Emmy Kasbit

Akwete is reimagined as a powerful tool for change by Emmanuel Okoro


Emmanuel Okoro is putting akwete on the map with his brand Emmy Kasbit. Each season, the Lagos-based designer develops textile patterns based on Nsibidi hieroglyphics and delivers his yarns and designs to a team of skilled women weavers in eastern Nigeria. Their striking loom-spun fabrics then inform his boldly tailored collections. Celebrating the label’s 10th anniversary in 2024, Okoro has shown in Milan with Vogue Talents, won the Africa Fashion Up Prize in Paris, taken to the catwalks of Lagos and Dakar and recently sold out at pop-ups in London and New York. But his ambitions for championing sustainable fashion don’t stop here.

Congratulations on a decade in fashion. How do you reflect on this moment?

When I started out, it was just me and my tailor. Now we have a good team and a space in Lagos and we support a community of weavers from our hub in Abia State. It hasn’t been easy but I’m thankful, and I’m still focussed on my mission to be a change agent by taking this handwoven craft from one small village to the global marketplace.

What makes akwete so special?

It’s a beautiful textile only woven by women as it’s taboo for men to handle the loom. There are over 100 traditional motifs and it’s said that each one came to its maker from the spirits in their dreams. For me, it comes down to preserving this culture in a modern way by producing beautiful garments that can take centre stage. 


How do you nurture your relationship with the weavers?

I’m interested in community upliftment and boosting a craft that had become almost extinct. We began with one artisan and now we support 10. We give back by improving their craft and providing a way for them to make a living. And we’ve just taken our CSR further by establishing the Emmy Kasbit Initiative. Soon we’ll host summer camps where young girls can come and learn from the women weavers and then work with the brand. I want to see these women win, and I’m letting the world know that this is what African luxury looks like. 



You call yourself the ‘sustainable atelier’ so how far can you go?


Last year we went zero waste with the launch a line of patchwork garments made entirely from off-cuts. These are easy to wear wardrobe staples. While the catwalk collection is all about timeless pieces that will stand the test of time. When customers hear about the supply chain, they understand that these are garments that have value and will stay with you for as long as you want them.



“My mission is to take this handwoven craft from one small village into the global marketplace”



Tell us about the SS24 collection, ‘Dawn’.

‘Dawn’ is a celebration of ukara cloth, which is a ceremonial fabric worn by chiefs in Abia State. My father used to wear one, so rediscovering it after he passed away inspired me greatly. We’ve worked with the Adara Foundation in Lagos, which an NGO centred on women empowerment, to produce two wax print designs on organic cotton. The final looks also feature akwete, silks and chiffons to create easy breezy silhouettes that flow freely.

What is your vision for the next chapter of Emmy Kasbit?

Right now, it’s very hard to have a business in Nigeria due to high inflation and the challenges of production and shipping. And doing things sustainably takes time. But we have a community relying upon us so we have to find ways to move forward. And thank God, we’ve worked it out so far. There’s a spotlight on African fashion now so it’s up to us to prove if we can have a seat at the table or not.

Emmy Kasbit Instagram 

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