In 2021, Winnie Ahupa decided to move from just producing fashion items to producing fashion items with a big part in driving world sustainability. Despite the lack of belief from society in her craft and the struggles that come with this line of work, Winnie Ahupa is still consistently striving to achieve Sustainable Development Goals
Through it all, she has impacted Nigeria with her creativity, giving her a spot on The Big Showcase.
Getting An Insight Into World Of Sustainability
“It was quite rewarding, but I wasn’t fulfilled.”
Winnie Ahupa studied Computer Science and Technology at the university, after which she worked as a communication officer for a year and a half. Moving on from that job, she ran a brand for close to 5 years.
During the COVID lockdown, where millions of people were confined to their homes with a lot of time to think, Winnie Ahupa also got her meditation/thinking time. She had always wanted to be involved in fashion and loved that she was. But while it was rewarding, it wasn’t fulfilling.
The lockdown gave her space to think about her future and what she wanted to spend the rest of her life doing.”It helped me put things into perspective. I always loved fashion… but I felt I had to do more.”
Right after the COVID-19 lockdown, she stopped her business and decided to focus on fashion, household items and sustainability growth altogether. So while she still made fashionable items, they had to have a sustainable part in them.
She uses anything to create new products by channelling her creativity into seeing the different ways a non-biodegradable material can be made into fashion.
“I make old things look new. Things people consider as trash, I make them new or functional.”
Winnie Ahupa Aims To Sustain Nigeria Through Fashion
“My number one goal is to use design as an agent of social change.”
In Nigeria, climate change is a societal issue hardly talked about. Most people don’t care about it. Fashion helps social change. Then, Winnie Ahupa made a great point, “You wouldn’t be talking to me right now if my work didn’t make sense.”
Her work helps people question fashion and fashion sustainability. They ask questions about how her work is sustainable and how it is created. Sparking those questions and answering them helps drive awareness.
Everything recyclable goes into her work. She thinks of creative ways to recycle or upcycle, and she does that.Recycling might not be so hard in Nigeria. You could give “Aboki” and recycling plants your wares. However, people are unaware of this because she believes they don’t care.
Her Instagram page showcases some of her work, like earrings made with plastic bottles, bags made with nylons and so many other high-fashion accessories.
Because of her degree, Winnie Ahupa has a background in design. In addition to her creativity, devising new ways to use non-biodegradable materials isn’t too tricky.
Difficulties With Sustainability
There are short videos she posts which makes it look easy to create, but it takes a lot of time. Some ideas that don’t work out never make it to her page, so people don’t know about that either.
It takes a lot of time and planning to make the designs work, and sometimes, she has to do it over again to get it.
But she has successfully mastered the whole thing now.
Another challenge she faces is the lack of belief in sustainability in this part of the world.
“People don’t value [sustainability] a lot. They like my works for their beauty, not their sustainability.”
Most don’t want to buy dresses out of nylon for a sum of money. They feel it’s just nylons. They need to realise, though, that they pay her for her expertise and time, not for the materials used.
People don’t also fully grasp the non-biodegradable quality of plastic. They don’t realise that craft made out of it would last a long time. Winnie Ahupa gave an example, saying that paper would dissolve into manure, and even leather would peel after a while. But almost nothing happens to plastic; at most, it looks old. And that’s where she comes in.
The most extended craft she worked on was creating a table with tires. And she spent weeks on it. She had gone to the market and seriously charged her 40% extra because she was overdressed. She had no idea until she was at a similar place selling the wares, and she asked for the price.
She still kept on because of her zeal to fulfil fashion sustainability. Winnie Ahupa also used it as a lesson to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Dealing With Creative Blocks
When faced with creative blocks, Winnie Ahupa tries not to stress herself out. Instead, she does something else to take her mind off it. Ideally, she lets her creativity flow when it wants to.
Sometimes, when you focus too much, your creativity becomes counter-productive. I don’t beat myself about it.”
The Levels Of Fashion Sustainability In Nigeria
As much as people aren’t aware of sustainability, they still practice it. Sustainability cuts across the payment of fees and material waste. A lot of American brands produce so much, and fortunately or unfortunately, they use Africa as a dumping ground.
Part of sustainability is also buying a lot of thrift items. So, in a way, we practice sustainability. However, it’s unconscious, and she feels we can do more by raising awareness about sustainability with fashion.
Even she wears sustainable items. She rented a black flared dress from a rental brand for 24 hours to attend a ceremony. By doing this, she ensured that the cloth wasn’t wasted and another person could use the outfit. Her hair clip was made with copper wire, scrap material, and paper. Everything she wore was fully sustainable.
The Future For Winnie Ahupa
In 10 years, she still sees herself doing something in relation to sustainability. But she’s not comfortable sharing all of her ideas now. She does want to empower people and be able to share conversations around sustainability and design. Her skills would also be more defined.
She wants to provide employment and pay for people’s labor and services. She’s also passionate about women’s empowerment.
If she ever wanted to choose another path, it would be in industrial design.
Her advice to people is, “As much as possible, trust yourself. While learning, you have people to run to. But out in the real world, it’s just you.”
Winnie Ahupa is steadily achieving her dreams of driving sustainability through fashion. And creating awareness around it. If anything, this article would reach more people enlightening them about the need to drive fashion sustainability.