ONU – a story of connection

The jointly developed ONU model tells the story of a regenerative collaboration between people who share their perspectives and ideas. A collaboration to create deep connections where for too long elements of the African culture were only a source of inspiration, between Europe and Africa, between fashion and minimal footwear, between conventions and visions of the future. And it is an invitation to everyone to participate with us in this discourse and collectively create new narratives.

Yes, NKWO × Wildling is more than a fashion collaboration – it’s what we make of it together.

The look of ONU is the transformation of the DAKALA Cloth developed by NKWO into a print design and so bears the unmistakable signature of designer Nkwo Onwuka. The fringes of the upper are made from Nigerian sisal fiber, which is processed as part of the NKWO Transform Women initiative. The goal of the initiative is to change lives and have a positive impact on the environment.

How did we start this collabo­ra­tion?

Wildling has set regenerative management as its major goal. This is a long road with many building blocks that need to be redefined. We had lively discussions about the problem of cultural appropriation in marketing and product design and stopped with the sentence „There must be another way to do this“. When I met Beatrace, she was clearly a place for me to go to learn and find answers for new directions in fashion.

After our first conversation it quickly became clear: let’s work together as equals, because regenerative business only works in this way – throughcollaboration.

— Christina Eckert

At the same time, ONU is like a connecting element that tells its own story. This story began three years ago, at a Fashion Changers event in Berlin, where I was a guest speaker.  That’s how Christina Eckert (Marketing Director Wildling) and I crossed paths. The collaboration began with a meeting in 2021 and the work started the following year. Excited by the idea of a regenerative collaboration, I matched Willing Shoes with Nigerian designer Nkwo Onwuka together with Wildling Shoes, a fashion designer with a distinctive style and mindful approach. This created a sustainable connection between Hamburg, Abuja and Engelskirchen. A connection that helps us develop new narratives. And ONU – together.

In order to understand the history of contemporary fashion brands of African origin we should question terms like decolonization. But what does that even mean? What was it like in the past, what is it like today, and where are we right now?

For me, ONU represents the power of collaboration to transform the fashion industry by addressing the connections between sustainability, culture and history, sharing them as an honest dialogue to change the perception of African fashion. With ONU, we are creating space for new impetus, awareness, education, and perspective change in the sustainability industry.Through diverse, representative and conscious design based on the principles of re-generation, re-connect and re-definition, networks that rethink and critique fashion will create new narratives.

Beatrace Angut Lorika Oola

Photographer: Christian Hedel