"Access to market and equipment are my greatest challenges." - Deaf Fashion Designer Melody Chuba-Uzo

Meet MELODY CHUBA-UZO, a fashion designer extraordinaire from Enugu State, Nigeria. The beautiful designer, who lost her hearing at age 4, shares her inspiring story with Ephatha Fashion. Read her interview and see how this amazing woman with hearing difficulty is standing against all odds and living life on the positive side.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Melody Chuba-Uzo, from Enugu State, I am married, with children. Due to a cerebrospinal meningitis diagnosis, I lost hearing bilaterally at the age of four. I developed interest in fine and creative arts as a child and underwent intensive trainings to hone my artistic skills in drawing, portraits and tie-and-dye. I attended a high school for deaf students, but also felt the need to acquire a vocational skill, so I chose fashion designing and dressmaking. I trained with a private tailoring business and overtime, I became better and designed dresses for both males and females. I am always happy when I see my clients beautifully clad in my projects.

In 2008, I established my business and have made over a hundred dresses for my clients, while I continue to take courses to perfect my tailoring skills. I look forward to getting more specialized industrial machines and having a suitable location for my business, as I currently work from home. I have a female deaf apprentice working with me and I hope that when I expand my business, I will be able to train more persons.

 

What led you into fashion designing and how long ago did you start sewing?

I discovered my passion for fashion designing since I was 9 years old - cutting
and making dresses for my dolls. Growing up, I had some challenges with other tailors who were unable to bring my exquisite designs to life. They would rather do what they were comfortable with, but I wanted more creativity and style. My passion drove me to start implementing my designs myself and before I knew it, other ladies started admiring my work and asked I sewed for them. Today, I can say that I am happy and fulfilled doing what I love.

                                          Melody's Creations

What were your challenges or worries about going into the fashion industry and accessibility?

My greatest challenge was and is still access to market, especially because I work from home. So far, I have been able to address that with referrals from my clients who recommend me to their friends and families. However, there is still a big gap to be filled. Another challenge is lack of adequate equipment. The simple machines I use are limited in function. I would really love to acquire an industrial serger machine and one that can weave patterns.

I have never really worried much about accessibility. I consider myself sociable and my I also have a very supportive family. My husband, for example, is a social inclusion specialist and has strong sign language skills.

 
How have you been able to overcome the barriers or stereotypes that go with being deaf and working as a fashion designer?

I think it all begins with how a person thinks of himself or herself. I don’t pay attention to discriminatory attitudes. I would rather concentrate on relating with people with positive mindset.

 
How have you been able to communicate with your clients?

I communicate with sign language with those who are comfortable with it, especially with deaf clients. With hearing clients, my pen and paper come to play. I have my digital collection of designs for clients to easily choose from or I sketch the ideas or changes they want.
 

In 5 to 10 years time, where do you see yourself in the fashion industry?

I hope to own a popular fashion brand, fully equipped industrial garment workshop, a well stocked fabrics and accessories shop, with capacity for online transactions and both local and export markets for ready-to-wear children's dresses. Such children's wears currently in Nigeria are mostly from China, relatively expensive and easily wear out. I want to fill that economic gap.
 

    Melody in one of her designs                  

Do you think the government of your country is doing well to support the deaf community? What advice do you have for them?

In spite of the enactment of the National Disability (Anti-discriminatory) bill in 2019, there is still a huge void in how the government handles disability issues. Many state governments, for instance, are doing little to nothing to ensure that people with hearing loss have access to support, training opportunities and vocational skills. The government needs to sit up and work with the private sector, social enterprises and civil organisations to ensure that deaf people are not alienated and are given same opportunities to grow and build thriving careers like everyone else.


What advice do you have for other young persons like you who want to go into fashion or any industry at all?

I advise them to be patient and committed. Many deaf people in Nigeria have this entitlement mentality and believe that because of their peculiarities, they should be given preferential treatment. Unfortunately, the realities are not so. So, deaf people need to find what interests them, develop themselves and contribute positively to the society.

 

What is your favourite life lesson quote?

Opportunities to succeed are privileges to be thankful for, not qualifications to despise others.

 

Any final words?

I will like to encourage people with political power to lead with love. There is no need for all these conflicts the world is currently dealing with. There are enough resources to go round. Let’s love one another and make the world a better place for everyone, deaf people inclusive.

1 comment

  • How is can communication market? How is can work fashion design for deaf?

    Lidya Belhu

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