Sometimes, the most indirect route is the best path you could have taken.
Dinzi Amobi studied Ancient Latin, Greek and Ancient History at university, before going on to become a lawyer. By this point, she had already lived in both Nigeria and London, and would soon move to Australia to practise law. But this sprawling mesh of cultural influences is a unifying experience for Dinzi rather than a disparate one. Filling her life with the vibrant textiles of her heritage is a way for her to continuously connect with all these different meanings of home.
‘When I moved to Australia, I would ask my family and friends who were still living in Nigeria to send me a few metres of whatever fabrics they could find in the markets,’ she says. ‘Once they arrived, I would spend the evenings designing pieces to fill my home.’
Boxes of materials sourced from markets in Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria would arrive at her doorstep, always containing mounds of the continent’s staple textile: wax fabric. Originating from the Netherlands, the production of the material was quickly adopted by African-owned facilities owing to the popularity of the designs around the continent. Now deeply entrenched in local market culture and fabric artisans, the boldly patterned and vibrantly adorned textiles carry stories of heritage and tradition in each design.
With a constant supply of these richly storied textiles streaming in from a network of stall-holders across Africa, Dinzi founded Ulo Australia from her kitchen table, focussing on handcrafted fashion and homewares, made from African wax fabrics. The business has since expanded to three full time staff, including Dinzi, operating from a studio and retail showroom in Abbotsford Convent.
‘All of our collections are inspired by what I was surrounded by growing up in Nigeria and then London,’ Dinzi explains. ‘Whether it be home textiles or fashion, everything is motivated by the styles and shapes that filled my family home.’
In addition to drawing on her personal history, Dinzi is inspired by other artists of the African diaspora who are constantly engaging with their heritage through design, such as Nigerian-British artist Yinka Ilori, or Nigerian fashion designer Lisa Folawiyo.
Dinzi’s designs are made using a mix of old and new techniques, mirroring the fusion of cultural identities she herself embodies. ‘We revisit archaic prints, use traditional textiles and craftsmanship, and merge these with modern, easy-to-wear styles,’ she says. Embedded in this contemporary approach is a deep understanding of sustainability principles and respect for a slow fashion business model.
Amongst all the ups and downs of this year, a delivery box of new fabrics still stirs the same amount of joy and delight as it used to when it was just Dinzi at her kitchen table. ‘It feels like we are opening up Africa,’ she says.
Ulo Australia’s studio and showroom is located at SH1.32 Sacred Heart Building, Abbotsford Convent at 1 St Helier Street, Abbotsford.
Loving Dinzi’s designs as much as we are? Check out the website here!