4 Things To Know About The Nigerian Born Designer Who Decorated The White House

Duro Olowu is one of the hottest fashion designers of our time, with designs that have earned him celebrity clients including the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, as well as Solange, Brittany Snow, Keira Knightley and Tracee Ellis Ross. His eclectic designs have earned him a top spot as a designer to know and be seen in. This year he joined fashion heavyweights – Carolina Herrera, Humberto Leon, Kenzo and Carol Lim – to decorate the Vermeil Room of the White House for the 2015 holiday season.

Here are a few things we learned about the impressive designer.

His designs are inspired by his background
A man of the world, Olowu was born and raised in Lagos by a Nigerian father and a Jamaican mother, he spent childhood summers in Geneva, went to Canterbury University and lived for a little over a year in Paris. He sketched his first clothing at the age of six. “My path was not straightforward,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s made me open to things, able to see things in a certain way.”

He is married to Thelma Golden
Golden is the Director of the Studio Museum of Harlem, a position she has held since 2005, and also serves as a Chief Curator. Olowu met her right after she contacted him to have a Duro dress made, and the rest is history. They couple wed quietly in 2008 and they currently split their time between New York and London.

He is lawyer turned fashion designer
As a child, he passionately loved fashion and was inspired by the dresses seen on African women. However, like his father, Olowu studied law in England before returning to Nigeria where he practiced for a few years. He subsequently returned to London to pursue a career in fashion, and a few years later launched a brand that started his eponymous label, in 2004. The first dress he designed under his name helped start the Duro mania.

He fights against racism in the fashion industry
With very few black models on the runways, he continues to fight against progressive racism in the fashion industry. “The fault lies with the designers – their ignorance and their racism. Yes, it’s true that a lot of agencies don’t bother sending non-white models – my casting agent told me that I’m the only one who asks specifically for non-white models – but things will only change if the designers take a stand and ask for them”, he mentioned.