Creator Spotlight: How Heartbreak and a Failed Writing Dream Birthed Vangei

June 23, 2022

Hi, I’m Kanaan, the genius behind Vangei, the fashion brand, and I think I’m hilarious. 

I’m the shortest person in my friend group, and I’m also a cancer. Yes, cue the red flags. A random fact about me is that I wanted to be a writer until I got heartbroken. 

Interesting, so you didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a fashion designer?

Nope, I was never interested. I only loved fashion when it was time to play dress-up or pretend I was walking a runway. I wanted to be a model. But then I turned 13 and my height wasn’t heightening no more, so that dream died. 

I even considered blogging, but it’s too time-consuming. Guess I still won because now I make the clothes instead of modelling them. 

Fighting the urge to scream but also purr. I get not wanting to blog sha. Writing is the ghetto.

To be fair, I did want to be a writer. I used to write serious love letters back then. In my high school yearbook, I wrote that I would be a writer or a poet. But after somebody broke my heart, I said fuck writing. There was no more inspiration, so I closed shop and opened Vangei instead.

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How did you come up with Vangei? It’s the coolest name 

Funny story, when I joined Twitter in 2019, my first Twitter name was StefflonDo. As you can see, I’m terrible at giving myself nicknames. 

I hated StefflonDo, so I spoke to a friend about how I needed something that represented my brand and my being gay, and then he came up with Lolu VanGay. It was cool but too on the nose, so I changed it to VanGei, and it stuck. 

Do you have a favourite collection or fashion piece made by you? 

The best thing I’ve created and I feel really attached to is the Bibi co-ord, which is named after my ex. Don’t drag me; my friends already did. They were like, “This is one of your sickest pieces, and you named it after someone that’s not in your life anymore?” But I’d already made up my mind about it.  

I really loved the piece, and so did a lot of people. There was something distinct about the fabric. I’ve tried looking for something like it and still haven’t found anything. 

Are you sure it’s the fabric you’re attached to?

For real, fabrics make me happy. You know how drugs make people feel? That’s exactly how it is. When I’m sad, I  go to Yaba market. Most times, I have no money when I do this, but as soon as I get to Tejuosho market, I get super pumped. 

I touch a pretty fabric and it makes me feel like I can speak french because it’s so rich. The only thing I love more than fabrics is shoes. 

I wasn’t going to bring it up, but boy, you like the weirdest shoes. Or maybe I don’t know fashion…

I would judge you, but I know what it feels like to be judged, so I won’t. People have asked me if I’m all right because of the shoes I like. Can’t you all see the arc on those shoes? Several times, my friends have stopped me several times from wearing my shoes when going out with them, but they’ll be fine last last. 

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Would you ever want to design shoes?

Maybe, but it’ll just be two other people wearing it. My target audience is outside Nigeria, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed sha. 

Have you ever designed something that you weren’t proud of? 

That’s the thing it would never see the light of day. I love my pieces to be perfect. I don’t keep it if it’s something I’m not proud of. I threw the last piece away. 

What’s your creative process like?

I don’t have a process. I tried to get a sketchbook and draw out my designs once, but that didn’t work. I buy fabrics that speak to me, so anything coloured, playful and loud. Then I scroll through Pinterest or Instagram and get inspired. 

I once had a block for three months, and then I woke up and made five outfits in a day. 

What are proven steps that get you out of a creative block?

Hm. My longest block was for about four months. What got me out of it? A girl I was seeing. We were supposed to go out on a date, and I don’t like repeating outfits. I wanted to impress her because she was tall. I started to think of a theme, wrote it out and the next thing I knew, I’d made my fit. This was the day before the date, by the way. 

If you ever sell your audacity, I would buy it 

Not to brag, but I make my outfits in two-three hours. 

Honestly, my confidence in what I do came from my friends trusting me to create stuff for them. It boosted my self-esteem and so I was able to start selling to other people. Initially, I didn’t want to own a brand because I feared criticism. 

I’m curious. How does it feel creating for an audience bigger than your friends? 

It was scary at first ngl, but maybe it’s because my brand is aimed at queer people who were my inspiration, so the transition has been easy. I sit with my clients and go back and forth through the creative process. I’ve even had a couple of people sketch their designs and have me recreate them. Making outfits from my friends and listening to criticism helped me grow, and now my brand is better for it. 

What’re you looking forward to doing now? 

I started a thrift store to fund my long-term collection, which will be released in the middle of next year. I’m thinking of collaborations, especially with Louie & Dray because they make contemporary Y2K fashion, and that’s a big influence on my brand. Finally, I’m looking forward to introducing my brand to Lagos fashion week.

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