Designer & Managing Director
Founded in 2009, N’Damus London is a haven for stunning, one of a kind fashion accessories handcrafted from the finest leather.
The inspiration for N’Damus London’s must-have accessories derived from founder Nneka Onyenakala’s passion for shoes. This fixation with heels and the desire to create the perfect set of complementing accessories has yielded spectacular results.
N’Damus London showcase a delectable collection of handmade clutches, totes, rucksacks, wristbands and belts. Luxurious leather combined with splashes of colour in natural fabrics results in stylish, abstract designs and unique pieces coveted by fashionistas and celebrities alike.
Why did you decide to start N’Damus London?
I’m actually self taught in terms of what I do with N’Damus London. Funnily enough I didn’t actually plan to start the company.
It all started because I love heeled shoes so much I got frustrated with not being able to find bags to match the shoes I owned so I just thought ‘I’ll do it myself’. My friends really liked what they saw plus I had people stop me in the street asking “where did you get that bag?”
That was enough to spur me on further. After making my 1st bag in 2007/2008, N’Damus London officially launched in 2009.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I’m technically not a designer by trade but haven’t done too badly as a self taught one!
I have a first degree in Biomedical Science. After university I continued my love for science by working in medical research and development. I also worked in sales and marketing for some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
What have been the highlights of running your own business?
There have been many but I’d say the biggest highlight is the sheer appreciation from customers and people in general regarding what I do.
Another highlight is seeing a customer wear an accessory I actually made. I find myself smiling and saying “I made that!” That feels really good.
What is the hardest part of running your own business?
Gosh…it’s such a balancing act at times. At times it’s challenging trying to perfectly balance my workload with personal commitments and getting it right.
I’m human so I have days when I’m overwhelmed and just tired. When you are running your own business you and you alone are fully responsible for your “baby”. I’m a great believer that God gives you no more than you can handle.
What are you working on at the moment? Can you describe your typical working day?
We’ve just opened our shop in London so that’s the newest project which is really exciting. I’m also in the process of launching my new bag design “FanDamus”.
I’m an early bird so every day by 6am I’m awake. None of my days are typical but generally involve juggling working, producing orders, answering emails, going to the gym.
What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
I actually take inspiration from within regarding designs. However, I must give total appreciation to my close friends and family who inspire me to grow and develop personally and therefore within my business.
My customers have also been a huge inspiration with regards to quirky things they request for a bespoke accessory.
Your accessories have been adorned by a number of beautiful women including singer Shingai Shoniwa, actress Nia Long and model Ajuma Nasenyana. If you could pick one person you’d love to dress who would it be?
That’s a really tough one because it gives me pleasure to see any woman with one of my creations. From an ‘edgy’ perspective it must be Grace Jones. Dita Von Teese is another lady that springs to mind and of course the First Lady Michelle Obama. If any of you are reading this let’s talk!
Where can I purchase your accessories?
Currently N’Damus London is stocked in the following boutiques:
• United 80, Unit 80, 5th Avenue, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8PS
• Gisella Boutique, 95 Peckham High Street, London SE15 5RS
• Little Black Dress Milano, Via Madonna del Prato 106/a – Arezzo 52100, Italy
• Etsy (online) – www.etsy.com/shop/Ndamus
We’ve just opened our shop in London, United 80, which is collaboration with Geometric Designs and Hands on Music. I wanted to do something unique and quirky…just like my bags.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
“If you fail to plan, plan to fail” – harsh as it may seem but it sure is true!
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a fashion accessory business?
If you have something, start by testing the market including with friends and family who will give you constructive advice and criticism.
Don’t be afraid to start off small (I started with a shabby looking stall at Spitalfield’s market!) and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but, be prepared to learn from your mistakes in a positive way.
Surround yourself with positive and like-minded individuals. Take the leap of faith and believe in your abilities. Set realistic goals and targets for yourself.
What are your future goals for your business?
One of my major goals is for N’Damus London to be a worldwide brand. I’m currently working on diversifying the range of accessories so watch this space!
In addition to retail collections, N’Damus London also supplies customised orders. Accessories available online can be ordered in any size and colour combination you require.
Nneka Onyenakala was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.Photographer credits:
Nia Long – Nneka Onyenakala
Shingai Shoniwa – New African Woman magazine
All other images – Karl Lake