Bettering the World through Fashion
A look inside odAOMO and designer Dr. Sophia Omoro
By: Katy Sandusky
When I walk into the odAOMO showroom on Charters street, immediately I feel transported to a place flush with color, texture and pattern. Mesmerized by the inarguable breathtaking accessories and clothing that don the walls; I’m always impressed by the wear-ability of all the clothing. I imagine shoppers meandering through the French Quarter must quickly realize they have stumbled upon something quite different here at odAOMO, but not just for the bold African inspired designs.
Giving back and bettering the world are at the center of designer Dr. Sophia Omoro’s vision. Empowered, regal and strong, once you meet Dr. Omoro you see her nature flows fluidly through her designs. odAOMO offers shoppers a true taste of Kenya by empowering her native home in her design process. I had the opportunity to learn more about her esthetic, determination to give back, and how much she values her team.
The name odAOMO comes from her middle name and the name of her maternal grandmother. Aomo means “born of harvest” and “od” means ‘house of’ in her native language of Luo. “I am named for my maternal grandmother, a most majestic matriarch of a creature,” Dr. Omoro describes. “It was only befitting to let the world into the house of this woman that I looked up to.” Dr Omoro’s African heritage is the base of the brand, but the influence only begins at its roots. She sources all of her materials from Africa and employs locals in the creation of her products.
“Africa in general, and Kenya specifically, have a wealth of raw materials, and human talent. Unfortunately, the most commonly depicted images of this continent, and country, are those of poverty and strife,” Dr Omoro explains. "I would like to bring to light this wealth in material and human resources, and show the world that wonderful things can come out of this continent and country. Wonderful, beautiful things, made with love, and by human hands.”
Dr Omoro sources her fabrics in Kenya from a growing company owned by two Kenyan women who curate fabrics from Italy. For her African fabrics, she sources from many places in Africa ranging from roadside markets to shops in tanzania. The leathers, hides and fish skin are sourced from an African factory that creates materials once the items have been processed fully for food.
The designer acknowledges that she has no say in what materials they get from the factory. She cannot specify color, texture or quantity. While some designers may find this challenging, Dr Omoro embraces a design life outside the traditional. She loves that this offers shoppers truly one of a kind items that can never be entirely replicated. Dr. Omoro is no stranger to bucking industry standards and instead encourages other designers to stay true to the values of their brand.
In describing her design process, Dr. Omoro explains that the fabrics and material have a leading role in creating what they become. “I am one of those designers who let color, fabric and texture speak to me. Invariably, the fabric “tells me what it wants to be made into”. She explains, “The first fabric “speaks, and the “supporting” ones follow to make the collection. If you notice my collections have quite a variety of fabrics in them.”
So how does one accomplish a global initiative, manage a showroom and retail outlet in New Orleans, run a workshop in Kenya over 10,000 miles away all while maintaining a career as a doctor? Dr. Omoro would credit it to an unbelievable team. Again, we see a woman that empowers those around her locally and globally. She speaks of her team more in a way that people speak of their favorite family members than an employer of employees. She credits them for her being able to focus on the design and creative process. Jessica, her creative director handles the show room (amidst a myriad of other things) and Amy handles the accounting. For a woman who travels to Kenya three to four times a year for two weeks at a time, a strong team here in New Orleans is essential.
Where can we expect to see odAOMO in the next five years? As always: think global. The brand hopes to replicate the success of the flagship store and bring additional retail outlets to different countries. Always focused on empowerment, Dr. Omoro describes opportunity as the ability to employ more individuals in Kenya as her brand grows and expand the roles of her current team. She never speaks of personal successes, but instead lights up at the thought of enforcing true global change.
Dr. Omoro is quick to say that she is “no super woman," but simply living her purpose. I would swiftly disagree. A woman who has remained true to her core values and never compromised her competency, all while growing a recognizable brand in just a few years, certainly earns a title of super woman from me. Her talent, compassion and global perspective are not only refreshing, but an important model for how a designer can find success in staying true to their passions. this comes as no surprise at this point, as nothing about odAOMO or its founder Dr. Sophia Omoro can be described as standard.
Check out the full spread from our photoshoot with odAOMO :