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ISIO WANOGHO: The Painter on a Catwalk

27 Oct 2012

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In her studio, you would likely find Isio Wanogho shuffling around with splashes on her denim and top. But she’s just as comfortable on the ramp as a model and behind the cameras as a TV presenter. Wanogho speaks with Azuka Ogujiuba on her motivation and how she is able to stay comfortable in diverse tasks


You helped popularized modeling as a career in the country; do you still have plan to strut the runway in the nearest future?
If you really love modeling, it never really leaves you. I enjoy being on stage, I love the catwalk and although I don’t model professionally like I used to, I look forward to walking the ramp again someday for a good cause.

At what point in your life did you decide to take up modeling as a career?
I decided I wanted to be a model when I was six years old. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew it was something I had to do. I sat in front of my parents’ old television watching a fashion show and I loved what I saw - the synchronised models’ walks and I decided there and then that I was going to do that. Of course, I waited 12 years before I started. But I like to think it was 12 years of mental preparation.

How do you derive inspiration for your painting?
From everything; everything I see, everything I touch - music, poetry, nature, silence. It could be the labourer pushing his wheelbarrow through the dusty Lagos streets, a singer bemoaning love lost, or a smile. What others call imperfection could inspire a painting; it can be another’s story of abuse or the joy of celebrating the birth of a child. As a painter, I don’t just see people, I see living masses of colour, light, shadows, shape, form, texture, and symmetry. I don’t just see blue, green or black for that matter. I see all the colours that make “that black” what it is. There’s blue-black, ivory-black and there’s the black in painting that has an almost translucent gray-ish under-tone. Sometimes when I’m listening to someone speak, the other side of my brain is analysing all these things. What colours to mix, paints to use to re-create that which I see at that moment. It’s all very interesting.

What does your fashion brand has to offer?
The Isio de-laVega line is one-third of my company, Isio De-laVega Design Studios (IDDS) which, simply put, is a design studio that creates design solutions in the fields of fashion, interior, communication. The fashion label is a predominantly women’s-wear line: business-casuals and evening wears. The brand also caters for costume designs for state sponsored carnivals and creative designs for other designers. I had to take a step back from producing ready-to-wear for two years now because I wasn’t happy with the detailing and the quality of finish of most tailors interpreting the designs. I took time off to re-evaluate and do an in-depth market analysis, while still creating design solutions for other designers and creating costumes. In 2013 I would officially re-launch the ready-to-wear line with new collections to cater for the fashion-savvy and chic woman.

Where do you see your label in a few years’ time?
I hope to see my label as the premium choice in affordable luxury.

Tell us about your background – your family and education
I am the last child in a family of seven. I come from a family that taught us all to be self-reliant from a very young age. My mother is my number one ally; every successful career decision I’ve made in the 10 years I’ve been in the entertainment industry, I owe it to her.
I was born in Lagos, but I’m from the Urhobo tribe of Delta-State. I have an M.Sc in design from Florence Design Academy, Italy (2010/2011) - the best design school in the world. I have a B.A in visual arts (painting and sculpture) from the University of Lagos, a diploma in fashion design (from Ginani Fashion Institute, Lagos), a diploma in Italian Language (from Instituto di Lingua-Giorgio L’apira), a certificate in public speaking and etiquette from Poise Finishing School, Lagos, and another certificate in advanced computer studies from Infotech.

How old are you?
I am 28 years old. I will be 29 on November 17.

Which celebrity in the world would you like to paint?
Wow, I’ve never thought about that. I think it would be Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Which first lady dead or alive would you like to paint?
She wasn’t a first lady, but I’d have loved to be the artist that painted the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. Painting the late Miriam Babangida (may she rest in peace) would have been an honour.

Which star in the world would you like to flip through her phone?
Angelina Jolie.

Which celebrity in the world do you think has a near complete perfect life style?
Beyoncé.

What outfit can you not be caught dead in?
Brown fish-nets; Or black for that matter.

If I go through your bag what things am I likely to find?
Lip gloss, face powder, my phones, my keys, my wallet. Maybe a pen too.

If you are to go on an island for an exotic weekend, what are the five things you will take along?
My sunscreen; my bikini; my phones; my Dior Hypnotic Poison perfume and my Kiko-milano beauty set.

What does the word love mean to you?
Walsh’s Conversations with God describes it perfectly with this:
“Perfect love is to feeling what perfect white is to colour... It is every other colour that exists, combined. So too, is love not the absence of an emotion, but the summation of all feeling. Love is everything.”

What is your most expensive fashion accessory?
My gold wristwatch.

What is your fashion fetish?
I don’t really have any peculiar fashion fetish. I love collecting shoes and sun glasses, though.

Which painter in the world do you admire his or her work most?
Edosa Oguigo - he is a Nigerian impressionist painter and my art mentor.

Why do you think women lie about their age?
Perhaps because society (generally) acts like ageing is a disease, especially for women. Many seem to think the older you are, the more “weathered”, “less attractive”, “less useful” you are - hence the lies. Plus, some believe that real “ladies” don’t discuss their age.

What is the most memorable thing a man has ever told you?
That it was an honour having known me and that he hoped his daughter would grow up to be like me. I’ve heard so many beautiful things, but that was the most beautiful to hear.

What is your present BlackBerry ring tone?
Crazy by Tank ft. Kevin McCall.

So how did your love for painting begin? You don’t have the typical look of an artist.
Art is my heart. I love it. My studio is my sanctuary, it’s my sacred space. I don’t mind paint on my jeans, top, arms, sometimes on my face. It’s a way of life, it’s intense. The end product is always worth it. When I’m in my art studio, I’m a painter and nothing else matters. On the stage I’m a presenter, on the ramp I’m a model, on the red carpet I’m Isio de-laVega and when I’m in class, I’m a student. I’m very compartmentalized. I literally just leave it all behind once I walk out of that room and mentally re-focus on what’s important now until I have to re-embrace that other aspect of my life. This is how I cope with doing so many things at once.

If you were president, what will be the first law you will implement?
Law against the abuse of women and children, specifically, paedophilia and rape.

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