In 2017, Akudo Iheakanwa made the move from Sydney to Lagos. Born in Australia to a Nigerian father and Australian mother, she’d always felt a strong connection to her West African roots, and initially thought she’d continue her work in public health and community development there. But in Nigeria, Iheakanwa ended up embarking on a journey of self-discovery that took her all across the country, a long held passion for African textiles and artisanship leading her to seek out local craftspeople and learn about their processes. She subsequently decided to breathe new life into an idea that she’d previously put a pin in and began rebranding Shekudo, the label she had launched with her best friend back in 2013.
By Iheakanwa’s own admission, neither she nor founding partner Shetu Bimpong took the work too seriously, eventually dropping it to focus on their respective 9-5’s. This time around however, the goal is clear and earnest: now under the sole creative direction of Iheakanwa, Shekudo aims to contribute to Nigeria’s footwear manufacturing sector, while helping to preserve and shine a spotlight on the region’s often overlooked craftsmanship. From the start, Iheakanwa sought to use local skills, and traditional materials and techniques to differentiate the brand. Finding inspiration in the kaleidoscope of colors of the heritage Nigerian textile, Aso Oke became the vehicle through which the Shekudo story was to be expressed. ““I didn’t want to just be another shoe brand focusing solely on working with leather,” she told Vogue Czechoslovakia, “I wanted to have a point of difference and figure out ways that I could…create a unique identity.”
According to the designer, minimal machinery is used in the production of her shoes. One pair of shoes can take up to 3 days to complete, and that's not including the time it takes to weave the Aso Oke elements, which alone can take around 3 days. A sewing machine is used to sew part of the shoe before a filing machine is employed to shape it—everything else, Akudo says, is cut by hand, including the signature Shekudo block heel which is crafted from local wood by Nigerian carpenters. “We want to help bring new life to these traditions and show the younger generation that it’s such a beautiful art form that can provide a livelihood,” she says of her support of these local artisans, “We want to keep supporting the people in this industry and bring in more pride to the craft and opportunities for skill transfer where we can.”
Ready to add a little made-in-Nigeria magic to your fall shoe lineup? Read on to discover four of our favorite seasonal styles from Shekudo and a little guidance on how to get the best out of them. Shop the full collection here.
There’s no doubt that the thigh-high boot is one of the more divisive shoe styles out there. It’s a provocative yet enduring design and, in our estimation, a wardrobe essential in the chillier seasons. A more conservative dresser may disagree, however Shekudo’s Falana OTK Boot is the type of thigh-grazing iteration to convert even the most staunch of opponents. Crafted from a black and white cut of Aso Oke, its slightly slouchy silhouette lends it a far more laid-back air than that of the more vampy, skin-tight styles. Pair with IAMISIGO’s 3-in-1 shirt dress for a daytime look that’s just the right mix of casual and put-together, or try it with Emmy Kasbit’s matching Adanna pants and blazer set, the combination sure to take things from prim to powerful.
If you ask us, clogs are the perfect fall shoe. You’re exposing just enough to bask in those final drops of warmth without feeling overly exposed to the cold winds that are creeping through—and when they do, simply pull on a cozy pair of socks and embrace the now in-vogue socks-and-clogs trend. Dating back to the 13th century, the wooden-soled style is comfortable, practical, and chic, and Shekudo’s take is thoroughly modern and minimalist, its fresh green shade of Aso Oke sure to lend a cool bohemian twist to any look—particularly a tiered-style frock like Diarrablu’s Kudi Dress. More keen to embrace the clog’s potential for polish? Allow Studio 189’s Monochrome Blazer and Pants set off the style’s clean, architectural form and emphasize its quiet refinement.
Another key silhouette to add to your fall shoe repertoire, the slingback is a classic style, one that was first made popular by the pin-up girls of the 1940s. Back then, the skin its flimsy ankle strap left exposed was considered scandalous. Today, we’d consider the slight coverage it provides to be—much like the clog—just enough to ward off colder temperatures and, with its closed, pointed-toe, it represents the perfect medium between a boot and a mule. Crafted by hand in Lagos, Shekudo’s Maina Slingback boasts a soft and supple leather lining and an elasticated strap for a secure fit. Its blue, yellow, and baby pink check pattern keeps things playful, while its innate elegance will play up your look’s more refined qualities. Make it the finishing touch to a tailored shirt and pencil skirt pairing (the shoe’s summery color palette goes well with Emmy Kasbit’s sky blue Asake Set) or wear with Viviers’ Samurai Pants and Stretch Mesh Top for that extra touch of glamor.
Whether it’s a stylish update to the flat Chelsea style or a pointed-toe iteration, the ankle boot is an undisputed autumnal style stalwart. As trendy as it is comfortable, it’s the type of wardrobe wonder that’ll see you through board meetings and cocktail parties both, adapting itself seamlessly to your existing ensembles. And while a simple pair of sleek, black heeled booties is a requirement, there are a number of other styles that fit the bill with a slightly fancier bend. With its sleek almond toe, the Odo Boot by Shekudo is one such style with its multicolored Aso Oke stripes setting it apart from the more pedestrian versions. Worn with the laid-back Suto Poncho and Shorts set by Diarrablu, it delivers on its potential for keeping things cool and casual, and if you need to quickly jazz up a black evening dress, it’ll also serve you well. Pair with a voluminous frock like Tongoro’s Bolingo dress for a dose of cool-girl toughness that’ll temper the look’s unabashed femininity.
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