Designer’s Soul: Duro Olowu

Nigeria and Jamaica meet Europe

Duro Olowu is a London-based designer known for his bold and colorful prints, He was born in Lagos, Nigeria to a Nigerian father and Jamaican mother. He was raised between England and Nigeria where international and in-depth culture is recognized. As a child he became enthused by the blend of colors and rich texture of clothing worn by the women around him. Through his dedication and perseverance in pursuit of his dream, he is now internationally acknowledged and his commanding designs have grabbed and attracted powerful women. Olowu, who is married to Thelma Golden, Chief Curator and Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, was also awarded the International Designer of the Year Award at the 2010 Africa Fashion Awards in Johannesburg.

Like his father before him, Olowu studied law in England before returning to Nigeria where he practiced for a few years. As time went on, he moved towards his true vocation, a career in fashion, and has been a success at it ever since. He has gotten both local and international recognition. His Nigerian-Jamaican heritage has given him a rich cultural exposure to succeed in his field. He takes bold patterns and colors from his Nigerian heritage, but uses the shades and patterns to mix prints in a modern way. Most of his work is shown in different stores in places like Ikram in Chicago, Biffi in Milan, and Barney's in New York, His work in Harrods in London and Maria Luisa in Paris have an African meaning, but are often British made prints of his own design or Swiss or Italian, but they reflect the African influence in an eccentric way. His fashions never look ethnic; the prints are designed to look like modern clothes and bring out the designer’s soul.


In October 2004, Olowu launched his self-titled womenswear label with a collection for the Spring/Summer. The collection was inspired by a theme of ‘love and joy’. A high-waisted patchwork boho dress known as “Duro” put the brand on the fashion map, and became a cult item after being discovered by American Vogue editor Sally Singer. In 2005 his signature ‘duro’ dress won dress of the year. In that same year, he won the “new designer of the year” award at the British fashion awards. In 2010 he was named Best International Designer at the African Fashion Awards in South Africa. His designs, African-inspired and urban, have caught one of the greatest eyes in the world. The first lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, has worn his styles on one too many occasions. Dressing the first lady was not his only duty; he was also contacted to deck out the White House for the holiday season. Uma Thurman and Linda Evangelista are also amongst those who have worn his designs.

His favorite quote is “my job is not dictating to women what to wear; it is presenting them with beautiful options”.


  • Duro Olowu
  • Duro Olowu