PORTLAND, Ore. — Friends always knew Komi Nugloze had an eye for fashion design. “Every time we would go somewhere they’d say ‘Oh, you like to dress up, you need to be a designer and create some clothes for us’ and it started like that,” said Nugloze.
His business started in his homeland of Togo in West Africa. At 18 years old, he started sewing and traveled all over West Africa to sell his designs. Five years ago, Nugloze brought his passion for fashion to downtown Portland with N’kossi Boutique.
“I’m trying to use African fabric to adapt to the regular clothes everybody can wear,” explained Nugloze. He uses African fabric to make custom one-of-a-kind pieces and also sells jewelry made in Togo.
This year his business suffered a tough setback. In the span of a few months, the store was broken into and vandalized three times, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
“It’s difficult to have a business downtown right now because of all those things that have happened.”
Nugloze switched gears during the pandemic and started sewing face masks to survive. He’s excited about the opportunity to sell at the Northwest Made Holiday Market. The market is an annual event to shop and support local businesses. This year because of COVID-19 it will take place entirely online.
“We have developed a whole new platform that’s never been done before, it’s basically like an Amazon for small local businesses,” said Michelle Read, who is with Mercy Corps Northwest, the group hosting the event centering around local women and BIPOC entrepreneurs.
This year 60 small businesses from the Portland area are featured. “We’re really hoping that this market can help boost sales for small businesses during the holiday season," said Read. "Especially during these pandemic times with no in-person holiday markets will be happening.”
Goods for sale at the market include food, drinks, beauty products and Komi’s designs. “My idea is, if everything goes well, I’m going to close and just so do the sewing somewhere and have online an store.”
Mercy Corps Northwest offers tools to ease the transition, doing education around how to make an e-commerce business. Komi, once fearful his business would close, is now hopeful the market can help it survive, even if it means taking his unique treasures online.
The 7th annual Northwest Made Holiday Market is now up and running and will last through – December 30.