New Designer Creates Accessible African Fashions

Music thumped throughout the room as strobe  lights dispersed rainbow hued beams around the space as the audience shuffled to fill chairs that outlined the perimeter of the makeshift runway.
Nerves coiled in Designer Odunuyi’s stomach as she stood with baited breath waiting for the first model of her Spring Fashion show to emerge onto the stage.
This was it.
After months of hard work and having her clothing featured in other designers’ fashion shows Odunuyi would finally get the opportunity to debut “Diella Designs” front and center in her first solo fashion show.
As the DJ played an upbeat remixed version of Tekno-Pana, models began to strut the runway embellished with bold makeup and perfectly tied headwraps. Clearly, the dim room punctuated with revolving lights wasn’t just set up for ambiance. Rays of light bounced and glittered off the rhinestones that traced the intricately designed Ankara fabric that was prominently featured on the majority of Odunuyi’s designs.
“To see the reception that I got from people, it was amazing,” remarked Odunuyi the day after the show.  “It just made me feel like, you know what? This vision that I had, it’s all coming full circle and everything is falling into place.”
Everything Falling Into Place…
Odunuyi doesn’t have a background in clothing design. She says a strong creative influence runs through her family, giving her the innate ability to analyze and interpret artwork in a way that uniquely enhances it.
“I could sit and look at something and it just comes to me,” said Odunuyi. “It just hits me like, ‘OK, I will do this with this’ or ‘I will change this’… It’s just something that I’ve always done.”
So when she returned to Africa to celebrate the life of her cousin’s mother, who passed away, Odunuyi was struck by inspiration when she saw the traditional, vibrant-patterned clothes that her family regularly adorned during special events. She always admired the extravagant clothing, but due to the structurally complex design of the outfits, she was discouraged from wearing them regularly.
“Every time I [would] go to an event, I pretty much have to bring my skirt so that my sister-in-laws could help me tie it,” said Odunuyi.
But after being mesmerized by 500 people proudly displaying the ornate fabric, Odunuyi was convinced that she could modernize the style to make it accessible to everyone who appreciates it.
Thanks to familial connections Odunuyi’s family had in Lagos, Nigeria, she was able to get in contact with a tailor and bring her designs to life — on her first attempt, no less.
A Sparkling Concept
Empowered with a gifted tailor and an ambitious outlook on life, Odunuyi launched her clothing line in October 2017. From then, Odunuyi has showcased her unique rhinestone-studded Ankari designs in seven fashion shows all over Illinois, to rave reviews.
“I like certain designs and these happen to be the designs that I like!” said Empress Sharon, an attendee of the fashion show who had an arm full of Odunuyi’s designs and was actively trying to procure more items to try on. “The stones on it, the way that they’re arranged — it’s beautiful”
The adaption of modern design with rhinestones makes Odunuyi’s Diella Designs stand out among her peers.
“One woman mentioned to me that she goes to Essence Fest, where they have a lot of Ankara, and that she’d seen so many Ankara styles, but never seen it like this,” recalled Odunuyi. “I just think it’s something new that’s attractive to people. It just makes it look so much richer.”
You can shop Diella Designs at: and stay tuned to her upcoming events on her Instagram page at: That said, photography doesn’t truly do justice to Odunuyi’s designs, which sparkles with intensity when seen in person. In order to truly experience her work, see it in person at a fashion show where you can buy her original designs straight off the runway. Odunuyi only creates a limited amount outfits because they are all handmade in Nigeria.
Her next fashion show is May 5.


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