This Toronto designer beautifully pushes sustainable fashion beyond the organic t-shirt

“I would go to my mother’s sewing machine and play with the buttons,” recalls Chizoba Udeh-Martin, of her early fascination with sewing.

As Cher Horowitz would say, Chizoba is like a totally important designer. Lead designer actually, of the Toronto-based made-to-order fashion brand, Zoba Martin.

Her earliest memories of fashion design date back to her childhood in Nigeria, watching her aunt design and sew her own wedding dress from scratch. Chizoba says the experience allowed her to one day become a designer in her own right.

She recalls her aunt buying “several yards of white satin fabric” and Chizoba, as a young girl, watched the whole process with curiosity and fascination.

The designer Chizoba with a fluid lace garment. Image courtesy of Zoba Martin.

Before launching her own brand in 2016, she worked as a retouching specialist for Kleinfeld, in awe of the work done on the wedding dresses. There she decided she was called upon to design her own dresses.

Although her creations are not exclusively bridal, this is her favorite occasion to create. She describes the process as “intimate”, feeling honored to create dream dresses for her clients on one of their most momentous occasions.

“My goal is to create stylish pieces that celebrate each individual who wears Zoba Martin,” explains the designer.

I discovered Chizoba at Startup Fashion Week, in 2019 where she presented a small ready-to-wear collection. I was drawn to her excessive use of millennial pink and shimmering tulle.

Audience members were given a little white bottle of soap bubbles – you know, the kind they give to excited kids at weddings to entertain them. The crowd marveled at Chizoba’s exaggerated silhouettes and creative whimsy.

Chizoba has a way of making you feel special, whether she’s creating your dream dress or giving you a little bottle of bubbles and taking you on a fashion fairy tale.

Although she dabbled in ready-to-wear, Chizoba prefers the long-lasting aspect of bespoke, bespoke pieces for her clientele. She is convinced that her bespoke pieces have sentimental value and are very likely to be treasured and passed down from generation to generation.

Of the care and time she puts into each creation, she jokes, “You’d think I’m the one wearing the dress.”

Chizoba hopes we will move beyond the shameful association of being an outfit repeater (to the Lizzie McGuire), propagated by the consumerist fast fashion industry.

She encourages those looking for luxury fashion and evening wear to “consider having something tailored for you, be more aware of what you wear and what pieces you invest in.

Well aware of the environmental impact, the problem of fashion waste is close to her heart. The average Canadian consumer throws away 81 pounds of non-biodegradable textiles annually (yikes!).

Chizoba’s effects change through meaningful, personalized pieces that her customers will wear again and again to eventually pass on. This would have a huge impact, considering that Canadians buy, on average, 70 new garments per year.

In 2022, sustainable fashion isn’t exactly trendy, and most designers with a sustainable approach err on the safe side of fashion. We all know we can get some fancy basics, but who exactly gets excited about an $80 organic cotton tee in muted mauve?

Zoba Martin’s brand makes fashion sustainable, slower, fun, luxurious and feminine.

Before the pandemic, Chizoba was in the process of opening her own storefront in Toronto, a dream that has since been put on hold. Always upbeat, she says the pandemic has built her character and she’s “had a lot of quiet, creative time since the spring of 2020.”

She still dreams of opening her own boutique in Toronto, with a workshop in the back and another in Nigeria. “My goal for 2022 is to grow the Zoba Martin brand.”

wedding dress

The creator wrapped in a string of fabric. Image courtesy of Zoba Martin.

“If you are looking for someone to create a unique piece for you, reach out to me. I always take my time with every client I work with. I design pieces that reflect the personality of my clients and accentuate their beauty.

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