Lamaro Studio's Norah Nyeko on What 2020 Taught her About the Power of Community
Our Fashionomics Africa team loves nothing more than to follow the progress of all the amazingly talented designers and entrepreneurs we have featured and continue to work with through our online platform. We find great joy in seeing their growth and, above all, their passion for what they do. The social media presence of Norah Nyeko, CEO and founder of the Uganda based, Lamaro Studio, has been truly inspiring, even throughout the great challenge that was 2020. She continued to pour her heart into her business and her community with a positive attitude and a can-do spirit, that brightened many a social media timeline across the world. We wanted to know more about all the projects she has worked on this past year that kept her excited and moving forward, and what she is working toward in 2021.
“Lamaro Studio, like everyone else, experienced suppressed sales due to Covid-19,” Norah told Fashionomics Africa. “We pivoted to selling products in demand, like facemasks and sanitizer. Our store manager, who was recruited just prior to the pandemic, carried on working despite uncertainty about whether we would be able to pay her salary and this proved a triumph as clients appreciated the fact that we remained open to serve their needs.” One of the main successes Lamaro Studio experienced was the launch of their online store which ships worldwide and uses conventional payment methods such as Mastercard, VISA, PayPal, enabling international clients to purchase with ease and confidence. “I also like this store because it enables me to understand what products are in demand because of the data analytics the website shares.”
Lamaro Studio has recently partnered with new entrepreneurs that provide eco-friendly products, in line with their ethos which is focused on preserving the environment through all their actions. “An example, is Reform Africa, whom we recently partnered with to sell their products in our Gulu store and online. Their products upcycle up to 15 plastic bags to make their tote bags,” Norah explains. A great example of Reform Africa’s products, is the upcycled plastic toiletry bag available in the Etsy store, which comes in various colours and designs. Another initiative Norah was extremely excited to launch in early 2020, was the African Books section at the Gulu Village shop. “I was inspired by the need to create a central point for books to be bought about stories written by Africans and about Africa. My favourite title is “The Diary of an Obedient Servant during Misrule” by Engineer Onen, because it’s a historical piece set in a storytelling manner.”
While much of life as we knew it was put on hold throughout various lockdowns last year, Norah still managed to make the best out of all the social gatherings that were possible – albeit on a smaller scale – such as the Women in Breakfast Meeting, the last of which was held in November. “This meeting focused on Claire Lamunu, an international basketball player who talked about her experience and challenges playing professionally. She also talked about her upcoming fundraising initiative to build basketball courts in Gulu in northern Uganda’s first entertainment park.” Despite lockdowns and the new, weird, normal, Norah naturally kept dressing in style, and was proud to show off a pair of afro comb earrings designed made by Kenyan artisans. “I love the afro comb earrings because of their distinct shape and reminder of my natural hair. I don’t like combing my hair to this day but I do find it a beautiful reminder of its natural coils and how life is about choice, whether or not to comb ones hair. They form part of our collection because of the symbolism and simple aesthetic that fits in well with the rest.”
One of the things that has been fundamental to Norah’s never faltering energy and drive, has been the amazing community that is the Gulu Craft Village. “It brings together artisans from northern Uganda that are passionate about promoting the creative sector, not just amongst themselves but with others in the city. The artisans that work there often refer business to each other and share business tips on how to progress forward,” she explains with an obvious sense of pride. “This year has taught me to keep pivoting. When something does not work, understand why it does not work and seek a solution immediately. There’s no use in knocking on a door that won’t open. At the same time, it’s important not to give up despite an apparent lack of progress. Discern objectively what is causing stagnation and implement a strategy to move forward. I’m looking forward to hosting our third annual Fashion Show with our usual designers and hopefully newcomers. It’s a great way to keep innovation running in the creative sector.”