Nigerian-American fashion designer Onyii Brown, of Onyii & Co., knew exactly what she wanted to do for her upcoming spring collection until Hurricane Harvey flooded her basement studio, where she turns traditional African textiles into dresses, jumpsuits, and skirts with modern silhouettes. Her plans changed. “Now I want the spring collection to be bright and happy,” she says. “We need that right now.”
It won’t be the first time a crisis has inspired Brown’s craft. When her husband lost his job, in 2013, while Brown was a stay-at-home mom to three children, she decided to pursue a long-held dream of working in fashion. The first wrap skirt she made, out of a Nigerian textile she’d bought long ago on a trip to her home country, sold right away when she texted some friends about it, and soon enough she had an Etsy store. In 2015 she was a finalist for Martha Stewart’s Made in America awards.
Brown, whose creations are now sold at boutiques in Houston and Austin as well as on her website, continues to blend cultures in her work, like she did last spring when she incorporated Mexican embroidery.