Jamen Lanogwa was in the 10th grade when he first got a taste for design. He disliked the baggy fit of his high school track uniform and transformed it into something more form fitting and comfortable.
“From then on, I realized that I didn't have to settle for what was on the racks,” Lanogwa said. “I could actually do it myself, and make it fit me how I wanted it to.”
Lanogwa has come a long way from redesigning gym clothes. He is the owner of Saziru, a Seattle-based luxury fashion brand serving looks that are both classic and edgy. Inspired by the aesthetics of Audrey Hepburn, Yohji Yamamoto and Shaka Zulu, Lanogwa combines elegance, modernity and his African roots to create his pieces.
Lanogwa first conceived Saziru when he was in college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He scribbled the logo on a napkin one day and a friend created a digital version of it. At that point, Lanogwa and his friends only got as far as making a few hats.
After more than two years of running track professionally and working retail jobs, Lanogwa moved from Texas to Seattle in 2016 to pursue Saziru on his own. His retail work helped him become familiar with “the business side” of the fashion industry.
“I decided I was going to pick it up from the backburner and put it on the front-burner,” he said. “I feel like that was the best decision I ever made.”
When he was first getting the brand started in Seattle, he met Amber Snyder, then an aspiring model. After Lanogwa was stood up on a date, he sat alone on a park bench wearing a sweatshirt he had made. Snyder saw and sat next to him, complimenting his design. They talked and exchanged numbers.
A year and a half later, she got a text for Lanogwa offering her a modeling job. Now, Snyder is the model for many of Lanogwa’s pieces.
“He's a caring, kind and genuine person, and I feel like all of those different qualities really come out in all of this work,” Snyder says. “Every time that I've gotten together and collaborated with him, it's an amazing experience.”
Snyder walked the runway in his first fashion show last year, True Colors, in a black and white, high-low plaid dress he made. The dress caught the attention of Clint Eastwood’s granddaughter, Graylen, who asked Lanogwa to remake it for her.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Lanogwa found a silver lining. Though he had to stop shopping at his go-to fabric store, Pacific Fabrics, and canceled his annual fashion show, being stuck inside has given him more time and inspiration to design.
“I’ve been pumping out a lot of designs and working with a lot of different photographers and models that are willing to meet up during these times ... I've been able to just hone in and do my thing,” Lanogwa says.
The next step for Saziru is e-commerce, Lanogwa said. He plans to launch Saziru’s e-commerce availability at his fashion show next August.
“I have elaborate ideas of how I want to design things and create and work with different people,” Lanogwa says. “Everything just seems to be snowballing for me. The future looks pretty good.”
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