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FASHION

Inside The Colourful World of Sai Sankoh

A woman with a purpose

BY Yaza South Africa Team

Apr 19, 2022, 07:57 PM

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Sai Sankoh is an entrepreneur, designer and luxury fashion consultant. She's also a woman with a purpose and here she speaks to us about the challenges of being a woman in business and staying true to herself.

Sai Sankoh was formed in 2018 and the pieces fuse vintage and contemporary aesthetics to create elegant, feminine and striking designs that appeal to women around the globe. Her clothing has been worn by some of the most glamourous women in the game, including Gabrielle Union, Iman, Beyonce, Bonang Matheba and Dineo Langa just to name a few. While her latest collection, Portrait Of A Lady, is selling out fast.
Jezebel shirt dress from Portrait Of A Lady
A Sierra Leone native who resides in America, Sai continues to pay homage to her roots through her vividly printed, bold and colourful creations. She shares more on how she got started in the industry, the label, her struggles thus far and what we can expect from her in the near future.

I have always had an interest in all things glamour, especially old Hollywood, and started out as a blogger in 2011 writing about food, travel, lifestyle and, of course, fashion. I got to meet so many people and create lasting relationships that have helped me throughout the years. Eventually, I needed to monetize my work and so a few years later my developers and I reinvented my blog and created a fabulous aggregator now called Luxury Checkout which is low maintenance, works on its own and gives me the flexibility to pursue fashion design.
 
It has been an incredible journey thus far and being a designer has impacted my life in a really positive way. I was a paediatric nurse for eight years prior to starting my label so this transition has been quite different. Now I am my own boss and the success of my business depends on me. I will admit it is a lot of work but I wouldn't change a thing. It has taught me to be assertive, confident and has helped broaden my horizons in an unimaginable way. I am really proud of everything I have accomplished with my brand.
Sai Sankoh
My brand speaks to every woman. The corporate woman, the working mom, as well as the fabulous jet-setter. It is for the woman who wants a get-away and wants to do it in memorable style. When you visit the website, you get an insight into all the women we envision in our clothing and you will see for yourself that every facet of them is amazing.
 
My prints are the first thing that catches your attention. They are bold, vibrant and colourful. The workmanship and quality of my clothing are impeccable. I pay attention to every detail. I am also the face of my brand so I wear and market my clothing in a way that my customers can relate to.
Annabelle dress from Portrait Of A Lady
Being in this industry has taught me a lot about self-belief and perseverance. It’s been an incredible journey overall for me and I am so grateful for everything I have encountered, whether it be good or bad. I have learnt to be more patient with myself, to be a better negotiator and boss.

One of the toughest things I have encountered so far as a designer is seeing another African designer copying my signature piece and selling it for less. It was a really heartbreaking moment as I was just starting out and she already had a bigger reach in the industry as a whole so I was very worried about it having a negative impact on my business. But I had to quickly pull myself together and hold onto the faith that people will recognize a Sai Sankoh original and not let the negative energy of failure hold me back from succeeding in my craft.
Aureta cape from Portrait Of A Lady
My collection for 2021 is one of my favourites. It’s basically a collection everything I love and I like to call it a collaboration between the consumer and myself. With this being my third offering I was able to carefully evaluate and see to what my customers gravitated towards and were interested in and then from there add my own ideas to create what I think is my favourite and best collection yet.
 
In the near future, I plan to merge my love for fashion with technology. I want to build a factory in my home country, Sierra Leone and have custom pieces made directly from there. I would also love to continue bringing awareness to my country and continent so that emerging designers and entrepreneurs can have a platform to showcase their talent. I see the brand as a household name and the ultimate vision is to be accessible in stores worldwide.
 
One thing which I would say to women out there is to be passionate about whatever you are doing. Whatever field you are in, be passionate about it and you should be willing to work harder and longer hours than a regular 9-5. You will endure roadblocks, but what will set you apart is your determination and drive to succeed. Don’t ever give up, focus on you and always know that you are your biggest competition. 
 
It is never easy to achieve your dreams but you just have to fight. Fight for what you want, work both hard and smart, take criticism and turn it into something good. Make the most of the time that you have and whenever you hear no, don't take it as the end. It may take more time than you thought or wanted but believe me, your hard work will pay.