve.
While pieces have, thus far, been available exclusively on a made-to-order basis, fans can look forward to an online shop this fall stocked with her signature printed scarves as well as ready-to-wear and jewelry pieces.
To see more of Uchea's designs, visit www.anakatany.com.