Following her true passion: Debbie's story

A female student smiling in the fashion design studio

After initially following a different path, Debbie quickly realised that a career in fashion was her true passion and set up a clothing business in Nigeria. After making this a success, Debbie decided she wanted to challenge herself further and discover what the fashion industry was like in the UK. Read her story about studying MA Fashion Design at Salford.  

Finding the right path

Growing up in Nigeria, becoming a fashion designer wasn’t considered a sensible career choice and I knew my parents would not want me to go to university to study it. In the end, I completed my bachelor’s in mass communications but when I began working in the advertising sector, I knew it wasn’t for me.  

I was in love with fashion from being a child. My mum was a seamstress, and I would go with her to the market to pick a fabric before she would transform it into a beautiful garment. The transformative element of fashion has always inspired me. 

After a few months of working in advertising, I couldn’t stand not being able to showcase my creativity in the way I wanted to. At the same time, I noticed a gap in the market for good quality clothing at an affordable price, I just couldn’t find any shop that did this, so I decided to leave my full-time role and set up my own fashion business.  

The business has grown so much since I started it around five years ago. We design and produce our own clothes, which we sell in our own store, and I now have five employees to help me run it. After I felt that my business in Nigeria was in a good place, I decided I wanted to challenge myself further. I wanted to get a formal education in fashion and experience what the industry is like outside of Nigeria.  

I decided to research different fashion design courses in the UK, and I knew that MA Fashion Design at Salford has a reputation of being an excellent programme. I chose Salford because of the potential opportunity to showcase my designs at London Fashion Week, I felt this was a chance I just couldn’t miss! I was also really attracted to the diverse community that Salford and Manchester have.  

Rising to the challenge

I arrived at Salford initially confident in my abilities because of my experience running my business in Nigeria, but I quickly realised just how different fashion was in the UK and how much I had to learn. For example, in Nigeria we mostly use pencil sketching however in the UK everything is done digitally so I had to learn these skills from scratch.  

The dedication, enthusiasm and support from my teachers allowed me to rise to my new challenge. They were there to give me constructive feedback when I needed it but were also there to praise me as I improved. Quite often I would get an email from my teachers out of office times with resources to look at based on a topic we had been discussing in a meeting. I know I wouldn’t have been able to finish my course and grow so much as a designer without them.  

Throughout the course, I was given the freedom to creatively explore the areas I wanted to. Whilst we are taught the theory, we are also pushed to develop our own ideas as independent designers. The best part of my course had to be showing my final collection at London Fashion Week. This presentation was my first experience of curating a fashion show and there was a lot more that I had to think about than I initially thought. From the designs and styling to the fitting and the models, it was truly an experience I will never forget, particularly because the collection was inspired by my own mother and the joy of motherhood.  

I graduated from Salford with the confidence to take on my next challenge as a better designer.  

My future goals

My ambition for the future is to establish my brand in the UK as well as continue running the brand in Nigeria. The UK market is very different from Nigeria, so I am in the process of developing a slightly altered offering to appeal to the UK customer, whilst I wait for my Global Talent Visa to be issued.  

Whilst I know it will be a challenge to transition my business to the UK, I believe in my skills as a designer and have the confidence to make my business a success in a new market.