Stitch by stitch

“Toyosi, what are you doing honey?” her mom called out to her.

No response.

8-year-old Toyosi Shusi sits cross-legged on the living room floor, her mouth wide open and the white glow of the TV reflecting on her tiny face. She’s mesmerized as the models strut down the runway, sporting the designer’s newly created outfits.

At that moment, she was hooked. Toyosi fell in love with fashion. She watched Project Runway with her family, and she admired Raven’s character on That’s So Raven. She loved that they were putting all of themselves into their very own unique creation.

Since that time she has been dreaming of fashion, but she never pursued it. As a college student, she has largely focused on her studies – Chemical Engineering – and extracurriculars. Like so many of us, her bucket list item – learning to sew –  sat on the back burner.

She decided she was going to change that in the summer of 2015. She took out the sewing machine that had been collecting dust in her closet for six months, and she wasted no time. She got right to teaching herself – she watched YouTube videos constantly and dedicated herself to the art of creating clothing.

When she first began to learn, the clothing she made was basic, and it took her painstakingly long amounts of time to finish the articles. Nevertheless, when she was finished with an item, she couldn’t ignore the feeling it gave her – fulfillment and a sense of confidence.

Over the past two years, she has developed her skills greatly, even to the point of making outfits for not only herself but her friends. Her favorite memory was when she made matching outfits for her entire acapella group, Voices of Africa. They were competing in UT’s annual talent show called Texas Revue, and Toyosi wanted them to go all out. She used an African fabric called kente cloth that is traditionally worn by Ghanaian royalty, and she transformed it into something completely their own.

They were entirely invested in every aspect of the competition – both in their performance and in their appearance. On the night of the show, they won both the best act overall and the crowd favorite.

Toyosi said that now, creating clothing is a creative outlet for her and a form of self-care. She is currently in the process of starting her own clothing line, Shusi, so she can share her designs with others.

“If there’s a skill you want to learn, a language you want to speak, or a passion you want to pursue don’t second guess yourself just start by starting! You’ll be amazed by what you can achieve.”

This skirt is Toyosi’s favorite item of clothing she has made.
Toyosi in her handmade jumpsuit.
Toyosi (2nd from the right) and her acapella group at the Texas Revue talent competition.

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